Martyn Brown: Whither the liar who wasn’t Trudeau?

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      Who was that Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on Tuesday (April 10) who put Conservative leader Andrew Scheer on notice that he’d better watch his tongue in holding him accountable for his SNC-Lavalin scandal—or else!

      Heavens, I barely recognized him, sounding ever so much like a man of honesty, principle, integrity and all.


      He sure showed his would-be replacement-in-waiting what a person in his position should expect and demand from a person in Scheer’s position, when confronted by hard truths that don’t align with the prime minister’s preferred version of reality.

      The truth and nothing but the truth, I tell’s ya.

      That’s what we should all expect from the likes of Scheer or any politician not in Trudeau’s Liberal caucus.

      So long as it’s not too true, mind you.

      Like that “version” of the truth that Jody Wilson-Raybould “experienced” and shared.

      Before Trudeau booted her and Jane Philpott out of his caucus and party, in apparent contempt of Conservative MP Michael Chong’s law.

      Which was a hardly a law at all, because his caucus never acknowledged it as ever being applicable to them, having never opted into it, as such.

      Video: Conservative MP Michael Chong explains the caucus-expulsion rule under a law passed in 2014.

      OK, so it is technically a law that Trudeau and his then-Liberal team voted to pass in 2014, leaving us stupid voters to believe that they might actually follow it to its legal letter.

      But it’s not like he or they actually lied about ever not following that law that they determined should not apply to them, even if they did stretch the truth a bit in their defence of how their inactions in respect of it might never be legally actionable.

      Not like Scheer’s “defamatory” condemnations of Trudeau’s actions on the LavScam fiasco. 

      Now them’s fighting words that Scheer should know could get him into serious hot water in court.

      Court: that horrific place that no company of SNC-Lavalin’s size and stature should hopefully ever have to face. So long as it might be excused from defending itself on fraud and corruption charges through an honest appeal to an honest man in the prime minister’s office. 

      Who honestly only ever wanted to help it secure a deferred prosecution agreement with no undue pressure on his attorney general to make that “right decision”. Certainly never with any real veiled threats that her continued career in her post might depend on it.

      Anyway, it’s not like Trudeau actually called Scheer a liar.

      He just gave him and us all a little friendly lecture, like he might have given his former students during his substitute teacher days in Vancouver.

      “I think it’s important that all politicians be straight with Canadians in how they characterize their own actions and their own beliefs,” Trudeau said, with the righteous certitude of a truth teller in his own right.

      One who need not take any lessons from the Indigenous woman known as Puglaas on how to act honorably in putting words in other people’s mouths. 

      “You can’t be inventing things. You can’t be lying to Canadians,” he admonished no one, specifically.

      “And I think highlighting that there are consequences, both short term and long term, when politicians choose to twist the truth and distort reality for Canadians. It’s not something we’re going to put up with.”

      Got it.

      And I’m certainly not going say anywhere in this article that Trudeau lied.

      I just won’t say that in respect of his 2015 platform promise that "We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny."

      Despite the fact that he might have simply forgotten that commitment time and time again, by repeatedly burying major policy changes in budget omnibus bills that he said should not be used in that way in frustrating proper democratic debate.

      Wasn’t a lie, you understand, when he simply neglected to respect that promise by putting the change to the Criminal Code allowing for the possibility of deferred prosecution agreements in last year’s budget bill.

      Or when he buried significant changes to his government’s asylum policy in this year’s massive omnibus budget bill, which make a mockery of his famous tweet inviting the world’s refugees to come to Canada.

      Nope, he didn’t lie.

      I’m not going to invent that he said the Globe and Mail’s February 7 story that was destined to make LavScam a household word was completely “false”. 

      I’m not going to accuse him of lying just because he and his crew first denied that anyone ever exerted pressure on JWR to give SNC-Lavalin a DPA, and then later admitted that perhaps that was not quite so.

      Only someone with malevolent intent would even dream that that pressure denied and admitted was somehow “inappropriate”, simply because its alleged subject—the recently deposed attorney general—said it was inappropriate, in all honesty.

      Even though I am not a politician, I still want to be straight with Canadians in how I characterize Trudeau’s actions and beliefs. 

      As he sincerely thought he was being, when he promised that the 2015 election would be Canada’s last election to be decided by a first-past-the-post electoral system.

      Before his critics twisted that truth, as he distorted that reality, by deciding that maybe that promise wasn’t so politically practical to keep after all.

      Far be it from me to accuse Trudeau of lying when he vowed that the deficit would be under $10 billion in 2016 and his government then produced a budget with a $29-billion deficit.

      Who would accuse him of fibbing on his promise to balance the budget by 2019, just because he has projected deficit budgets as far as the eye can see?

      You can’t be lying to Canadians.

      This we know now, thanks to the leader who swore in 2018 that he “will not engage in personal attacks and none of our team will either”. 

      And then proceeded to berate Conservative MP Lisa Raitt as an “ambulance chaser”, while his finance minister also resisted personally attacking her in merely calling Raitt a “Neanderthal”.

      Which, to be fair, was years after he had branded former Conservative environment minister Peter Kent “a piece of shit” during one raucous session in Parliament.

      No siree.

      Video: As an opposition politician, Justin Trudeau called Conservative Peter Kent a "piece of shit" in the House of Commons in 2011.

      I won’t call him a liar for saying that the “process” was “ongoing” in the Omar Khadr controversy, even after his government had secretly paid Khadr a $10.5-million settlement.

      For which Trudeau later intimated his predecessor was somehow responsible. 

      Thankfully, former prime minister Stephen Harper did not call Trudeau a liar in responding to that insinuation, when he issued his tweet.

      God knows, there could have been serious “consequences”, both short term and long term, if Harper had ever been so reckless as Scheer in mischaracterizing that fact with more insulting and inflammatory fiction.

      Lying is simply not part of our prime minister’s repertoire.

      No one would accuse him of that in his government’s ever-morphing story about who invited convicted attempted murderer Jaspal Atwal to dine with him and his dear wife on his ill-fated trip to India last year.

      The Indian government was responsible. Some backbench MP was responsible. The RCMP screwed up. Who knows? But Trudeau sure never misled anyone with an alternate version of the truth.

      When CBC posted this photo of Jaspal Atwal beside Sophie Grégoire Trudeau at a Mumbai party, it caused an international media uproar.
      CBC screen shot

      He doesn’t fabricate, fib, or falsify. Not ever.

      Not when he vowed to build the Trans Mountain pipeline and didn’t.

      Not when he vowed in the 2015 election to “redo” the flawed NEB review process as a precondition for its approval, and then went ahead and approved it anyway on the basis of that now legally undone process.

      Not when he made such bold climate action commitments in Paris.

      Which his own government now admits are horrendously off-track, even with its disastrous roll-out of a carbon tax that it seems bent on politically killing, including by giving $12 million in handouts to Loblaw.

      Not when he vowed to usher in a whole new way of governing that was to be so much more ethical and wholesome than Harper’s government.

      That was, after all, before he became the first prime minister in Canadian history to be found guilty of violating the Conflict of Interest Act. With his infamous holiday in the Bahamas on a private island owned by the Aga Khan.

      Leave it to Global News—not me—to suggest that Trudeau’s commitments around transparency and access to information may collide with the distorted reality it has just reported upon.

      Namely, that it has taken 817 days to get access to RCMP information about that trip, which the law mandates should have produced a response within 30 days. 

      After listening to Trudeau’s stern warning to Scheer, I feel like someone really ought to read the Riot Act to the prime minister’s former admirers, some of whom have also apparently forgotten the boundaries of due decorum.

      No, not me. I never voted for the twerp and absolutely never will. 

      Which is not to call him a liar or to intentionally besmirch his now unbesmirchable post-LavScam character. Who he is now is self-evident, as a matter of fact.

      But don’t let me put words in Grand Chief Stewart Phillip’s mouth. 

      He spoke for himself—if not also for his many thousand fellow Indigenous Canadians who are represented by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs—when he said this in response to Trudeau’s actions in respect of the Site C hydro project:

      Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs hasn't been overly impressed by the prime minister's grasp of the truth.
      Yolande Cole

      “Trudeau made serious and solid commitments. He said no relationship was more important to him than the nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations. He was so convincing that our people went out to vote for him in unprecedented numbers.”

      “The truth is, Trudeau lied to us. He is very close to violating the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I describe him now as a serial liar.”

      Ouch. I wouldn’t call him a serial anything.

      For that implies some degree of true commitment.

      And one person who has no shortage of commitment is David Suzuki, who now pledges to teach Trudeau that there are consequences as well for his penchant for malleable truth.

      As Suzuki said in an interview with iPolitics in 2017, “I’m going to be much more outspoken in the coming election cycle. Trudeau is a liar.”

      His word, not mine, I stress. 

      “For me, that’s the charge. He’s an out-and-out liar. I don’t think he deserves a second chance.”

      Look out, you two soldiers of scientific truth, social progress, and peaceful reconciliation.

      Adam Scotti/PMO

      Trudeau’s dog whistle politics might make you want to scream in agony for all they really mean and don’t. 

      But in civil democratic debate, some words are four letters that should never be uttered whether or not they are true.

      And as George Carlin once so famously taught us, sometimes they aren’t always well understood.

      They’re usually on someone else’s list. And they are never to be said on television. 


      “Liar” wasn’t on Carlin’s lewd list.

      But to Trudeau, it is possibly the dirtiest word on Earth, to the extent that it may only have some ring of truth.

      Truth or consequences. 

      Andrew Scheer seems intent on pushing that game to hold Trudeau fully accountable, for today he repeated his March 29 allegations, with no protection of privilege, trying to goad Trudeau into making good on his threatened libel suit in court.

      Consequences of which? 

      I’m not saying Trudeau’s lying, but truth is, we all know where that’s headed and who would probably be vindicated as the most honest one if he and Scheer had to fight it out in court under oath. 

      I can’t lie: my money would be on Scheer to win.

      As he will also do anyway, if Trudeau turtles as expected in his slow race to finish second in October.

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic adviser to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, and in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact him via email at