, 03.23.2023 10:35 AM

My latest: when in a hole

When in a hole, stop digging.

That’s advice my former boss Jean Chretien used to give us. In life, as in politics, it’s good advice.

The denizens of Parliament Hill — which is essentially 22 square acres surrounded by reality — often forget that. They often forget, or don’t care, that what seems smart or strategic to them looks completely insane to Joe and Jane Frontporch.

The Meech Lake Accord. Hotel rooms costing $6,000 a night. Eighteen dollar orange juice. And on and on: These are just a few of the things that elicit disinterested shrugs by folks in Ottawa. And which cause everyday Canadians to reach for their pitchforks and torches and, sometimes, a sturdy tree branch.

The latest example: The Liberal Party of Trudeau — because, rest assured, it is no longer the Liberal Party of Pearson, Chretien, Turner or Martin — has been in a deep, deep hole over the burgeoning China election interference scandal. Their collective response?

They kept digging.

Here’s what is known: China criminally interfered in our elections in 2019 and 2021. Documents authored by intelligence agencies have made clear that the interference included payoffs, manipulation and disinformation.

Ominously, there has been a suggestion that Justin Trudeau and his office knew all about the interference, and did nothing. Most seriously, the implication has been that the China-friendly Liberal prime minister and his senior staff covered it all up.

The opposition parties, and those of us in the media, have accordingly wanted answers to one key question: What did the prime minister and his chief of staff know, and when did they know it?

Oh, and this question too: What did they do about it, if anything?

Those are not unreasonable questions. But what the Tru regime has been doing in the past few weeks has been unreasonable in the extreme.

Stonewalling, fibbing, prevaricating. Delaying and denying information. And, until this week, doing all that they could to prevent Katie Telford, Trudeau’s chief of staff, from being called before committee to answer a few predictable questions.

Full disclosure: I knew Telford in her previous life, when she was simply a lobbyist. She worked at a Toronto lobby firm, and she was decidedly not the boss.

If she did anything of significance in her political life span, it was one thing: Glomming onto Justin Trudeau’s cape, and riding a 2015 wave with him into the Office of the Prime Minister.

This writer has known practically every prime ministerial chief of staff over the past generation. Of all of them, Telford is the least noteworthy. If she ever devised some brilliant innovation or some important policy, nobody knows what it is.

However, as the most senior aide to a prime minister, she would have been briefed on national intelligence matters. Which is why the Opposition want to question her. That is obvious.

What is less obvious — what is completely and totally inexplicable — is why the Liberals are turned into a Nixonian stonewalling operation to prevent Telford’s testimony. That makes no sense. Why?

Three points.

One, their filibustering and fibbing had precisely the opposite effect: By looking so terrified about Telford testifying, they dramatically increased opposition efforts to get Telford to testify. Their stupidity invited the very thing they wanted to avoid.

Two, they had nothing to worry about. Because the Chinese election interference story entirely concerns national security, Telford could not meaningfully answer questions — even if she wanted to. She just needed to say that she was not permitted, by law, to discuss national security matters, and she would be right to say so.

Three, the PMO-led machinations did nothing to prevent their biggest problem: Namely, leaks by anonymous CSIS agents who are alarmed by the Chinese threat to our democratic institutions. As the Liberal efforts to prevent Telford’s testimony grew, so did the leaks.

And the leaks haven’t stopped: Wednesday saw the stunning Global News revelation about former Liberal MP Han Dong — that he allegedly pushed the Chinese regime to hold onto the two Michaels, to help out the Liberals. CSIS, it seems, has now assigned itself the role of the Official Opposition. (Perhaps because they feel the Tories aren’t doing the job.)

So, after spilling pints of political capital all over Parliament Hill, the Trudeau regime finally had to do what everyone knew they were always going to do. Namely, let Katie Telford testify.

And so she will. And she will not be able to say anything meaningful. And the Liberals will have lost oodles of credibility for no reason at all.

In Ottawa, sometimes they are not being strategic. Sometimes they are just being stupid.

This was. So: When in a hole, boys and girls, stop digging.

Warren Kinsella was Jean Chretien’s Special Assistant and ran his successful War Rooms


  1. Warren,

    They have made their bed and will have to lie in it. They are still resisting an inquiry and for good reason: they already know that the revelations will take down this government, period.

    So, when Telford testifies in committee, it won’t be good enough to scream national security and say nothing. They will have to weave something chock full of intelligence generalities. Otherwise, this thing will really grow legs.

  2. Curious V says:

    Looks like bad strategy. You’re right, they should have allowed her to testify, especially since she can’t speak to most of it due to confidentiality. As for riding coat tails – almost everybody I know who rose to a prominent position has done that. Nothing new there. It’s rarely their skill, or talent – it’s who you know, and that’s true for almost everybody who rises past the middle. Sometimes somebody really stands out for their ability, it’s just that it’s so rare – it’s almost always about their entitlement network, or affluent upbringing – almost never their value or ability.

    • Martin Dixon says:

      That is certainly the case with our current PM-PP not so much.

      • Curious V says:

        PP has been a conservative crony since he was 14. He’s been a passenger since he was a kid. Maybe not as privileged as Trudeau, but he’s been nurtured by the party all his life.

        • Martin Dixon says:

          “Maybe not as privileged as Trudeau”

          That is hilarious. The point is that he did not have an entitlement network or an affluent upbringing and he still figured out to navigate his way through all these overrated people you refer to. I agree with you that there are a lot of overrated people who do not deserve to be in their positions but I actually consider them to be an opportunity in my world.

          • Curious V says:

            PP is a gifted populist, I’ll give you that, just not my cup of tea.

          • Curious V says:

            Well, I worked in sales for a few major corporations, not as a lawyer or a doctor, so I can only speak to my experience, and yeah – overrated is an understatement.

        • Martin Dixon says:

          Ha-yes! You have made that very clear!

    • Peter Williams says:

      Ms Telford did the PM have any information on Chinese influence on Canadian politics, Canadian elections, and/or Chinese support of Canadian politicians?

      No (note to reader; this is not a lie, as Justin didn’t HAVE it, he was shown it)

      Ms Telford, was the PM ever briefed on it?

      No. (note to reader; also not a lie, they didn’t call them briefings)

      Ms Telford, what did the PM know?

      I can’t discuss that due to confidentiality, and I can’t discuss what little is not confidential, because that might interfere with the special rapporteur process.

  3. western view says:

    Great article about a Government that has lost its moral compass.
    Ecclesiastes scripture speaks of a time to sow and a time to reap. Considering the mess that the Liberals currently face, we can upgrade that wisdom to its successor: you reap what you sow.

  4. Curious V says:

    In fact, all my life, from sports, to school, to professionally it becomes clear that Canada is obsessed with cronyism – nothing new there. And it isn’t specific to one party – every workplace, sports team, and even classroom that I’ve seen, in one way or another, they’re poisoned with cronyism and nepotism. I remember how uplifting it felt, once, in my youth, when I made the provincial basketball team – the coaches didn’t know any of us. Then back to the school system, and although I excelled, I had to constantly deal with coaches and their crony instincts. Like professionally, people half my caliber getting credit they didn’t deserve. That’s just an obnoxious part of Canadian culture , from coast to coast.

    • Martin Dixon says:

      Not at my firm. Pretty hard to fake things like tax expertise.

    • Sean says:

      I’m going to agree with that except for pro sports….

      Amateur elite organized sports absolutely – a cronyism problem exists…

      But pro sports? Forget it. It has it’s own way of rooting out cronyism with a ruthless, business like efficiency not found anywhere else in society. And that’s why I still love pro sports – because of the *truth* which is always on full display.

      • Martin Dixon says:

        Not track and field. At any level.

      • Curious V says:

        I also love pro sports. My cousin played pro, and there’s absolutely no forgiveness, or favor – you get hurt you’re replaceable. The elite pros, they get time to heal, but the bench players, they’re replaced as soon as they’re injured – if you can’t play you’re done, so get used to playing with pain.

      • Curious V says:

        Kinda like construction – you’ll get all the hours you want when you’re healthy and strong, but as soon as you get hurt you’re gone.

  5. Doug says:

    If Telford isn’t the wizard behind the curtain, then who is?

    • Sean says:

      That’s the case in a normal government…. not this one. in this government there is no wizard and there is no curtain. It’s full on free wheeling corruption all the time and no one even cares anymore.

      That’s because it is a government founded on cool hair, selfies and 1960’s nostalgia.

      The other day, a Tru-Anon boomer voter was telling me how great the coalition was because “when PET had an NDP coalition they got so much done”…. maybe so…

      But all I could think was… no one fucking cares…. every city’s downtown is overrun with fentanyl abuse encampments. No one can retire. Everyone will be paying credit card debts until they die. Food banks are becoming normalized. The military is a shambles. Police don’t respond to calls until after the bad guys are long gone. Hospitals are a basket case. That’s why PP is getting legit crowds.

      Time for a change.

  6. Martin Dixon says:

    Even Dong voted in favour of this. Where does that put the 149 no votes on the food chain? The house has spoken. Only a banana republic can ignore it:


    • Martin,

      I remember way back when Pablo got something through the environment committee and then the Harper government just ignored it. So, in truth, just more of the same if you ask me. There are no shining-star parties in Canadian politics.

  7. Douglas W says:

    What worries Telford, Butts, Chin & Trudeau is not losing the next election.

    What worries them is what will be found out by the incoming government, and the judicial consequences that follows.

    • Douglas,

      Well, it’s not like they got into power last week now, is it? They knew perfectly well what they were doing, or perhaps more appropriately, quite deliberately didn’t do. So, let the chips fall where they may. I have absolutely no sympathy for any of them.

    • Sean says:

      yeah, reminds me of all the times political staff were worried about being “found out” – DOUBLE GASP!! by the succeeding government….

  8. EsterHazyWasALoser says:

    My guess is that PM Trudeau will try and “rag the puck” on this one. I don’t see Mr Singh wanting an election any time soon (as a matter of fact, I heard him say so on the radio today). I don’t doubt for a minute the the CCP has been interfering, or a the very least trying to interfere, in our country’s internal affairs. President Biden is on his way for a visit. Coincidental timing isn’t it. Perhaps he is here to read Justin the Riot Act.

  9. Gilbert says:

    I don’t expect Katie Telford to say anything shocking, but if she looks very nervous or irritated, the scandal could grow. The appearance is that the government has something to hide. I wonder how closely linked the Trudeau Foundation is to China. The USA must be very concerned that its northern neighbour could be under considerable Chinese influence.

    • Gilbert,

      They’re sidelining us re: Five Eyes because we amount to a collective national security threat to the rest of the Eyes. Everyone in intelligence already knows that and only the leaks seem to be capable of bringing home the message to this government. If you think inflation is sticky and stubborn, that’s small potatoes compared to how long these leaks are likely to go on. Watch as the gravity index steadily rises with further leaks.

  10. Arron Banks says:

    Regarding Telford. I find it interesting that depsite whatever qualifications she remains in the Chief of Staff role eight years in. Usually that job has a higher rate of turnover and seeing as how that’s the job where you’re also supposed to shield your boss from stepping in the perverbial doo-doo it’s crazy how she’s still there after so many self-inflicited scandals she should’ve been preventing. Methinks either she’s got something on her boss or someone else in the PMO is really running ths who.

  11. Curious V says:

    What happens if nothing substantial comes from David Johnson’s report, or the probable inquiry ? I think Warren had it right from the start – they should have either called an inquiry, or appointed Johnston, and established a registry of foreign agents, right away. Most of the material is confidential, they’re not likely to disclose much to the public – dragging it just feeds the opposition. We need a PP government like we need a bad case of covid – nothing positive will come from an extreme-right wing government that obsesses about half-baked conspiracy theory, so let it die in an inquiry.

    • Gilbert says:

      I doubt Pierre will have an extreme right-wing go1vernment. It won’t be as right-wing as I would like.

      • Martin Dixon says:

        It is just plain silly to make that prediction.

        • Martin,

          Curious V is like a broken record. He’s stuck in a loop.

          • Curious V says:

            He’s been on the extreme right-wing of the conservative party all his life. Why would anything change if he forms government? A Charest, or Patrick Brown – they’re not as scary, pretty mild in their views. PP has shown himself to be extreme from day one. He’ll inspire people to vote against him, rather than vote for Trudeau – I get that after so many years Trudeau has lost some of his shine, but PP really inspires a visceral reaction from so many that I think he’ll inspire a vote against the extreme right. I understand the Conservatives and Liberals take turns running the show, but this guy is too much to stomach.

          • Curious V,

            With minor variations, that’s the script they pretty much used against Harper. Harper evolved in the 2006 campaign after a disappointing loss two years earlier and took the party where we needed to go to win an election. And the membership and caucus got right behind him. That’s precisely what we have to do now to win. Pierre needs to and likely will correctly sense the country’s mood and adjust our election strategy accordingly. As of now, it’s already our election to lose. This Prime Minister set the stage with his outright refusal to call an inquiry.

          • Martin Dixon says:

            Curious V forgets that the usual suspects would be tearing apart the Tory leader right now no matter who he was. Charest’s Chinese connections would be front and centre. Brown has lots of things they could pick away at and people would likely be shocked at what they even would do to the messiah of many, MacKay. Anyone who thinks otherwise is naive. That’s why people who are still fighting the last leadership fights with “if only” comments make me laugh.

          • Martin Dixon says:

            He also needs to list specifically what his far right, extreme, fascist, nazi views are. He throws those words around pretty casually and diminishes them. As I have said before, our host is an expert on the far right and is no fan of PP and has stated publicly that he is not worried about a PP government. Whose views should we give more credence to?

          • Warren says:

            I think he got too close to the fringe right, realized his mistake, and has been jogging back to the center ever since.

          • Warren,

            I think Pierre can pull it off. In contrast with O’Toole’s approach, Poilièvre is not pretending to be two different people at two different times and with two vastly different objectives. Pierre is who he is, far from perfect, but the genuine article. What we see is precisely what we’ll get. On policy, he will never disregard his true principles but he will be wise enough to be largely accommodative to the Canadian political reality. Gilbert essentially got it right: Pierre will be in the mainstream of Canadian conservatism with both populist and pragmatic tinges. And thank God for that.

  12. Sean says:

    This entire episode is elevating KT’s profile much higher than she deserves.

    If an average person (at best) were paid to give advice to a sad looking puddle of crocodile piss, would that person’s testimony be worthy of all this attention?

  13. Sean says:

    One things for sure… No matter what stripe you are, the Toronto Sun remains the undisputed champ of crushing it with the smart assed headlines…

  14. Curious V says:

    I guess my problem with the Liberal strategy is this – instead of trying to walk away from the issue, they should have made every effort to appear to be on top of it with actionable stuff. Like, immediately establish a registry of foreign agents, excuse Dong from caucus, assign Johnston right away (or call an inquiry). I think if they’d have done some actionable stuff, to look like they’re all over it – this issue would be less of an issue. You’re not going to change the minds of partisans posting here, they hate Trudeau for the very reason he’s loved by so many, but it would have been much less likely to resonate with everyday people.

  15. Curious V says:

    I have a theory that people, most people anyway, if they’re involved in politics, the party of their choosing is a better reflection of their preferred peer network than an ideological bias. That their choice to be a liberal, or conservative, is better explained by their peer group than passion for a particular issue, or ideology. Most aren’t well informed so much as they’re fed information that forms views – they rarely seek insight, but they’re fed information, often times biased, or half true, that forms their opinion. This is especially the case with regards to social media, and it’s use as a conduit – people aren’t researching to form opinions, they’re reacting to whatever they’re fed through peer association. A lot of people aren’t critical thinkers, a skill our school systems fail to teach until university, so they’re mostly reacting to whatever biased half-truths they’re fed – and these days the preferred medium is social media.

    • Martin Dixon says:

      And this country has generally been run by Liberals so, if your claim is true, whose fault is that, exactly? And you clearly haven’t kept up as to what is going on at Universities of late.

    • Sean says:

      Curious V – this comment is one of the most apt things I’ve ever seen on the internet.

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