Friday, May 27, 2016

The Trudeau Exceptionalism Doctrine

Published for the Prince Arthur Herald

The Trudeaus aren’t like the rest of us.
Most of us aren’t endowed with $1.2 million inheritance funds, $1 million Mercedes sports cars, $20,000 watches, or attractiveness so dashing as to distract from almost any substantive questions of the Trudeau government.
These are just statements of fact – not envy. And these observations aren’t new: we’ve long-known that the Trudeau family is exceptional. This isn’t illegal or terrible, and we shouldn’t punish wealth. But Justin’s belief that he’s exceptional and special should not extend into the public sphere of how government and Parliament are run.
Since becoming Prime Minister, this exceptionalist attitude has crept into the public square, damaging Parliament and offending the sensibilities of otherwise reasonable Canadians. Call it the Trudeau Exceptionalism Doctrine.
The first hint of the Trudeau Exceptionalism Doctrine was when Trudeau – the supposed champion of the middle class – hired personal nannies for his children as if they were staffers of the Prime Minister’s Office. Canadians were confused. “Shouldn’t your $340,000 salary cover child care for your kids? Can’t your wife – who has no official role and is not a government employee – look after your kids?” were just two of the many reasonable questions asked during that period. But the Trudeaus are exceptional, and so the $100,000-per-year NannyGate controversy subsided.
More recently, we saw Sophie GrĂ©goire complain that she was overworked and needed “a team” of assistants. The personal assistant, the family chef, and the two taxpayer-funded nannies are just not enough. She needs a larger empire. But the wife of the prime minister has no official role; she’s not Canada’s First Lady and she’s free to act as she chooses, whether taking up employment, a speaking circuit, or being a full-time wife and mom – but we shouldn’t pay for it.
As I was writing this column, I wrote that the most egregious example of Trudeau Exceptionalism was Liberal House Leader Dominic LeBlanc’s recently-tabled motion to give complete control of the House of Commons’ agenda to the Liberal cabinet (formally known as “Motion 6”). This exceptional motion would completely remove any say the Opposition Conservatives or NDP might have in determining the House’s affairs. It would have required the Opposition to be on-call, 24/7, at the absolute whim of the Liberals to control the House of Commons. The motion was retaliation for the embarrassment that occurred on May 16, where a Liberal bill was almost defeated because not enough Liberal MPs had showed up to work that Monday morning.
At least, I was going to write that that was the most egregious example of Trudeau Exceptionalism, until the evening of May 18, 2016, when the now infamous “Elbowgate” incident happened. Growing impatient waiting for Members of Parliament to vote on the assisted suicide legislation, Trudeau rose from his seat, reached through a crowd of MPs, and forcefully grabbed another MP by the shoulder, striking a female MP in the process. It was disgraceful, unparliamentary, and blatantly unbecoming of any member of Parliament, let alone a prime minister. Never before in Canada’s history has a prime minister assaulted two MPs on the House floor. It was exceptional: an immature child whose impatience and temper got the best of him, and ended with two MPs being physically accosted. (The government withdrew Motion 6 as a result of the fallout from Trudeau’s conduct.)
That the Trudeaus believe they’re exceptional isn’t new. What is new is that Trudeau’s exceptionalist attitude has tainted how the Liberals are running Parliament. And that should concern every single Canadian. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

In six months, the Liberals have gone from sunny ways to governing hypocrites

Oh, how quickly the sunny ways have come and gone from our nation’s capital.
Take, for example, the parliamentary proceedings of just one day, April 19, 2016 – the six month anniversary of the Liberals being elected to office.

The day started on a poor note for the Liberals.  Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has been on the defensive for more than two weeks now over her hosting of an intimate and private fundraising event at a Toronto law firm, and Conservative MP Michael Cooper moved that the House of Commons debate why Wilson-Raybould wasn’t following her own Prime Minister’s guidelines to avoid actual and potential conflicts of interest. The entire day was filled with Liberal MPs and ministers apologizing for and defending the minister. Mere months ago, these then-candidates were elected under the banner of hope and transparency and “better is always possible.” But on this day, what the Justice Minister did was apparently good enough.

But the debate went even lower when the Democratic Institutions Minister spoke. Maryam Monsef boldly complained that those mean Conservatives were really debating this issue because the Justice Minister is a successful aboriginal woman. She implied, several times, that the Justice Minister’s race was true reason for the day’s debate. It was something else to watch an MP who was elected just six months ago on a positive message come so close to complaining of racism in the House of Commons – no less the MP who is also in charge of Canada’s democratic institutions.

The day only continued to get worse for the Liberals.

Speaker Geoff Regan, a Liberal MP, ruled that the Liberals had potentially committed a prima facie breach of privilege by leaking advance copies of the assisted suicide bill to members of the media before that bill was tabled in the House of Commons. “There was a direct contravention of the House’s right to first access,” Regan concluded before sending the matter to a parliamentary committee for investigation.

This is not a small matter: the Liberals brought down the Conservative minority government in 2011 over a question of privilege. According to their logic at the time, Parliament had been so deeply disrespected by that breach that the only remedy was to call an election.

Shortly after the Speaker’s ruling, Liberal House leader Dominic Leblanc tabled a notice of time allocation for a government bill dealing with Air Canada. Time allocation, you might recall, “is undemocratic and a type of abuse, as a rule, of the House of Commons of Canada” according to Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux, “undemocratic” according to Liberal MP Arnold Chan, and not only “prevent[s] business and debate” in the House of Commons, but “hurt[s] the ability of committees to do their work” according to Liberal MP Wayne Easter. At least it was when the Conservatives were the ones who did it, lest the Liberals be exposed as hypocrites. Even the Liberal platform specifically promised “We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny” and yet the Liberals moved their motion for time allocation anyway – because hypocrisy should be no barrier to governing.

Keep in mind that this all happened in the course of just one day in Canada’s Parliament – no less on the six month anniversary of the Liberals being elected to office to supposedly do things better, differently, and more transparently.

Of course, the following day was April 20, or “4:20,” where people across the world smoke marijuana in defiance of the current drug laws. Despite promising to legalize marijuana, the Trudeau government has made zero headway on the matter. They did conveniently announce that Canada would begin the process of legalizing marijuana in spring 2017, but that still means that anyone who indulged in the 4:20 festivities was still breaking the law.

How quickly hope and change have given way to governing as hypocrites.

Daniel Dickin is the author of Liars: The McGuinty-Wynne Record, available in e-book and paper copy through Amazon or direct from the publisher.