Categories for Feature

My latest: Trudeau has the power to let her speak

Let her speak.

That was the headline on an iconic Toronto Sun headline way back in February: let her speak.

Let Jody Wilson-Raybould – then still a cabinet minister, then still a member of the Liberal caucus – tell Canadians what she knew about Justin Trudeau’s attempts to influence the prosecution of the corruption trial of Quebec’s SNC-Lavalin, a big donor to his party.

It was important. In early February, the Globe and Mail had revealed that Trudeau and ten of his most-senior advisors had attempted to short-circuit SNC-Lavalin’s prosecution no less than 22 times over a four-month period. Wilson-Raybould said no, 22 times.

It would be wrong, she said. It was obstruction of justice, others would say.

Enraged by this proud Indigenous woman who didn’t know her place, Justin Trudeau demoted Jody Wilson-Raybould to Veteran’s Affairs. But the LavScam story wouldn’t go away. The scandal grew. There was a cancer on the Office of the Prime Minister, and everyone knew it.

Desperate, Trudeau relented somewhat. He issued a cabinet decision permitting Wilson-Raybould to speak about some – but not all – of what she knew. She testified before a Commons committee, and what she had to say plunged the Trudeau regime into one of the biggest scandals in recent Canadian political history.

When she testified, however, Jody Wilson-Raybould made one thing clear: she had more to say. She knew things Canadians needed to know.

But still, Trudeau would not let her tell all. And, even now, with the election campaign underway, Justin Trudeau refuses to let Jody Wilson-Raybould speak.

How long the RCMP have been investigating LavScam is unknown. Trudeau and his senior staff lawyered up months ago, so perhaps it’s been that long. But the Mounties are on the case – and Justin Trudeau is doing his utmost to stymie their investigation. He’s adamantly refused to waive the cabinet confidentiality that would let Wilson-Raybould speak to the police.

Reached by the Sun on Friday, Wilson-Raybould said that she has spoken to the police, and more than once. But she says there’s not much she can say to them, or me.

Said Wilson-Raybould to the Sun: “Thanks for your inquiry. I can confirm that I was interviewed by the RCMP on Tuesday of this week. I am not going to comment any further on the nature of those discussions.”

Not because she doesn’t want to, of course. But because Justin Trudeau – the guy who solemnly promised in 2015 to return ethics to Canadian public life – won’t let her. He says the Clerk of the Privy Council – his personal bureaucrat – makes that decision, not him.

It’s unknown if lie detectors beeped to life across Canada, when the Prime Minister said that on day one of the election campaign. They could have. They should have.

The Clerk serves at the pleasure of the Prime Minister, not the other way around. Trudeau is the boss. That’s not all: decisions of the Prime Minister and his cabinet have the force of law; the Clerk’s doesn’t. Trudeau has true power, not some unelected bureaucrat.

His prevarications are cowardly and craven and dishonest. But they’re not the main reason Justin Trudeau shouldn’t be believed.

The main reason is this: Justin Trudeau, personally, was the one who authorized the February 25, 2019 cabinet decision – number 2019-0105 – to waive confidentiality and permit Jody Wilson-Raybould to appear before the Justice Committee. Right in the very first line, it said the decision had been made “on the recommendation of the Prime Minister,” quote unquote.

Him, Justin Trudeau. Not some bureaucrat. Not a member of his cabinet. Him.

Justin Trudeau had the power then to let Jody Wilson-Raybould speak. Now he claims he doesn’t.

He’s lying.

And he needs to let her speak – because she knows the truth.


My latest: Trudeau’s Seinfeldian campaign launch

Nothing.

That’s what Justin Trudeau had to say when he launched this, the 43rd federal general election. Zero, zippo, zilch.

Oh, sure, he said some stuff. He stood there in front of Rideau Hall, a focus-grouped gaggle of ethnically-diverse Canadians behind him, and he sprayed the usual Trudeau-esque word salad all over the unimpressed ink-stained wretches.

“I’m for moving forward for everyone,” he squeaked, oozing boyish charm. “We’ve all got a choice to make: keep moving forward and build on the progress we’ve made, or go back to the politics of the Harper years.”

Odd, that. Firstly, last time we checked, Stephen Harper isn’t running in this election. And, secondly, if the Liberals’ oxymoronic brain trust think Stephen Harper’s name still evokes fear and loathing from coast to coast to coast, they’re on drugs.

Smart Conservatives say that Harper ain’t reviled like he was four years ago. Not even close. Keep talking about Harper, Grits.

But that isn’t what was so bizarre about Justin Trudeau’s campaign launch. What was bizarre was this: nothing.

Meaning, that’s what he said: nothing. Apart from the jab at a guy who isn’t running, Justin Trudeau didn’t put the minutest amount of effort into defining the so-called ballot question. He didn’t say why he wants to keep being Prime Minister.

Years ago, Ted Kennedy blew his shot at the presidency when he couldn’t answer that eminently-reasonable question, posed to him by CBS’ Roger Mudd. Conversely, on Wednesday, all the other major party leaders said why they wanted the top job.

Invoking her inner Trekkie, the Greens’ Elizabeth May called us Earthlings, and said it’s all about climate change. The NDP’s Jagmeet Singh said the vote is about the little guy and gal, and he’s all for the little people.

Andrew Scheer cheerfully reminded everyone to read up on how Trudeau is stonewalling a police probe of LavScam – and then said the election is about pocketbook stuff, and helping folks get ahead. Which he’ll do.

It’s Politics 101, more basic than never getting photographed while eating something: on Day One, you get your guy or gal to bound up to a microphone and say what the election is all about, and why you are the best guy or gal for the job. And then you charge off to your campaign plane or bus, and head out to the hinterland.

(Unless you’re May and Singh, that is, in which case you will be campaigning on bicycles, or using a brisk walk.)

Justin Trudeau didn’t do that. He did what Teddy Kennedy did: he said nothing, basically.

In fairness to the Liberal leader, there’s not much he can say. After mishandling relations with India, China and the US – to wit, where’s the new NAFTA, Justy? – foreign affairs ain’t anything to brag about. Likewise, domestic affairs: Trudeau has helped to elect seven, count ‘em, seven conservative Premiers across Canada.

Same with ethics: he’s the first Prime Minister in history to be found guilty of violating two federal statutes (over LavScam and the Aga Khan) while still in office.

Fiscal probity? It is to laugh: he giddily broke his solemn promise to balance the budget. Ditto electoral reform. Feminism? Um: Gropegate, elbowed a female MP in the chest, exiled two women who (a) are way smarter than him and who (b) wouldn’t do what he told them to.

And so on, and so on. Justin Trudeau has nothing to say, and nothing he said. So he stepped out into the Ottawa sunshine, that cloying grin playing on the face that isn’t as youthful as it used to be, and said what he’s done to improve Canada, and what he’ll do to improve it if re-elected.

Which, as we say, is nothing.


#LavScam latest: cops interview former AG, Trudeau Libs stonewall

And, Trudeau lies and pins the blame on bureaucrats. From the Globe:

Former justice minister and attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould met with RCMP investigators this week to discuss political interference in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., and is calling on the Trudeau government to waive cabinet confidentiality for her and all other witnesses to allow a thorough probe into potential obstruction of justice.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould told The Globe and Mail on Wednesday that RCMP officers from the national division in Ottawa, which handles sensitive political matters, had a formal interview with her in Vancouver on Tuesday.

“I have had a meeting and I have been interviewed by the RCMP, and that meeting happened yesterday [Tuesday], and I am not going to comment any further on the nature of those conversations,” she said. “Of course I am concerned about the government’s decision to deny [the RCMP’s] request for access to other witnesses. As a matter of principle, the RCMP should be able to conduct thorough and necessary investigations.”

Ms. Wilson-Raybould said the meeting was at the request of the RCMP after several telephone conversations with her following the release of a report from Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion in August.

Mr. Dion said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act when he and senior officials improperly pressed Ms. Wilson-Raybould to order the Public Prosecution Service to settle a fraud and bribery case against the Montreal-based engineering and construction giant…

The government says Privy Council Clerk Ian Shugart, who reports to Mr. Trudeau, will not waive cabinet confidentiality to allow the national police force to speak to witnesses and obtain cabinet documents relating to SNC-Lavalin.

The Liberal Leader rejected a call from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on Wednesday to allow anyone with knowledge of the SNC-Lavalin matter to discuss it freely with the RCMP.


How Justin Trudeau could lose

In it for you.

It’s the New Democrats – now a sad shadow of their former selves – who, ironically, came up with the best slogan for the 2019 federal election campaign: in it for you.

That’s what just about every election campaign is about, this one included.  Which party best understands the lives of everyday Canadians.  Which leader actually has the best understanding of the struggles your family faces every single day.

Justin Trudeau is at a big disadvantage, here.  That’s because Justin wasn’t simply born with silver spoon in his mouth.

It was more like a silver shovel.

Trudeau is the guy who likes to talk about the middle class, a lot.  But he has never, ever actually experienced the middle class.  Trudeau has never had to worry about paying the rent, or coming up with the next mortgage statement.  

He has never wondered where he’ll get the dough to pay a hydro bill.  He has never wanted for anything.  His life has been one of mansions, private jets, and hanging out with celebrities like the Aga Khan.

Against Andrew Scheer – who grew up in a big immigrant Catholic family, and whose family didn’t have the wealth Trudeau did – the Liberal leader will likely appear privileged and out-of-touch.  Scheer worked as a waiter and a salesman.  

Trudeau, meanwhile, wears a $15,000 IWC Portuguese Regulateur watch and drives a Mercedes-Benz 300SL he got from his Dad.  (Which, apparently, can sell for millions.)

Who is in it for me – who best understands my life?

If the 2019 election ballot question becomes that question, Justin Trudeau is deep, deep trouble.  Smart Liberals know this. That’s why Trudeau rolls up his sleeves, and loosens his tie, and rarely wears a suit when on the campaign hustings.  That’s why he talks about the middle class all the time.

But not all Liberals are smart.

Last week, some less-than-smart Grits revealed a big poster of Finance Minister Bill Morneau wearing an expensive, tailor-made bespoke suit, tugging at what looked like French cuffs and pricey cufflinks.  It didn’t exactly scream “middle class.”

By this week, Liberals had pasted over that unhelpful image with campaign posters.

But the deeply-dumb Liberals weren’t done yet.  Shortly afterwards, some of them actually cooked up a hashtag to mock Andrew Scheer’s comparatively-humble beginnings.  One of them, a Liberal MP – the heretofore unknown Gagan Sikand, soon to be the former MP for Mississauga-Streetsville – actually tweeted this: “Scheer Was So Poor he had to buy his Conservative Values second-hand from Stephen Harper.”

Sikand, a lawyer, actually wrote that.  He actually tweeted that.  It was the 2019 campaign’s Beer-and-Popcorn moment: people with more, making fun of people who have less. 

Lots of other Liberals went online, too, giddily promoting the “Scheer Was So Poor” hashtag.

It recalled late 2005, when this writer was huddled on a cold bench at a hockey rink somewhere, waiting out a son’s early-morning practice.  A revelation hit me: the Liberals were Starbucks, and the Conservatives were Tim Horton’s.  The Tories were going to win with a campaign that was aimed at the Tim’s crowd, not the latte-sipping elites who frequent Starbucks.  And win they did.

No one should ever underestimate Justin Trudeau’s retail political skills.  No one should ever discount his party’s organizational chops.

But if this race truly becomes who is really “in it for you?”

Then Justin Trudeau is going to lose it.

 


The sounds of (political) silence

Above: example of when a politician should’ve shut up.

The sounds of silence.

It’s not just the name of an old Simon and Garfunkel song. It’s a way to achieve political success, too.

Two anecdotes, from two sides of the political divide.

Several eons ago, this writer was a speechwriter for Jean Chrétien. It was kind of like being the Maytag Repairman, to be honest. Jean Chrétien doesn’t ever need any help in crafting a political tub-thumper. He’s pretty good at that all on his own.

One day, however, our opponents were saying all kinds of nasty things about the then-Liberal leader. The subject matter doesn’t matter. What mattered was Chrétien’s abject refusal to say anything back. Why, Boss, I asked him.

“We don’t have to be in the damn paper every day, young man,” he said. “People don’t like it. They want to hear from us when it’s important. But not all the time. Silence is good.”

Another anecdote, from the other side of the aisle.

Not as long ago, my good friend John Walsh was the president of the Conservative Party. As such, he’d periodically meet with the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.

Two times, he did, and Harper held up a newspaper and pointed at a column by – this is the best part of the anecdote, in my opinion – Yours Truly. Both columns talked about how the then-presidents of the Liberal Party of Canada, who shall remain nameless, were in the media way, way too much.

“See what Kinsella said?” Harper asked John Walsh. “He said nobody can name the president of the Conservative Party, and that’s how we know how good at your job you are.”

Harper agreed. Too much media? Bad. Silence? Good.

Brian Mulroney? In the paper all the time, with Meech Lake, Charlottetown Accord, big meetings with big wheels, blah blah blah. His party got reduced to two seats.

Justin Trudeau? This week, the irrepressible David Akin added up all of the stuff Trudeau and his minions have been announcing. The result was shocking, if not sickening: “In August alone, Liberal MPs made 4,545 new spending commitments worth $12.8 billion.”

And, after all of those announcements and all of the resulting news coverage, has Justin Trudeau abruptly gotten a lot more popular? Nope.

In fact, some pollsters are telling this writer that all that ink hasn’t helped Trudeau much at all. Indeed, they say, there’s evidence to suggest the precise opposite is happening.

Another example.

Just over a year ago, the Ontario PCs roared back into power, and commenced holding special sittings of the legislature, energetically passing umpteen laws and getting in the media a lot. A lot, a lot.

Did it boost their popularity? Um, no. Their popularity went South, fast.

So, Premier Doug Ford hired a brilliant ex-newsman to be his Chief of Staff, and reminded his ministers of that old adage – speak when you have something to say, folks. Not when you have to say something.

Doug Ford thereafter stepped into the political equivalent of the witness protection program, and invited his ministers to join him. Result? Morale is way up, controversies are way down.

Just watch: Ford’s numbers are going to start inching up as a result, too. And so will Andrew Scheer’s – because Andrew Scheer benefits when Doug Ford isn’t in the news all the time. (Justin Trudeau, not so much.)

The moral of this cautionary tale is this: in all of those 4,545 new spending commitments Justin Trudeau made in a single month – out of all of that extraordinary $12.8 billion in spending – can you remember a single damn thing that was announced?

The sounds of silence, folks: it’s more than a nice song.

It’s a way of staying out of political trouble, too.


My friend Mike Sloan, in the Sun

By Mike Sloan, Special to Postmedia Network

“You have cancer.”

Every year, thousands of Canadians hear this from their doctors. It’s frightening, confusing, and outright scary. In February, it was my turn.

A myriad of options were offered. We can radiate this. We can do chemotherapy. All, in the hope of extending my life.

We live in a world where many cancers are highly treatable, and the hope for recovery is high. We are, and should be, thankful for the many great advances in cancer treatment.

However, despite our best hopes, some cancers are simply not well understood or treatable. This was my revelation. A few months after I lost my voice, I was diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer. It’s a rare cancer that afflicts as few as one or two people in a million. My prognosis was grim from the start.

A surgeon and two oncologists suggested chemotherapy and radiation in the hope it may slow the cancer down. But that was merely a hope. No guarantees. I opted out, because I couldn’t make sense of being sick from the treatment in what was likely to be my last summer.

The summer is almost over now, and my cancer is closing in. I’m having more difficulty breathing and swallowing. It feels like there is a huge, growing, hunk of mucous in my throat that I can’t clear. I’d been told to expect this. The cancer is tightening its grip on my esophagus. Eventually, it will simply close and I won’t be able to swallow. Or, breathe.

I knew, going in, this would be the outcome.

Last week, the doctor told me I had, possibly, 6-10 more weeks to live. I accepted it. I’ve been expecting this. I still look and feel relatively healthy and it’s almost hard to believe this is happening. But, I’m entirely aware this is going to kill me.

I don’t have a fear of dying. I can handle that. But, the notion of choking or struggling to breathe really horrifies me. I don’t want to choke to death.

Thankfully, I have the choice of medical assistance in death. Barring some other possible event, that is how I choose to die.

Some people, in good faith, say, “don’t give up on hope.” But, hope isn’t a plan or a solution. Hope can’t guarantee I won’t struggle to breathe at the end.

I’m extremely grateful for the time I’ve had, knowing what was coming. Although I’m dying, the months between diagnosis and death have been incredibly rewarding, positive, and beautiful. I’ve never felt more connected to people, or more cared about in my life. At end of life, it’s a wonderful way to leave the world.

Deciding on treatment options for any disease should always be left in the hands of the patient. If you’re told “you have cancer,” do your research, talk to your doctors and make your own decision. It’s your life. Do what’s right for you.

Above all, use your time to reconnect with those who’ve meant much to you. Say what you want to say. End of life should be without regrets.

Enjoy your time while you have it.

Mike Sloan has shared his cancer story with the world on Twitter, the same way he shared his wry observations on life before he was diagnosed with terminal illness. Despite the prognosis, his sense of humour hasn’t flagged. Nor, has his brutal honesty about life as he faces his final days.


Thirty-five years ago right now

September 4, 1984: 35 years ago today, I was on an Air Canada flight from Ottawa, heading home to Calgary to start law school. The pilot came on the blower. 

“For those of you who are wondering, we are hearing that the Liberal Party has lost every one of its seats,” he said. “And we have a new Conservative majority government.”

The plane erupted in cheers and applause – lots of it. Having just said goodbye to many of my Liberal friends at Ottawa polling stations, and having just finished working for a Liberal cabinet minister on the Hill, I slid further into my seat. A woman beside me noticed I wasn’t as deliriously happy as everyone else. 

“I take it your friends have lost?” she asked. 

“You could say that,” I said. 

On the ground in Calgary, my Dad was there to collect me. We silently listened to John Turner’s concession speech on the way back to my folks’ home on the Bow River. Near the end, Turner said: “The people are always right.’ 

“I’m not so sure about that,” I responded, but – on reflection – I reckoned that Turner was indeed correct: the people are always right. 

And the people had chosen Brian Mulroney, in record numbers. More than seventy-five per cent of eligible voters turned out to give Mulroney an astonishing 211 seats. The Liberals were reduced to a paltry 40 – only ten ahead of the New Democrats.

So began the Mulroney era, and a decade in the wilderness for the Liberal Party of Canada. It was an extraordinary decade, a time of great change, and it is hard to believe it all started 35 years ago today. 

Not many in the media marked Mulroney’s September 4, 1984 triumph, and that is a shame. He changed Canada – not always for the good, but not entirely for the bad, either. 

Meech Lake, Charlottetown, and assorted ministerial resignations, are always cited as the principal failures of the Mulroney era. But the former Conservative leader had successes, too: free trade, which his Liberal successor – my future boss, Jean Chretien – refused to undo. So, too, some of his major economic reforms, which arguably helped return the federation to balanced budgets and surpluses. 

To not a few of us, his most singular achievement was his unflagging opposition to South Africa’s evil apartheid system. This placed him squarely against his closest conservative allies, Britain’s Margaret Thatcher and America’s Ronald Reagan. But Mulroney’s determination to end apartheid put him on the right side of history – and earned him the enduring friendship of Nelson Mandela. 

Why does all this matter now, 35 long years later? Two reasons.

First, Mulroney extraordinary victory on September 4, 1984 – and the historic events that followed that day – should not be forgotten. Whether you approve of his tenure or not, Mulroney truly changed Canada. 

The second reason really has nothing to do with Brian Mulroney at all. The second reason we should recall September 4 is this: when democratic political change comes, it sometimes comes in a way that is dramatic, decisive, and defining. It can be shocking.

That may be good, that may be bad. Depends on the team you belong to, I suppose.

One thing cannot be disputed, however:

As on September 4, 1984, as today, the people are always right.


My latest: when hating Trump isn’t enough

PORTLAND, MAINE – The woman shrugs. 

She doesn’t mention Donald Trump’s latest outrage – that he’s “the chosen one.” She doesn’t even utter his name. 

She says she thinks she’s going to vote Democrat. Then she frowns a bit. “But I like Collins.”

She’s referring to Maine Senator Susan Collins, a Republican. Collins is the bane of every Democrat’s existence. She’s the one, more than any other Senator, who got Brett Kavanaugh onto the US Supreme Court. 

She’s the one who generally supports all of Trump’s nominees. She’s the one who claims to be a moderate Republican – and then votes for Trump’s agenda.  

The woman at the door of the bungalow on Hale Street has indicated she’s a Democrat. But she’s ready to vote – again – for a Republican. Susan Collins. 

It wouldn’t be a big deal, but it happens again and again. As my daughter and I move from door to door in this older Portland neighbourhood, volunteering for the Democratic Party, we see it a lot: shrugs. 

Down the street, Thomas, a man in his sixties, says he’ll vote for the Democratic candidate for Congress. Then he shrugs, too. “And maybe Collins for Senate,” he says. 

What we encounter on Hale Street isn’t unique. It isn’t an aberration. Maine Democrats have encountered it so often, an entire section of the script we’ve been given deals with Democrats who are ready to vote Republican. 

Right about now, Trump fans shouldn’t start breaking out the bubbly. It’s not that Americans have grown to love the guy. Polls clearly show they don’t, and in battleground states he won in 2016, too. 

But there’s resignation, now. There’s familiarity. There’s…shrugs. 

The day after my daughter and I knocked on dozens of doors for the Dems, a gifted New York Times columnist, Frank Bruni, wrote about exactly what we experienced. “Donald Trump has worn us all out,” read the headline atop his column. 

Wrote Bruni: “[Voters have] binged on Trump and now they’re overstuffed with Trump, and if Democratic candidates are smart, they’ll not dwell on his mess and madness, because voters have taken his measure and made their judgments, and what many of them want is release from the incessant drumbeat of that infernal syllable: Trump, Trump, Trump.”

And it’s true. As this writer said to someone down here, after reading Bruni’s words: “Do you get outraged about Trump anymore? Does he shock you anymore? Do you just change the channel, or flip the page, and move on to the next thing?”

Many of us do, on both sides of the border, I suspect. We simply have become used to Trump’s incendiary tweets, and his politics of division. He doesn’t shock us anymore. We shake our heads, or we shrug, and we move on. 

That creates opportunity for the Democrats, Bruni opined, because he thinks Americans are sick of all the drama and the craziness, and they want stability and civility. 

On Hale Street – and, in fact, on every other street we canvassed in Portland – we saw precious little evidence of that hopeful theory. Why we saw, instead, is that everyday Americans simply aren’t as exercised about Donald Trump as they used to be. 

And that’s translating into expressions of support – from Democrats! – for one of Trump’s enablers, Susan Collins. And that’s opportunity, maybe, for Trump and the GOP. 

Peter Jones, a retired man stands at his front door, and gives us hope. And a warning. 

“I pay attention,” he says to us, finger wagging. “Two things. Point out Trump’s faults, sure. But tell us what you’re going to do, too!”

Have Democrats done that, nearly enough? Have they described the America they want to create? 

Down on Hale Street, not really. 

And not across America, either.