Trudeau’s sunny ways giving way to cloudy days

One of the major planks of Justin Trudeau’s election campaign to be prime minister of Canada was to “restore” Canadians’ faith in the federal government due to the Stephen Harper government being secretive and untrustworthy.

The Liberal Party of Canada website has a particularly cringeworthy quote from Trudeau that says “sunlight is the world’s best disinfectant” and that Liberals would “shed light” on the government.

So far, all that has come to light is Trudeau’s hypocrisy.

The prime minister hasn’t had a great week. He’s currently embroiled in a scandal over accusations that he broke conflict of interest rules by taking a private helicopter to his buddy the Aga Khan’s island. He had a rather embarrassing encounter with an Ontario woman over her skyrocketing hydro bills, and got booed at an Edmonton Oilers game (via video appearance) after saying the oil sands in Alberta would eventually need to be phased out.

I’m not going to touch too much upon the oil sands comments, because I generally agree. Trudeau’s remarks were badly-worded, no doubt; the way he casually and disdainfully dismissed an industry which serves as the backbone of an entire province was an obvious lapse in judgement. But there’s no doubt the oil and gas industry will see massive changes over the next 50 to 100 years. The dropping price of a barrel of oil has been called the new normal and investment into and demand for renewable energy isn’t expected to decline (although fossil fuels, too, are seeing a rise in demand, especially as the middle class in countries such as China and India increasingly buy cars that run off gas). 

From a character standpoint, I’m far more concerned about the vacation debacle. For one, the Aga Khan is a very elitist figure. Although he’s the head of a private, not-for-profit foundation that does a lot of good work internationally, especially in developing countries, he’s also a billionaire who owns a yacht and a huge horse-racing and breeding operation. Somehow those two things don’t quite go together for me.

While the Aga Khan’s personal fortune may be irrelevant, the fact is the Aga Khan’s foundation has received millions of dollars from Canada’s federal government and continues to actively lobby them for grants. Flying the prime minister of the same country that gives your foundation money in a private helicopter to your private island is more than just an appearance of a conflict of interest. Trudeau then dug a deeper hole by refusing to answer a reporter’s basic questions on how many times he has visited the Aga Khan’s island.

This week, news broke that Canada’s second-highest ranked military official, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, had been suspended from his post. On Tuesday, Trudeau refused to say why he had been removed from his post, only stating that the government supported the decision to remove him.

It didn’t take long for a media leak to reveal that Norman had been relieved of duty due to a possible RCMP investigation into a leak of classified information.

As a newsman, I certainly appreciate the vital role the media still plays in holding politicians to account. But Canadians shouldn’t have to rely on the media for answers from a prime minister who pledged to be open and transparent.

Unnamed sources quoted in Postmedia Network newspapers said a member as high-ranking as Norman being removed from his post is “unprecedented”. In an age where cyberattacks and foreign espionage are real threats, we deserve answers on what exactly happened that prompted the change.

Leaving the public wondering is more than bad optics, it’s a breach of Trudeau’s election promises and a disheartening journey back into cynicism. In the midst of more than enough worries for working families the last thing to add on is particularly bad weather — but for now it’s cloudy with a chance of Trudeau flurries. 

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