My latest: corrupted

Big political graves get dug with tiny shovels.

It’s a cliché, yes. This writer says that a lot. But it’s no less true for that, is it?

You’d think they’d learn, but they never do. In Canada: a Conservative cabinet minister who charged for eighteen-dollar orange juice, or a former Liberal MP who expensed a $1.29 pack of gum. In Britain: Members of Parliament expensing the cleaning of a moat – and the building of a duck house in the middle of a pond.

In America: a Republican congressman who sought compensation for “a tablecloth, three square pillows, a three-brush set, a metal tray, four temporary shades, four window panels, a white duck, two Punky Brewster items, a ring pop and two five-packs of animals.”

All of those expense scandals – and many, many more – resulted in resignations, firings or election losses (and sometimes all three). Because it’s always the little stuff that is most lethal, in politics. Because most of us have never held, or will hold, a billion dollars – out as billion anything – in our hands. It’s hard to comprehend.

But we know what a glass of orange juice should cost. We know that public servants who are paid well shouldn’t expensing “Punky Brewster items.”

Which brings us, with depressing regularity, to the latest outrages. Because – at a time when ordinary Canadians are debating whether they can afford to feed ground beef to their families – the latest outrages are deeply, profoundly disgusting.

Like how a federal bureaucrat, earning at least $120,000 a year, required that her chauffeur be flown from Montreal to Vancouver – twice. At taxpayer expense.

Like how bureaucrats hired a two-person Ottawa technology firm to develop their celebrated ArriveCan app, which was an unmitigated disaster. And for which the two-person firm then billed $54 million – and, allegedly unbeknownst to those selfsame bureaucrats, forked over the actual work to a bunch of other firms. Without anyone’s approval.

Like how the Trudeau folks spent a minimum of $66 million of your money on a consulting firm called McKinsey and Company. Said company having paid hundreds of millions in fines for pushing opioids in the U.S., when they knew opioids were killing many, many people. Said company touting their “carbon-reducing” work, while quietly representing 43 major carbon polluters. Said company boasting about its tobacco-fighting – while secretly helping Big Tobacco defeat those very initiatives.

With whose former global chairman Justin Trudeau was a close personal friend. Who he would later appoint Canada’s ambassador to China.

And on, and on, and on. It never ends. The entitlement, the greed, the petty corruption.

It’s enough to make you want to vomit. (It does me.)

For all of these things to be happening, over and over and over, is bad enough. But for them to be happening at a time when people are struggling – really, truly struggling – to simply feed themselves and their families? That’s more than a scandal.

It’s disgusting.

In government, plural, these atrocities happen with every ideological disposition. Every political stripe, at every level. Judgment and restraint abandon them. And then, to recall an infamous phrase, they feel they are entitled to their entitlements.

They think they work really hard, and make super-duper big sacrifices, and that we – the taxpayer – should pay a little extra. And then more. And even more.

And then the downward-descent into greed and disgrace.

Let’s make a promise to each other: let’s all focus, right here and right now, on the bureaucrat – Isabelle Hudon – who flew her chauffeur across the country. Let’s make an example of her (as CBC, to its credit, is attempting to do). Let’s drive her out, and make her name synonymous with excess and shame.

Call the Office of the Prime Minister, (613) 992-4211, and express your outrage. Email him, if you want, at

Mostly, let’s get out some tiny shovels – and let’s all dig a big grave for Isabelle Hudon’s career.

My latest: go, Trudeau, go…but.

Trudeau? Go.

Go, go, go.

He won’t, of course. Not yet, anyway. But, for many, there can be no doubt: Justin Trudeau must go. If the Liberal Party is to have a shot at retaining power in the next federal election, not a few Grits believe, their leader needs to head for the exits.

The reasons are infinite and incontestable. But here’s just three.

He’s reached his Best Before date: ten years as Liberal leader, nearly eight years as Prime Minister. By any historical standard, that’s a long run, and nothing to be ashamed of. If Trudeau goes, he can go as a three-time winner.

He’s clearly disengaged: he never meets with Liberal MPs, he rarely meets with cabinet ministers, he’s increasingly described – including in the just-released sour grapes manifesto by his former Finance Minister – as aloof and distant. He looks bored with the job.

He’s dragging down his party: this is the reason that should most preoccupy Team Trudeau. For weeks, the Poilievre Conservatives have been inching ever-upward in the polls. Right now, Trudeau is losing – almost certainly because of Trudeau.

Take a gander at the latest Nanos, which ranks as one of the best pollsters around. They took the political pulse of 1,000 Canadians and released the results on January 12.

Nanos found that there is now an eight-point gap between the Tories and Grits: 36 per cent to 28 per cent, respectively. Depending on what the NDP does – they’re at 21 per cent, says Nanos – that means (a) Pierre Poilievre is getting closer to winning and (b) he could win the narrowest of majorities.

Why? Nanos doesn’t say, but we can reasonably assume the usual considerations are at play: the party brand, and the popularity of the party leader. As noted above: Trudeau is dragging down his party, right?

Well, yes and no. While many people obviously (and justifiably) dislike Trudeau, one other fact needs to be factored into the decision-making about his retirement: while voters don’t like Justin very much, they like Pierre even less.

Nanos, again, is the oracle. Notwithstanding all of the scandals and missteps, Justin Trudeau is still favored by 30 per cent of Canadians.

But Pierre Poilievre is preferred by just 28 per cent.

And therein lies the paradox: Trudeau’s party is losing ground against the Conservative option, yes. That seems to be happening because of Trudeau himself, yes. But when the choice is about leadership, and Pierre Poilievre is the other choice for PM? Trudeau wins.

What means, to this writer, is what this writer wrote in these pages a year ago: the Conservative Party of Canada has more money, is better-organized, and has the right priorities (economy and cost of living).  All big advantages.

But Pierre Poilievre still looks like the wrong choice. For reasons that are hard to define – and therefore hard to fix – Canadians don’t much like Poilievre, the man.

It’s not necessarily because he rarely smiles or is always pushing the fear button: as Opposition leader, Stephen Harper was the same, and he became Prime Minister. It’s not because Poilievre is so angry so often, either: Harper was the Angry Man of Canadian politics and won a majority.

Fairly or not, Pierre Poilievre’s biggest problem is something ineffable – something no pollster has defined, yet. And, when his opposition is someone as disliked Justin Trudeau, that’s a big problem.

What does it all mean? We don’t need Nanos to answer that one.

Under Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party needs to run the dirtiest, nastiest, most-negative campaign in recent history against Pierre Poilievre. Under Trudeau, it’s their only hope.

And it may just work.

Swastika Trail is no more

PUSLINCH – Randy Guzar has waited months for this day.

As fog and rain descended over Puslinch Lake early Tuesday, Guzar woke to learn Puslinch township staff had followed through on a promise to change the sign at the end of his street from Swastika Trail to Holly Trail, ending a decades long effort to remove the street name that for many is offensive because of its indelible link to the Nazi regime.

“After decades of advocacy, outreach, and struggle, we are encouraged that Puslinch Township has renamed Swastika Trail – taking a first step towards an inclusive future for our community,” Guzar said in a statement to CambridgeToday.

In October, Puslinch township council voted 4-1 in favour of the name change, setting in motion what Guzar calls an enormous amount of work by township staff to ensure the old name was removed and the new name made its way onto the tax roll, address lists, maps and into dispatch systems for emergency response.

He praised the work of the township for making it happen.

“Additionally, I hope to extend my thanks to leaders including former Senator Linda Frum for her tireless advocacy, MP Bryan May for sponsoring our petition, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal for their support, and Jon Lee, John Danner, and Warren Kinsella and Daisy Group for their assistance.”

Residents of the trail have spent the last few months switching addresses over on everything from licenses to credit cards, and despite some hiccups along the way, Guzar said it was a small effort with a big reward.

Canada Post will continue to deliver mail addressed to Swastika Trail for the next year.

“I am grateful for the support of fellow Puslinch residents and Canadians from across the country who offered their support through petitions, statements, deputations, and letters – to name a few. Each of them has made a lasting contribution to our community.

Support for the name change grew in 2021 when Guzar and some of his neighbours asked Cambridge MP Bryan May to take his 1,800-name petition to the House of Commons.

Then Warren Kinsella took up the cause to rename Swastika Trail.

The former journalist, Toronto lawyer and former Liberal Party strategist who founded the anti-hate group Standing Against Misogyny and Prejudice (STAMP) and his consulting firm The Daisy Group agreed to work pro-bono for the cause, saying he wanted to move public opinion on the name change, not only in Puslinch, but for the northern Ontario town Swastika as well.

He enlisted the help of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre to encourage Puslinch councillors to vote for what they believed was a “no brainer” in removing the name they and others consider “extraordinarily offensive to the spirit and intent of what Canadians stand for.”

The effort gained significant traction in June 2021 but took well over a year to be considered by Puslinch council, with some members opposed until the final vote.

Swastika Trail neighbours who were opposed to the name change pointed to the fact that the swastika is a “symbol of peace, prosperity and good luck,” and continues to be used by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains around the world.

They also argued the private road was named in the 1920s, years before the rise of the Nazi party in Germany.

But Guzar and others said it didn’t matter, and were tired of being embarrassed and compelled to explain whenever they were asked to provide their address.

They argued that since the symbol was co-opted by Hitler’s regime it had come to represent hate and antisemitism in the decades that followed the Second World War.

“Swastika Trail was a reminder of the unspeakable losses felt by some of our neighbours, and so many around the world,” Guzar said. “In this time where hatred continues to spread, it was critical that our municipality act in a manner which showed its opposition to discrimination. While there is no simple means of ending hatred, we can each do our part to make the world a little bit safer – and that’s what a majority of our council voted to do.”

“It is with great pride and gratitude that today we can all finally say, it’s a beautiful day in our neighbourhood!”