In light of the ongoing political fallout from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent trip to the Bahamas, I went back to see what Trudeau said about open and transparent government during last year’s federal election.
Here’s what he said:
“Our plan for a fair and open government … is a sweeping agenda for change … At its heart is a simple idea: transparent government is good government. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians. For me, open government is effective government. Liberals believe in the ability of government to be a force for good in society. That is why it is especially important to us that government work well, and be seen to work well … People know that Ottawa is broken. We have a comprehensive plan to fix it. That’s real change. As the saying goes, sunlight is the world’s best disinfectant. Liberals will shed new light on the government and ensure that it is focused on the people it is meant to serve: Canadians.” That would seem to be a rather far cry from what Trudeau actually did on his Bahamas vacation, the details of which Postmedia’s David Akin has slowly been dragging out of the Prime Minister’s Office piece by embarrassing piece.
That is, Trudeau travelled with his family and some Liberals friends to a private island in the Bahamas owned by his friend, the Aga Khan, a foreign billionaire, whose foundation is a registered lobbyist with the Canadian government, and to which the Trudeau government has already given $55 million in foreign aid to help women and children in Afghanistan.
That’s a rather far cry from the explanation the PMO originally gave for refusing to disclose Trudeau’s whereabouts, that he was simply having some well-deserved vacation time with his family over the winter break and was entitled to his privacy.
Trudeau’s promise of open and transparent government would also appear to be a fair distance removed from his recent rather astonishing statement that when he talks with foreign billionaires and wealthy Canadians at private, cash-for-access, $1,500-a-ticket, Liberal fundraisers, he champions the middle class.
And further, that any Canadians who think he might be influenced to treat wealthy business people who donate to his party more favourably than those who don’t in terms of their dealings with the federal government, are not only wrong, but would have to be cynics to think such a thing.
Alas, a subsequent Nanos/Globe and Mail poll found that 62% of Canadians surveyed disapproved of the Liberals’ cash-for-access fundraising, while 48% believed that Trudeau could be influenced in his decision-making by such donations, compared to 46% who disagreed.
That said, there is a bright side to all this.
At least these recent controversies, perhaps because they call into question the prime minister’s personal judgment, appear to have ended the extended honeymoon Trudeau was enjoying in much of Canada’s mainstream media, which was becoming embarrassing.
Toronto Sun by Lorrie Goldstein
Jan 15th 2017