Eleven long and agonizing months passed before the outgoing Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson finally said the plain obvious. It was wrong for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to accept a free vacation at the private Bahamian island owned by the Aga Khan last Christmas.
It was also painfully obvious from the get-go that accepting such lavishness from a. someone he had spoken to only once in 30 years before he became Leader of the Liberal Party in 2013, ergo not really a “friend” as Trudeau maintained and b. whose organization had received nearly $50 million in 2016 and was lobbying for more, was unethical, whether you take a narrow, technical definition of the word, or the everyday one.
It’s a ludicrous notion that Trudeau, who’s 45 years old, was a close friend of the Aga Khan – he would have been a 12-year-old boy last time he spoke with him. This is what they would call in the United States “fake news,” or “alternative facts.” If US President Donald Trump said it in the same context he’d be called a liar. But we’re polite Canadians so we call it a difference of opinion between Dawson and Trudeau. Trudeau sounds desperate when he relies on occasional contacts as “renewing” that deep friendship since he became Leader of the Liberals.
One of the tests of whether a young child can testify in court is whether he can distinguish between right or wrong. And I’d be ready to bet a 10-year-old could have called the shots on the facts of this case in a snap. It stinks to high heaven.
As Dawson breathlessly concluded in bureaucratese lingo: “Therefore, the vacations accepted by Mr. Trudeau or his family could reasonably be seen to have been given to influence Mr. Trudeau in his capacity as prime minister.”
Ultimately, Trudeau was somewhat repentant, apologized and said it won’t happen again. He added: “It is important that as we move forward, we learn from this mistake. I take full responsibility for it.”
But the former drama teacher sure skated, hemmed and hawed when asked at a scrum by CBC’s Rosemary Barton how he could possibly think this whole thing could “be OK.” A straight forward and very predictable question.
The answer by a stumbling and shaky Trudeau clearly showed he was out of his depth. “The fact is, we work …um…the…um…with….um…sorry I was just trying to re-order the thoughts…we…um…worked with the Lobby…um…Conflict of Interest Commissioner…it wasn’t considered that there would be an issue there.”
What in the world does that mean?
Did his staff not brief him on the most obvious of scrum questions?
Granted, a Prime Minister’s a busy guy with lots of things on his mind. He therefore needs to rely on intelligent, ethically-sound and well-informed people around him to give him solid advice. So, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt for a moment and assume he didn’t disregard the advice he received.
Who are the boneheaded people that saw nothing wrong with Trudeau vacationing on the Aga Khan’s dime?
They couldn’t have set-up their boss for that big fall any better.
Turns out many of the Prime Minister’s Office’s top dogs cut their teeth in politics under the ethically-challenged former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty or Premier Kathleen Wynne’s governments. Figures.
Two of the top three bosses in the PMO are Chief of Staff Katie Telford and Principal Secretary Gerald Butts, the latter being the architect of Ontario’s disastrous green energy plan. But others from the McGuinty/Wynne era also fester at the PMO.
It’s great for Trudeau to apologize, but for his own good and ours, he should clean shop and give the boot to those in his office asleep at the switch.