You remember that word, don’t you? David Dingwall, a Liberal politician, once said that he was “entitled to his entitlements.”
Dingwall uttered those fateful words before a Parliamentary committee, convened to determine if – as President of the Royal Canadian Mint – Dingwall had abused his expense account.
He hadn’t. Two audits concluded he hadn’t. But, when questioned about why he should get a severance when he voluntarily resigned from his position at the Mint, that’s what Dingwall said. “I’m entitled to my entitlements.”
He wasn’t wrong, but it was a dumb thing to say. The Conservatives used a clip of Dingwall saying those words in their election ads. They won the election.
Entitlements are the root cause of all corruption. People of lesser means decide they work hard, that they are unappreciated, so they sometimes start dipping into the proverbial cookie jar. They take home stuff that doesn’t belong to them, because they feel entitled.
Rich people are a bit different. They think they are entitled, too, but they think that way simply because they are rich. They breathe a more rarefied air, and their Gucci slippers don’t alight on the same ground as the rest of us. They pocket things that they shouldn’t, because they genuinely believe they are superior beings. And their superiority entitles them to entitlements.
So. Many years after David Dingwall said what he said, entitlements are back. Specifically, entitlements for the entitled.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his mother and brother are rich. So is the family of his Finance Minister, Bill Morneau. By any reasonable standard, they’re all rich. They’re millionaires. They have way more money than you and I do.
But there they were, those rich people, getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars – or getting jobs – from a charity, WE. They got paid to make speeches and appear at WE events, where kids in matching T-shirts would applaud their every utterance.
Now, the rest of us volunteer with charities. We donate our time to charities. We don’t, however, expect to get paid $352,000 by a charity. But the Trudeaus did, and were.
Over a period of years, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party got very, very close to Marc and Craig Kielburger’s cult-like WE organization. If the Trudeau Liberals were the Church of Scientology, WE was their Sea Org.
When they won power, Messrs. Trudeau and Morneau sat in on a cabinet meeting and voted to give Marc and Craig’s WE thing close to a billion dollars to run a program that the federal public service was more than qualified to run. They voted to give Marc and Craig and Co. almost a billion dollars sole-source – meaning, with no competition.
Did they disclose to cabinet that their families had received jobs and lots of money from WE? We don’t know. Cabinet discussions are secret.
But we’ll know soon enough. There are multiple investigations already underway into this stinking, fetid mess, and they will undoubtedly find multiple conflicts of interest. The RCMP, who are also now looking at WE-gate, will find it difficult not to launch a formal criminal investigation.
It’s all very sad and all very unnecessary.
Some years ago, you see, before they became wealthy and powerful, Marc and Craig Kielburger came to see this writer in his office. They were smart and articulate and passionate kids, back then. They fastened their unblinking eyes on me and said they wanted to stop child labour.
They also, as it turned out, wanted introductions to then-PM Jean Chrétien and some of Chretien’s ministers – to get funding, to get influence.
Even back then, even as teenagers, Craig and Marc were on the hunt for the famous and the powerful. It was off-putting and a bit creepy.
I said I’d try and help them, but I never did. They gave me a couple of their books and left.
What happened to those two boys who came to see me, who wanted to stop child labour? How did their little charity turn into something else entirely, with a massive real estate portfolio, with tentacles reaching schools across Canada, and allegations of racism and abuse of power, and a scandal that will not disappear? How did all that happen?
Entitlements, mostly. The entitled always want their entitlements.
And Marc and Craig Kielburger, even back when they were boys, knew how to get the entitled to do their bidding.
With, you know, entitlements.