Déjà vu: Justin Trudeau brings back memories of Brian Mulroney

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      As I watched Justin Trudeau refuse to apologize after another damning ethics commissioner's report, I was reminded of another prime minister from Montreal.

      Brian Mulroney wasn't a Liberal, unlike Trudeau. And when he ruled the country in the 1980s and early 1990s, there wasn't an ethics commissioner to write scathing reviews about his conduct.

      But like Trudeau, Mulroney used the weight of his office to benefit his business cronies in Quebec.

      Mulroney's reputation took a hit after leaving office when it was disclosed that a greasy German lobbyist, Karlheinz Schreiber, handed over fistfuls of cash to him after the Conservatives were defeated.

      Schreiber said it was $300,000; Mulroney maintained it was only $225,000 at a public inquiry.

      The commissioner, Jeffrey Oliphant, could not determine if Mulroney actually provided any services in return for the payments.

      Mulroney kept the money in his safe at home, and he insisted that the payments were for consulting work done after his term as prime minister.

      The former PM only declared this income to tax officials years afterward.

      Schreiber was previously a hired gun for Airbus. It wanted to sell its planes to Air Canada, a Crown corporation back then that was headquartered in Montreal.

      Air Canada's board of directors, which reported to a Mulroney cabinet minister, obliged, much to the annoyance of Boeing.

      Mulroney's government also steered a lucrative fighter-jet maintenance contract to Quebec, although there was a cheaper bid to do this work in Manitoba.

      Nowadays, the former Conservative prime minister holds himself out as a statesman—with the complicity of the media—and acts like he's the wise old man of Canadian politics.

      Trudeau treats him that way too, bringing him on as an adviser on trade talks with the Americans.

      Those of us who were around when Mulroney was in office recall him as a clever and polished charmer who headed a scandal-ridden government.

      Several of his cabinet ministers were forced to resign, including some who were charged with criminal offences.

      By the time Mulroney stepped down, he was one of the most despised prime ministers in Canadian history.

      Like Trudeau, he took office with so much promise. Surrounded by his attractive family and as much at ease in French as he was in English, the dapper Mulroney looked unbeatable back in 1984.

      Similarly, the well-coiffed Trudeau seemed destined to govern for a long time after winning in 2015 with his pitch for sunny ways.

      But the more people see of Trudeau, the less they like him.

      In less than one term, his personal approval rating has fallen as low as Stephen Harper's was near the end of three terms.

      In office, Trudeau seems to focus inordinate attention on photo ops and historic apologies. He makes a big show of his love for Indigenous people while pursuing policies that a fair number of them find to be offensive.

      Justin Trudeau eventually shuffled Jody Wilson-Raybould out of the justice ministry after she refused to offer a deferred-prosecution deal to SNC-Lavalin.

      He speaks out of both sides of his mouth on environmental issues. In buying a pipeline company and pursuing a $9.3-billion expansion, he appears to be oblivious to the seriousness of the climate crisis. 

      Trudeau regularly talks up his love of justice even after meddling with prosecutorial independence.

      In the SNC-Lavalin affair, the full weight of his office was applied to try to get the former attorney general to offer a deferred prosecution deal to the Montreal-based engineering and construction-services giant.

      I've written before that Trudeau has long been the MP for SNC-Lavalin. That was demonstrated by the promises in the Liberals' 2015 election platform.

      It was also revealed, more or less, in the recent ethics commissioner report. 

      Trudeau was a rich kid who grew up never having to worry where his next meal would come from.

      And he has regularly demonstrated a sense of entitlement as prime minister, jetting around the world to speak on panels and even accepting a free vacation on a private island in violation of the ethics rules.

      Now, he's been found guilty of violating the Conflict of Interest Act a second time. That's unprecedented.

      There was no contrition apart from the standard sound bite of "taking responsibility". 

      In fact, Trudeau conveyed the impression that he doesn't think he did anything wrong when he and his staff pressured the former attorney general after she wasn't going to halt a criminal prosecution in return for other considerations. 

      The only reason Trudeau could even consider doing this was because his government slipped a measure into an omnibus budget bill allowing for deferred prosecution agreements.

      This came after the Liberals had repeatedly condemned the Conservatives for including nonbudgetary legislation in omnibus budget bills.

      Then when the ethics commissioner investigated, Trudeau's senior civil servant withheld documents. It smells of a coverup.

      There's a growing sleaze factor enveloping Trudeau, like we saw with Mulroney in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

      There's a message in all of this for Canadians.

      Just because someone looks good on TV doesn't mean they can be trusted.