Martyn Brown: Is there any Liberal value that Trudeau won’t torch for votes?
Another day, another viral video. This time of the raging fire that is razing Canada’s Liberal party to the ground.
“Go! Get out!”, someone is yelling, while all hell is breaking loose behind him.
Oops. My bad.
That was actually a clip of a toilet on fire at the Coachella festival.
The guy waving frantically at the centre of that awesome footage was not Justin Trudeau trying to direct the people fleeing his party-gone-wrong at the Trudopia Festival of Brain Farts.
Though he is a leader with monster methane issues, who has no shame in trying to alleviate his pressures by expelling Liberal values and valued Liberals alike in trying to backburn his runaway SNC-Lavalin inferno.
Each new day brings a new desperate discharge that suggests there is no Liberal value that he regards as too sacred to trash and burn for the sake of political expediency.
He has reduced the Liberal party’s philosophical foundation to something akin to a porta-potty.
It’s become just a dumping hole for whatever grotesque values of convenience that he might want to drop in its box or torch, as the case may be—a receptacle of political necessity that holds no other real value in its own right.
Integrity. Dignity. Compassion. Responsibility. Reason.
Those are the values that are supposed to define Liberals as such.
Each of them has been tossed in the crapper and set ablaze in a maelstrom of flagrantly wrong and dirty deeds that are as cynically motivated as they are astounding to behold and revolting in form and substance.
LavScam might be the foulest article at the centre of the cesspool, but it’s hardly an isolated betrayal of public trust—a trait that is itself rapidly becoming the Liberals’ ultimate defining value.
“We believe that ethics should govern all that we do so that the highest standards of conduct are considered and reflected when we engage in responsible representation of Canadians,” the party says in its high-falutin' “principles” document.
It also pledged a Liberal government would be dedicated to “the rule of law”.
Trudeau’s reprehensible treatment of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott in covering up his government’s assault on the rule of law sure put the lie to those claims.
To say nothing of his personal conduct in violating the Conflict of Interest Act.
He is the first prime minister to have ever broken that law. If any other cabinet minister had been guilty of those transgressions, he or she would have been fired and forever disgraced.
Not Trudeau. Instead he walked away essentially unscathed and sheepishly shrugged off the commissioner’s findings as effectively no big deal.
Ethical leaders don’t simply dismiss the law as being irrelevant and/or inapplicable to them.
Yet Trudeau did it again—not once, but twice—in disregarding the Reform Act that he and his party actually voted for in 2015, as that law’s author has so lucidly explained.
Canadians have good reason to feel betrayed
Ethical leaders don’t mislead voters with false promises, as the liar-who-wasn’t-Trudeau did in the myriad examples I referenced in my last piece in the Straight. [See Related Stories.]
“We believe that every person has the right to be heard and represented in a democratic society” the Liberals brag in their values statement.
Tell that to former Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes.
She quit Trudeau’s caucus after blowing the whistle on him for dishonouring that value in her experience.
Or tell it to the thousands of concerned citizens who were shut out of the National Energy Board process on the Trans Mountain pipeline, which Trudeau vowed he would “redo” before making any decisions, before he reneged on that commitment.
Tell it to the Indigenous communities whose voices were not heard and whose constitutionally protected rights and title have been trampled upon time and time again by the Liberal government.
Tell it to the members of the Grassy Narrows First Nation, who Trudeau mocked during that fundraiser where they tried in vain to be heard in raising the mercury poisoning problem that is threatening the health and lives of people in their community.
“We believe that it is important to provide fair and equitable treatment to all,” the party’s values statement also pontificated.
That is, until doing so threatens to cost Trudeau’s Liberals votes in Quebec.
Which Wilson-Raybould maintains was a top value that influenced his inappropriate interventions on behalf of SNC-Lavalin in trying to save it from a criminal trial through a deferred prosecution agreement.
And what of Trudeau’s response to the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s Bill 21 that will ban public servants from wearing religious symbols at work?
As CTV reported, that bill “directly affects religious minorities such as Muslims and Sikhs, who will be prohibited from openly displaying their faith and working in what the government considers positions of authority”.
Though Trudeau said “it is unthinkable to me that in a free society we would legitimize discrimination against citizens based on their religion,” he’s hardly raised a peep in trying to do anything at all meaningful to rally public support against that proposed law.
It likely violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But Trudeau’s week-kneed response to Quebec’s vow to use the “notwithstanding clause” to enforce that proposed law if it is found to be unconstitutional is a joke.
At least his father had some guts in standing up for Liberal values, however tough that was to do at times in Quebec.
Truth is, Trudeau won’t spend an ounce of his own rapidly shrinking political capital to defend equality and religious freedom rights that are gravely threatened by that bill, because it is, sadly, very popular in Quebec.
Omnibus bill will transform refugee rules
However, as far as betrayals of Liberal values goes, arguably nothing the prime minister has done can hold a candle to the changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that his government has just snuck into its mammoth 392-page budget bill.
It was yet another violation of the Liberals’ election promise to “bring an end” to that “undemocratic practice” of misusing “omnibus bills” that his party so condemned in opposition.
The gall of doing that again is hard to fathom. Especially after breaking that promise in last year’s budget bill with its buried changes to the Criminal Code that set the whole SNC-Lavalin scandal in motion.
The new changes to prevent “asylum shopping”, as Border Security Minister Bill Blair put it, essentially disavow Trudeau’s signature invite to the world’s asylum seekers.
How bad is it?
Bad enough that Amnesty International, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the Canadian and B.C. civil liberties associations and the Canadian Council for Refugees have all a jointly written the prime minister to condemn the proposed amendments.
They “strongly object to the inclusion of an unexpected, substantial and deeply troubling reform affecting the human rights of refugees in the omnibus Budget Implementation Act, Bill C-97”.
“The measure itself—depriving certain refugee claimants of access to full and independent refugee hearings—is harsh and unnecessary. Furthermore, stripping crucial and hard-won human rights protections from people in a budget bill is undemocratic…”
And further, “removing the protections of an independent refugee determination hearing from refugee claimants as proposed…is likely to result in legal challenges, and will create further inefficiencies, delay and confusion in the system.”
“These cases involve incredibly high stakes for the claimants, including questions of persecution and torture, of being able to live life freely in accordance with one’s identity and culture with protection for fundamental human rights, and even of questions of life and death.”
Those changes make a mockery of the Liberal party’s laughable “commitments” to the values of integrity, compassion, responsibility, and reason.
They may even prove to violate the charter. The policy would seem to run contrary to the Supreme Court of Canada’s constitutional ground rules on refugee law, as it laid out in the 1985 Singh case.
Andrew Coyne’s critique puts it all in plain English, in a damning dissection of the politically motivated measure, which he called “arbitrary, inhumane, and vastly unnecessary".
“There is no emergency that could possibly justify rejecting refugee claimants out of hand, solely on the basis of having made a prior claim…without apparent sense of shame—still less deporting them without a hearing," Coyne wrote. "The numbers of those crossing the U.S.-Canada border irregularly are falling, not rising.
“The emergency, rather, would appear to be in the falling numbers of those telling pollsters they intend to vote Liberal. For what is the risk of sending innocent people to their deaths, when there are marginal seats in peril?”
Trudeau has basically chucked his party’s most sacred values in the can of partisan convenience and tossed a match on the works.
In so doing he has not only vindicated his critics in the Conservative party, who have been hammering his government for not acting to stem the tide of refugees who are illegally entering Canada, mostly through Quebec.
But through its new refugee rejection policy, Trudeau’s government has also made Scheer’s Conservatives look like the moderates they are, instead of as the intolerant extremists and closest racists the Liberals are trying to brand them as being.
In the process, Trudeau has made his own party smell more than a little like “Mad” Max Bernier’s People’s Party.
Its excretions on immigration are not dissimilar to the Liberals new refugee refusal policy.
And that’s not the half of it.
It wasn’t Scheer’s government that was forced to remove a reference to Sikh extremism from the report on terrorism that Team Trudeau spent months defending despite its assault on Liberal values.
And even with that last-minute change on the eve of Vaisakhi, in anticipation of being otherwise booed during his speech at Vancouver's Ross Street Gurdwara, Trudeau added new insult to injury for Canadian Muslims.
In rightly removing that one inappropriate reference that “unintentionally impugned an entire [Sikh] religion” in that report, he still couldn’t quite bring himself to insist upon the removal of its reference to “violent” "Sunni Islamist ideology" and "Shia extremism" as representing a “terrorist threat to Canada.”
That remaining reference similarly impugns that entire religion.
Where’s the “fairness”, “dignity”, “compassion” and “reason” in that?
It will only fuel resentment in Canada’s Muslim community for being similarly tarred with that grossly unfair “terrorist” brush that the government has been politically forced to “air brush” only for Sikhs.
Don’t kid yourself: values and principles have nothing to do with it.
As always, Liberal values only exist to be violated when they scream “fire!” in battling for votes.
As Groucho Marx said, “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.”
It’s that cynicism that is most alienating young voters from Canada’s mainstream politics—the voters Trudeau vowed to win over in 2015 by “doing politics differently”.
On climate action, electoral reform, reconciliation, fiscal management—virtually any issue—Trudeau has instead showed that his party’s “principles” are just so much hot air.
Love them or hate them, Elizabeth May, Jagmeet Singh, Andrew Scheer, and Maxime Bernier all at least seem more committed to the values they wear on their sleeves.
No wonder the #cdnpoli Twitterverse is now transfixed by the House fire that is now consuming the Liberal party at Trudeau’s panicked command.
No wonder the only principled Liberals left in Parliament are the three women who no longer feel at home in his party, because of all the values he has shown it doesn’t stand for when they collide with his own imperial inclinations.
Together those women’s principled actions in upholding the values that Team Trudeau abandoned rang the alarm for all Canadians: “Run, Liberals, run!”
The party’s almost a lost cause. And Trudeau now looks like the last one capable of saving it from all he’s done to burn it down.