By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on August 7, 2020.
Strike one, strike two, strike three – you’re out!
The two words you don’t want to hear while you’re up to bat.
But when it comes to the prime minister, these two words are more than appropriate.
Justin Trudeau’s first ethics strike took place when he used more than 200,000 taxpayer dollars to pay for his family’s vacation to a private island in the Caribbean. He was found guilty by the Ethics Commissioner and had to pay a whopping $500 fine. When is the last time you got away with taking $200,000 and only had to pay $500 back?!
His second ethics strike took place a little more than a year ago when he was found guilty of trying to strong-arm the Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, into letting the prime minister’s friends at SNC-Lavalin off the hook after having criminal charges laid against them.
Now, Trudeau is being investigated by the Ethics Commissioner for a third time after he approved a $912-million sole-sourced contribution agreement to his friends at WE Charity. Close to a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money was sent out the door to an organization with which he has close family ties. In fact, his family has received more than $400,000 in speaking fees and remunerations since 2015. And that says nothing of the fact that WE Charity has given Trudeau the stage numerous times for him to boost his profile.
We have heard the phrase over and over again from this Liberal government and its leader, “these are unprecedented times.” Though the statement rings true, it has been used and misused to justify the very worst behaviour unbecoming of any government in a Western democracy.
In Canada, we are governed by a parliamentary democracy. In this system, it is the voters who hold decision-making power and exercise it by voting for the individual they feel will represent them best. The people – and NOT the politicians – are meant to hold the power. This is in direct opposition to an aristocracy, an oligarchy or a monarchy, where only a small number of individuals rule over the rest.
A properly functioning democracy governs in the best interest of the people, however, a corrupt government will try to expand its size and take as much power away from the people as possible. Government office holders who are there only to serve themselves try to amass more power, while eliminating oversight and evading accountability.
Why am I making this point?
We are currently facing a situation in Canada where our prime minister has acted, not in the best interest of the people, but rather, in his own interest and in the interest of his family and friends.
But Trudeau isn’t a lone actor. His finance minister, Bill Morneau, accepted a $41,000 vacation from WE Charity. Parliamentarians are not permitted to accept gifts over $200. But not to worry; he paid the money back to the charity the day before he had to testify.
Both of these elected officials of the highest office have shown an incredible lack of judgment, ethics and moral authority. They have acted as if they are above the law.
Although Canadians seem to be quick to forgive, we need to realize that bad behaviour continues if not addressed. If you found out that your employee, who was hired to carry out your business affairs, was misusing your money to benefit himself and his family, would you still trust him to continue working on your behalf?
This is not a partisan argument. The principle would be the same, regardless of which political party is in power. In Canada, politicians work for the people. What will we tolerate? What will we allow them to get away with?
As the umpire, will the Canadian public call strike three?
Canadians can exercise their political authority by vocalizing dissent, or they can let all of this be swept away as a “mistake” from apologetic leaders who happened to get caught. The choice is ours.
Former prime minister John Diefenbaker famously said, “I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.”
It is up to Canadians to raise the bar of accountability for those who govern on their behalf.
It is undeniable we are living in unprecedented times. We have a prime minister who is being investigated for a third time by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. The finance minister all but admitted to breaking the law, and yet so far, all we have received from both is an apology.
Back in 2012, Conservative minister Bev Oda ordered a $16 glass of orange juice on the taxpayers’ dime and had used a limo on work travel. When the story broke, Canadians were outraged. The media aired the story continuously. Ms. Oda repaid the expenses and apologized, but she also chose to resign from government.
Where is that same moral conviction in our current leaders? Why do they think they can get away with such obvious unethical behaviour? Could it be because they think Canadians will let them?
Justin Trudeau’s family has been enriched by an organization to which he has awarded tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars. The same organization created a campaign-style video ad for him in 2017. How convenient! Money is handed from the Liberal government to WE Charity and the Trudeaus get stage time, fancy ads, and cash in their pockets. Meanwhile, other speakers, like Theo Fleury, have been told they are expected to speak for free.
The question is, will an apology make the scandal disappear or will Canadians demand that the bar be raised for their representatives?
If you would like to tell the prime minister that an apology is not enough, you can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call his office at 613-995-0253.
Rachael Harder is the Conservative MP for Lethbridge. Her column appears monthly.