05.13.2016 07:22 AM

Highly-Scientific Poll™: should Prime Ministerial spouses have staff?

This has been a raging controversy, apparently, bigger even than Fort Mac and ISIS.  I know this because it was the subject-matter of two radio shows I did yesterday – the Adler-Kinsella Show on Sirius XM Canada Talks, and Evan Solomon’s show on CFRA in Ottawa.  (I’ll try and post links to those later.)

Afterwards, I figured we should do a poll on this subject, because it is so obviously gripping the nation like no other issue.  So, vote now, vote often.  This poll is accurate 21 times out of 19, etc.



22 Comments

  1. Peter says:

    Count me as one conservative who is thoroughly fed up with these kinds of quintessentially Canadian small-minded, puritan “controversies”. Ministers resigning over overpriced orange juice, PM’s spouses attacked for requesting help, etc. Give her what she needs. That said, Canada is Canada and she had better be careful. Whatever possessed her to complain about this to a journalist? Surely her mother-in-law could give her some advice about the dangers of the public spotlight.

    • Lyn says:

      Peter, I agree with you totally. Sophie will learn as time passes what to say around journalist and what not to say! I gather she doesn’t know about her mother-in-law!

  2. Michael Bluth says:

    Isn’t the fairer question the size of the staff?

    Did Mila Mulroney, Aline Chretien, Sheila Martin and Laureen Harper have staffs?

    How big were they in each case?

  3. Cory says:

    In fairness, the issue isn’t if she should have staff, because she already does. The issue is if she should have MORE staff.

  4. Houland Wolfe says:

    The real question is whether Prime Ministers should have a spouse. Mackenzie King, Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister, was single until his death.

  5. lance mclean says:

    I too, a conservative of sorts, does not give a rats behind. Who cares, give her 10 staff!!! It is all but a drop in the bucket compared to the large scale waste our government does on a daily basis.

  6. billg says:

    I think most people could care less, its an important job and if she needs more help the taxpayers should pay, however, she is where she is because her husband promised stuff like this wouldn’t happen with an ordinary guy running the country.
    Steep learning curve, I’m giving her a pass on this one, its not like its a “90g’s paid back to taxpayer” scandal.

  7. Jean A Paterson says:

    If I lived in Ottawa I would volunteer to screen phone calls for her, and help select one or two themes for her to develop into an area of expertise. Sophie needs a concierge to protect her time, and to reply with diplomacy when a rejection is needed. Oh shoot…I could not manage the diplomacy part .

  8. JH says:

    I don’t care, but hubby with all his blather about his family not needing stuff from taxpayers, kind of set her up for criticism. Besides that, government related – we should pay. Political – LPC pays. Both after it’s agreed upon what constitutes a fair dividing line.

  9. gyor says:

    The Trudeaus are rich, they can afford to hire their own staff, no one elected either Lauren Harper or Sophie Trudeau to anything.

  10. Charlie K says:

    Thoughts~

    Precedent Set: Mila Mulroney had an actual office with staff in Langevin. This was back in 1980’s and since then we haven’t had a PM with young children; both Chretien and Martin’s children were adults by the time they became PM.

    Previous PM’s Spouse: While her children were indeed young, she had nowhere near the demands on her that the Sophie Trudeau currently does. Lets face the facts, nobody really wanted Laureen Harper to headline their fundraiser/cause because she wasn’t exactly what people were looking for. There is nothing wrong with that, it was totally Mrs. Harper’s prerogative to remain subdued in her role.

    Current PM’s Spouse: She’s popular –very, very popular. Especially on issues that concern young women. She’s become a role model for many and for that, people want to hear and see more of her.

    Situation: There exists a strong demand for the current PM’s wife and she has suggested that she is having difficulties meeting these extraordinary responsibilities.

    Question: If previous PM spouses (not all) have been active in various different roles, should we not expect Sophie Trudeau to also be active in her capacity as the spouse of the PM? Simply put, are we comfortably with the spouse of Canada’s foremost politician being visible and active with non-partisan issues? While as Canadians we definitely don’t have a “first family” per se, we do have an informal function for the spouse of the PM. What do Canadians want this position to look like going forward?

    Observation: Sexism. If this had been a male spouse who was seeking to be more active in a cause such as child poverty, and indicated they needed more staff to accommodate the demand of tackling an issue as such, would we also be as outraged? Why are we expecting Sophie, a women and a mother, to be restricted to her role as a housewife if she has the capacity and willingness to do more for her country. The indignation at the suggestion that Sophie Trudeau is having difficulties handling a significant new responsibility because she is outstepping the boundaries of “mother and wife” seems somewhat suspect to me.

    Laureen Harper had cats; Sophie Trudeau has issues facing young Canadian women. These two are vastly different themes and involve very different levels of involvement. If we are inclined to allow the spouse of a PM (male or female) then we need to decide whether we are comfortable with allowing them to exercise themselves within reasonable parameters.

    My personal take: I’d prefer that some resources are redirected from the PMO to assist Sophie Trudeau but in a very limited capacity. This means no office in Langevin and no official title. I appreciate the level of commitment Mrs. Trudeau brings to her new life, but I believe we should be cautious as to what sort of influence the spouse really has. I’m not in favour of setting a trend in which the wife/husband of the PM becomes an extension or a surrogate from the PM. The accountability just doesn’t exist and I wouldn’t want someone setting up office in the PMO without the parliamentary accountability to follow it. If Sophie Trudeau needs help, then sure, lets try and find a way to do it. But Liberals need to be very careful as to how they move forward here; optics are a huge factor in this matter.

    Important thing to also remember for the Liberals: you have a caucus of 184 people –use them. With a smaller cabinet, many prominent MPs got sidelined. While some may already be overwhelmed by the responsibilities of their office, there are many who within the year, will be itching for more. If you start pumping more responsibilities onto those already prominent within the party, then you’ll alienate are large contingency of your own team. Make everyone feel important and a part of the team, don’t become too top heavy.

    • All good points (except the sexism one, which is, frankly, silly; Trudeau’s campaign/election had sexist overtones, of which there has been apparently deliberate silence, but the presumption that a male spouse of a PM would accorded different treatment is really just outrageously presumptuous and insulting to the vast majority of Canadians who would not share the views you project onto us).

      I agree especially that there needs to be some caution in transforming the role of the PM’s spouse into essentially a responsible office — we don’t elect the spouse, and they aren’t royalty with entitlements. And you suggestion that they, instead, use the available caucus members is perfect. There is a load of elected people there – men and women – who could be engaged to do more. Make their roles — the roles of people that Canadians actually selected for a role in government — more prominent in issues of concern; direct resources there; and let Sophie pursue her career choices on her own dime and time.

      • Charlie K says:

        Not silly whatsoever. Your reference to Trudeau’s campaign holding sexist overtones, is however, absurd. Please provide specific evidence to back that assertion up; i.e. what event, policy or speech are you referring to that insisted on sexist notions? The Liberal campaign made a concerted and substantive effort towards encouraging women to run and the leader himself made abundantly clear that issues such as a woman’s right to her own body would be non-negotiable matters.

        Again, a completely baseless and absurd accusation seeing as how the Liberal campaign clearly exhibited a narrative contrary to any sexist attitudes, but I’ll allow you to buttress your statement with tangible and factual evidence.

        I appreciate that my comments have struck similarity with your process of thought, but I’m afraid you’ve missed my point. I was not at all advocating that SGT “pursue a career choice on her own dime”. That is completely ludicrous. No spouse in the history of Canadian politics has ever pursued a career outside of their understood responsibilities as the spouse of the PM. To suggest that Sophie should just “get a job” if she wants one, is ridiculously doltish. Nothing that is on Sophie Trudeau’s agenda is out the purview or prerogative of being the PM’s spouse. The issue here is that the demands are far exceeding the ordinary standards previously set. Hence, Sophie Trudeau suggesting she is having difficulties accommodating the demands without the appropriate staff to manage.

        This is not a matter of entitlements or any such hyperbolical attributions, this is purely a matter of what expectations are placed upon a PM’s spouse and what resources are appropriate to accommodate such expectations. I indicated that I am not comfortable with the idea of having an office dedicated to the PM’s spouse within the PMO that would in essence behave independently of the parliamentary accountability under which the PMO is operated. There should be no office that is considered as a surrogate to the PM’s office if the PM cannot terminate his own spouse for misconduct; the accountability with the PMO is already very thin and introducing another branch to the office under the control of a unelected and un-dismissible spouse isn’t exactly a step in the right direction.

        That said, the discussion hasn’t even entered into the realm of office spaces in the PMO, so I digress. We are simply speaking about staffing resources and if SGT is seeking extra, then there are plenty of individuals who already work within the PMO that can also be assigned to assisting Sophie Trudeau; resources can be redirected without creating extra staff.

        With regards to the matter of utilizing MPs, yes; I do believe that there is an abundance of talent with the LPC caucus and the leadership should avoid over indulging the already prominent individuals. We’re only about 7 months into this mandate but if some of these people don’t start seeing increased responsibilities in their roles then Trudeau will risk alienating members of the team. Its a big caucus, so collective satisfaction is important.

        So to reiterate, Sophie Trudeau is doing exactly what she’s supposed to be doing. The issue is that the demands have increased exponentially and the government now has to decide what to do in order to accommodate with matter, with considerations given to optics, resources and reasonability. I have no quarrel with SGT being an active participant of Canadian society as the representative of 24 Sussex (even though they don’t live there) while advocating on behalf of important issues. I just think prudence is of essence going forward and decisions should be made conscientiously and with respect to Sophie Trudeau and her role.

  11. davie says:

    I voted ‘no!’

    But now I am changing my mind.
    Maybe the spouse of the Prime Minister should have a big staff, and office (maybe one in the riding as well). The front bench ministers’ spouses should also have offices and staffs, maybe not as big as that of the PM spouse, but on a graded scale. They would still have larger offices and staffs than those of 2nd rank ministers’ spouses, and certainly no offices in their ridings.
    The leader of the opposition’s spouse should have an office and staff equal in size to that of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
    Spouses of leaders of other parties should get a clothing allowance.
    When families get elected, they should be well rewarded. We should not be petty about this. But we should draw the line somewhere.

  12. Peter says:

    Easy there, davie. Under your scheme, we could end up having a national fiscal crisis trying to pay for all those Ladies of the Bedchamber.

    • davie says:

      Thnx for the reference. It gives a glimpse of an esoteric aspect of the world of aristocracy. I often have thought the European middle class, from the early centuries to today, has tried to pattern its ways on those, real, or imagined, of the aristocracy.

  13. Glen says:

    Agreed, the question is how much staff. She want’s a “team”, over and above her two nannies, chef & housekeeper?, fine but let the LPC pay for it.

    I’d say the same for any party in power, we never elected her, and as PM’s spouse she has no official duties. If she takes on too much that the taxpayer paid staff can’t keep up, then either take on less or pay for her own help.

    From what little I’ve seen of her, she strikes me as someone who enjoys the limelight, enjoys it a lot. From the highly inappropriate bursting out in song at a MLK event to tasteless youtube parody commercials, I think she sees this as an opportunity to get the recognition she craved but never got before becoming a Prime Ministers spouse.

    That’s how I see it.

  14. Maps Onburt says:

    I’m about as Conservative as they come but frankly this is just plain stupid. I don’t have an issue with a nominal staff to handle things for the wife of our PM as there is Jordan question, their spouse has “duties” too and it has become convention for them to take on some cause that is close to their heart. Sometimes the small mindedness of Canadian drive me nuts. If she was Harper’s spouse the NDP and Liberals would be screaming about it. I’m just as disappointed with the Conservatives for making a fuss about this. If she’s after much more than Laureen Harper then that is another matter…

  15. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    It’s called public service even when it’s voluntary. Let Sophie concentrate the mind on causes closest to her heart — and then publicly fund it. After all, she is doing it for Canadians.

    • I hope that applies to all the rest of us Canadians who are performing public services. Perhaps our volunteerism should be paid by the government, and our charitable donations rewarded 100% rather than the sliver that gets accounted for in our tax returns.

      There are tons of Canadians doing tons for Canadians. There is no serious basis for granting Mrs. Trudeau more support than any of them get, unless we (as a country) decide on a significant and official change to the role of the PM’s wife.

  16. Martin Gomez says:

    Double-edged sword. If she wants government funding, then her activities have to come under the scrutiny of ATIP requests, and she is a legitimate target for opposition parties.
    I don’t see why she would want to open herself up to that. It would be worth it for her to dip into her substantial financial resources and pay for her own staff, and she would be untouchable.

  17. Charlie K says:

    Laureen Harper had government funding for her cat stuff and the Harper family’s wealth was more than enough to cover those expenses.

    Brian Mulroney was massively wealthy, but Mila still had an office in the PMO funded by taxpayers.

    The “wealthy enough to pay for yourself” argument is an inherently untenable one. It automatically supposes that anyone seeking leadership in our country to eventually because Prime Minister must possess a significant amount of personal wealth if they intend of exercising any activities as a part of their roles as the foremost political family of Canada.

    That logic also assumes that the salary received through their tenure as PM, isn’t actually their own earned income and should be under the scrutiny of parliamentary partisanship. Stephen Harper used to reimburse grocery expenses at 24 Sussex which, in my opinion, was unnecessary but something he did from his own held values. If we elect individuals to office; elect them to leadership roles; and elect them to PM (indirectly, of course), then we need to understand that we’ve chosen for them to live on our dime. Consider for a moment that we pay for Stornaway, Rideau Hall and The Farm –what Sophie Gregoire Trudeau is asking for shouldn’t be partisan fodder if the accommodations we make for the Speaker of the House and the GG aren’t.

    The pettiness over this issue is just downright silly. Sophie Trudeau shouldn’t have to worry about “opening her self up to Opposition criticism” if all she’s doing is meeting the demands of what already was within the scope of her role. If she were spending taxpayer money on shopping in Milan and building penthouses in Vancouver, then there would be obvious reason to scrutinize her. But this faux outrage over SGT attempting to meet the demands of Canadians is pure petulance.

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