Editorial: Trudeau's lack of humility is bad politics

Credit to Author: Gordon Clark| Date: Sat, 17 Aug 2019 01:00:15 +0000

One has to seriously question the wisdom and strategy of Justin Trudeau and his re-election team with their decision not to have the prime minister show contrition after being found guilty this week of again violating the Conflict of Interest Act.

Instead of apologizing to former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould — and, more importantly, to Canadians — for his significant ethical failures in trying to influence the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, Trudeau has instead woven a bumbling narrative in response to the scathing report of Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion by simultaneously claiming to “accept” the report and take “full responsibility” for his actions while disagreeing with some of its findings and claiming he won’t apologize “for standing up for Canadian jobs.”

In offering weasel words, Trudeau disrespects the citizens he claims to serve. It’s hard to know what Trudeau means by taking “full responsibility.”

The problems with his response are numerous. As Canada’s top legislator, he doesn’t appear to recognize the sanctity in a modern democracy of the rule of law and prosecutorial independence — the very principles Wilson-Raybould kept trying to protect in rejecting repeated, highly improper attempts by Trudeau and his staff to influence the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.

In making his claim about protecting jobs and continuing a pattern of dishonesty about the SNC-Lavalin mess, Trudeau is really saying that the ends (jobs) justify the means (trampling on judicial independence.) That implies that he still doesn’t really understand the real and critical — not theoretical or academic — importance of keeping politics out of prosecutions and that there are some lines that one doesn’t cross — especially as leader of the country.

Trudeau also excuses himself by claiming that one has to make complicated decisions as prime minister, which, while certainly true, doesn’t justify his conduct. Prime ministers can be excused for making mistakes, especially when they own up to and learn from them, but that is not the case here. The first time Wilson-Raybould explained to one of Trudeau’s staff that it was wrong for them to attempt to influence the SNC-Lavalin prosecution should have been the end of the matter.

Any secondary school civics student would have understood after having it explained once — it’s not a complicated notion. Instead, Trudeau and his people continued their campaign of interference, eventually removing Wilson-Raybould from her position. They knew what they were doing was wrong but continued their campaign of interference despite it.

Trudeau is also wrong to keep spinning the story that he was trying to protect jobs. While he might have believed it, the president of SNC-Lavalin has stated that moving jobs from Canada as a result of the prosecution on fraud and corruption charges was never threatened. It is not a stretch to argue that the prime minister’s conduct was more about protecting an important Quebec company and Liberal Party of Canada financial backer and the jobs of Liberal MPs, including his own.

Heading into a federal election, the SNC-Lavalin controversy is not going away. The RCMP announced this week that it is investigating the issues raised by Dion’s report to determine whether charges are warranted. As well, the parliamentary ethic committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to hear a request by opposition MPs that the ethics commissioner testify before it to answer questions about his report.

Politically and to show honour, Trudeau should have apologized. By refusing to show humility, he may find that voters aren’t very forgiving on Oct. 21.

Editorials are unsigned opinion pieces representing the views of The Vancouver Sun editorial board, which is made up of senior editors. The editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at gclark@postmedia.com.

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