Little things add up. And as Warren Kinsella argues, the WE Scandal isn't so little.
The coronavirus pandemic is one of the biggest events of our collective lifetimes. You don’t have to take a poll. It just is.
Millions of Canadians without work. Companies going bankrupt. Families in crisis. And, of course, 110,000 of us infected with Covid-19, and more than 9,000 dead.
It has been a cataclysm. It has been a disaster on an unprecedented scale. It has been, per Yeats, things falling apart, and a centre that cannot hold. Anarchy, loosed upon our world.
Compared to the Americans – our national pastime – we Canadians are doing better, a lot better. They have nearly four million people infected. They have more than 140,000 dead – many, if not most, due to the delusional psychosis that has seized the death cult that is the Republican Party. Led, as it is, by a monkey with a machine-gun.
So, we Canadians compare ourselves to the United States, which is now more a charnel-house than a country. We feel better about ourselves, pat ourselves on our backs, and then go about the tightrope-walking that is life during a lethal pandemic.
But we shouldn’t get too cocky. Because there are other measurements to be applied to our leaders. Not just comparisons of body counts.
Corruption, for instance.
Justin Trudeau has been called corrupt many times in the past. When, for example, he secretly accepted gifts from a lobbyist – traveling on the lobbyist’s helicopter to the lobbyist’s private island. When he was caught, the Liberal leader shrugged. “We,” he said, actually using that pronoun to describe himself, “don’t see an issue.”
The Ethics Commissioner sure did. She ruled that Trudeau has broken conflict of interest rules four times by succumbing to the Aga Khan’s influence-peddling.
That was followed by the LavScam scandal, wherein Trudeau, his Finance Minister and their underlings pressured the Minister of Justice on 22 separate occasions to give a sweetheart deal to a corrupt corporate donor to Trudeau’s party. When the Globe and Mail reported what he had done, Trudeau angrily denied it all.
But the Ethics Commissioner again found Trudeau guilty. The Liberal leader had “flagrantly” violated conflict of interest laws, said the Commissioner, by attempting to stop a prosecution of the Quebec-based SNC Lavalin. Said he: “The evidence showed there were many ways in which Mr. Trudeau, either directly or through the actions of those under his direction, sought to influence the attorney general.”
In both cases, Justin Trudeau solemnly assured Canadians that he’d learned his lesson. He promised to avoid all conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Canadians believed him, and re-elected him in 2019.
And now, he is at it again. This time, it isn’t just his Finance Minister and senior staff implicated, either. This time, his wife, his mother and his brother are alleged to have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the serpentine WE organization. His Finance Minister’s children, meanwhile, received jobs from WE.
While seamy and sordid, none of that is necessarily fatal. What makes it lethal, politically, is the Prime Minister and his Finance Minister voting:
- to hand WE a billion-dollar contract without competition.
- to do so without disclosing their conflict of interest to cabinet.
- to do so without acknowledging that their families had been the recipients of WE’s largesse, and
- to do all that in the middle of a pandemic, when Canada is facing a $343 billion deficit due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s that last one that makes WE-gate much worse than LavScam or the Aga Khan scandal: rich people – the Trudeaus, the Morneaus and the cultists behind the WE “charity” – seen to be getting richer during a pandemic. When everyone else is getting measurably poorer.
When Canadians are losing their jobs, losing their homes, Margaret Trudeau is getting a quarter of a million dollars to give some speeches. That, to many of us, is despicable.
Still, some Liberal partisans shrug. During a pandemic, do such things matter? In the big scheme of things, does the $352,000 the Trudeaus received even compare to the billions Canadians have received from their federal government to help them through an unprecedented crisis?
When this writer had the honor and privilege of working for Jean Chrétien, we’d frequently hear stories about wealthy interests offering our boss a room at their mansions while he was touring the country. No charge. Just stay for the night, they’d tell him. In most cases, they were just being hospitable.
But Chrétien would always say no. Back at the office, he’d tell us why: “Those little things add up. They create the wrong impression. So I stayed at a motel.”
And therein lies the moral of the tale, the one that Justin Trudeau has not learned and never will: big political graves are dug with tiny shovels.
With the WE scandal, Justin Trudeau is again digging his.
Warren Kinsella is a Canadian journalist, political adviser and commentator.
- Warren Kinsella hasn’t appeared in these pages as a contributor before – but certainly as a topic. Here, Maclean Kay looks back at what was an inauspicious summer for Elizabeth May.
- Michael Taube looked at the Green Party’s decision to bring Kinsella on to run their war room.
- #BCPOLI Hotstove wondered whether Kinsella would be a fit in the Green Party organization (it didn’t work out.)