Martyn Brown: Forgive Trudeau? Not on your progressive life. The case for his dismissal as Canada’s prime minister
Fair warning: this essay is a very long read.
“Forward” is Justin Trudeau’s “progressive” call to arms in this election campaign.
Away is more like it.
Away from holding him accountable for his own sordid past, rife with scandal, illegal conduct, broken public trust, and seemingly no end of unethical behaviour and decidedly stupid decisions.
Away from all of his personal transgressions that he “trusts” Canadians to forgive and/or forget, if only out of Liberal-promulgated “Scheer fear” that he also hopes will scare progressives away from voting Green or NDP.
Away from the puerile, privileged fool he was in his early adult years, “made up” in brownface, blackface, turbans, and afro wigs, and revelling in what he incredibly claims he never realized at the time was racist behaviour.
That Trudeau is no longer him, he insists: not the man he has become and the leader today that he would have us define by his record.
Agreed. That guy—the one he is now—is so much worse.
And if voting for him is “forward”, then Canada’s concept of “progressive” is ass-backwards.
For the issue is not whether Trudeau deserves to be forgiven for his admittedly racist actions as an attention-craving, ethically brain-dead, idiotic young adult and teacher.
Any fair-minded person would accept his apology is sincere. He has properly expressed his shame, remorse, and regret, at least in this instance, and if only after he was obliged to cop to those particular ethical crimes in the face of their photo evidence.
But really, that’s not the point. And neither is it whether Trudeau should be replaced only if he fails to form the next government. On that score, I can’t agree with the Straight’s Charlie Smith [see related stories].
Rather, the issue is whether “today’s” Trudeau deserves to be rewarded and re-elected for his conduct in office.
Especially as Canada’s prime minister. Including for hiding that crucial information about himself, which he concealed from his party and from the public, precisely because he knew all along that it could have derailed his political ambitions and career.
What all of those voters really need to reflect upon, I suggest, is the leader that Trudeau is—not the one that either he, or we, might have wished he would be.
And the sad truth is, his duplicitous conduct in withholding his blackface racism is all too emblematic of that man he has always been: the one who now asks to be trusted once again as the phony person he presents himself as being.
There should be no doubt about the type of man he has recurrently demonstrated himself to be in abusing his position of public trust.
Justin Trudeau is not only the red-faced hypocrite who is now grovelling for Canadians’ forgiveness over his inexcusable actions from the past.
His record shows, he is a bold-face liar, a bully, a two-time law-breaker, and a two-faced "sanctimonious fraud".
He is a deceitful sneak and an ethically rudderless leader, who clearly feels he is above the law; a charlatan of the first order, who acts as if the rules and standards he imposes and demands of everyone else should simply not apply to him.
Trudeau's record is the real issue
It is not Trudeau’s blackface or brownface that in itself should be grounds for his dismissal. It is the bare-faced reality of the leader he is not, in the most fundamental progressive sense.
There are many, many important issues in this election that all of us would agree are vitally important. Most of them are ideological at their core. We tend to align with parties and leaders who most closely reflect our views and values. Fair enough.
As Charlie Smith has also written, there are, after all, other choices than “Beavis or Butt-head for prime minister” if you’re among those who can’t stomach the thought of a Scheer government, which I admit, does not revolt me as an unthinkable alternative. More about those options later.
For me, overriding all of those platform considerations is the question of who should lead the Government of Canada, and whether that should be Trudeau or someone else including, perhaps, someone other than him from within his own party, in a Liberal minority scenario.
As such, the issue is whether we should tacitly endorse his flagrant hypocrisy, his deceitful and dishonest behaviour, and his law-breaking ways in the last four years.
The truly critical issue in this election is whether Justin Trudeau is worthy of our trust as Canada’s top elected leader and as a person who has earned the right to form another government.
It is whether Canada’s progressives should consciously turn a blind eye to his demonstrated character flaws, to his leadership failings, and to his self-described “massive blind spots”, and trust him—once again—to do better than his sullied proven example.
The issue is whether all that Trudeau has been, done, and shown himself to be is good enough for Canada—because it’s 2019.
Is he really the best that Canada can or should expect of its prime minister, given the available alternatives?
Does he—or for that matter, his party—merit four more years in power?
Not on your progressive life, Canada.
Yet again, as in response to his appalling conduct in the SNC-Lavalin scandal, Team Trudeau has rallied behind him in defence of their own political hides.
Trudeau is their man, for worse and never better. And they refuse to hold him accountable, in large measure because they feel he is their best ticket to office.
Yet for all the world, Trudeau now shines as the ultimate sorry Canadian.
Sorry for the painted minstrel-show clown he was.
Sorry most of all, because he got caught: time and time again—for unlawful offences, errors of judgment, and conduct unbecoming of anyone in his position. Much of which he tried to hide, dispute, or attack as “absolutely false”, because he feared how the truth would politically hurt him.
His hollow mantra is “I take responsibility.”
His sorry fact is that he will say and do almost anything, including smearing the reputations of cabinet colleagues and partisan enemies alike, to avoid accepting personal accountability for his actions and the concomitant political consequences.
Which is why he deserves to be dismissed from his office as Canada’s highest elected leader.
There is something especially seamy about a holier-than-thou preacher gone bad. Let alone one who is repeatedly caught in the act of debasing his office, abusing his position of trust, and doing unspeakable things that he would never tolerate from lesser sinners.
As but one example, I’m sure many former believers of the disgraced Jimmy Swaggart felt that he did a lot of good before his tearful apology and “I have sinned” speech. And yet he was subsequently defrocked for his sins, as Trudeau should be for his arguably worse ethical and legal breaches, which similarly expose his gross hypocrisy.
If any cabinet minister or candidate did even a fraction of what Trudeau has done, he would ruthlessly drop them at the altar of political expediency.
If any of his partisan adversaries had committed any one of his ethical crimes, he would have burned them at the stake of political accountability.
Consider what he actually did and why he did it, in trying to hide his blackface sins, before and after he was first nominated to represent his party, subsequently elected, chosen as Liberal leader, and elected to serve as Canada’s prime minister.
For years he deceived his own party and all Canadians about his own sorry racist conduct, knowing it was very wrong, that it was democratically relevant, and that it might be politically deadly to his own selfish aspirations to the throne his father had once so nobly filled.
He was embarrassed about his dirty not-so-little secret. And therefore, didn’t come clean about it during his initial vetting process as a prospective Liberal candidate. Some excuse.
As leader of his party, his tacit message to all candidates is essentially this: cheat, lie, or mislead those who are trusting you to be honest if you are too much of a coward to place your trust in their hands and judgment by fessing up, in the interests of the greater party good.
If they don’t specifically ask, don’t tell. Mum’s the word. And even if they do, in so many words, interpret their questions as you must to render your answers harmless to you and your political ambitions.
Whatever racist, hurtful, hateful, or stupid thing you might have done—just zip it—and hope like hell it will never be outed. Because if you are honest in the first place, your candidacy may be rejected and you may be humiliated.
Never let the voters see your dirty laundry if it stands to mark you as a grotty character unworthy of their trust.
Win the leadership first, if that’s your goal, by letting them think you are someone other than the deceitful dope you really are and/or were. Because if you volunteer a different picture of the person you now paint yourself as always having been, you’ll never get the power.
Damn the consequences to the party and to all of its candidates if your shameful deed is ever divulged in the midst of a campaign. Vetting’s for honest idiots with political death wishes, or for those with nothing to hide. All for you and all about you, is all that really matters in your mission to be the progressive face that your barefaced dishonesty belies.
Is that really what we should expect of any party’s leader, let alone tolerate from our prime minister?
To be the ultimate hypocrite, too embarrassed by his or her own dirty secrets to disclose them when called upon to do so, especially in the face of their topical political relevance in public discourse around the world?
To be a two-faced rationalizer who metes out harsh justice for others when their conduct is not up to snuff, while maintaining that as leader, that person should be above such accountability for much more serious ethical crimes, by dint of their high office and political indispensability?
Let’s take Trudeau at his word—always a sucker’s proposition—that he can’t assuredly remember how many more times he might have darkened his skin in pantomime of those whose different skin colour mark them as “others”.
Personally, I can’t believe that he painted himself black or brown so many times over the decades that he wouldn’t know exactly where and when he did that. But suppose you do.
What does it say about the person Trudeau is today if those incidents have not come flooding back to him, if only in his nightmares, in the wake of the images that have surfaced over the last week?
Were they really so numerous and unremarkable to him at the time that he might have painted his face, arms and legs black and brown on other occasions, and can’t remember them if he tries?
More importantly, if he is really aware of other incidents and still isn’t coming clean about them, hoping against hope they will stay hidden, he is doubly abusing voters’ trust. Time will tell if that’s the case.
Regardless, what are we to make of a prime minister who apologizes by also essentially attributing his conduct to the “layers of privilege” that “comes with a massive blind spot” from being born of noble name, royal blood, lilly-white skin, and across-the-board advantage?
Not his fault, really, but a sad indictment of his privileged upbringing—as if his father failed to impress upon him how to be a racially sensitive person and not do such things that most mere mortals have long known are not funny, not cool, and not acceptable.
With Trudeau, it is always someone or something else that is really at fault for his conduct—never just him. He always takes “full responsibility” by pointing away from himself to the person, thing, or context that paints him as being simply misguided, naïve, effectively innocent, or altogether blameless.
Blinkered moralism lets Trudeau off the hook
For many progressives, the only issue that matters in this election is stopping Andrew Scheer at any cost, even if it means re-electing a prime minister who is hardly the paragon of virtue he sold himself as being.
For them, Trudeau’s star power may have lost some of its lustre, but he still shines on the surface as a perfectly pretty human specimen, and as a charismatic champion of liberalism, writ small. For them, he still stands for tolerance, inclusion, equality, and social justice.
It is the same moral relativism that explains how Bill Clinton left office with record-high approval levels after being impeached by Congress for perjury and obstruction of justice, in lying about his abuse of office, power, and trust in taking sexual advantage of one of his own young staffers.
Indeed, it is the same moral relativism that makes so many Canadians reel in horror at how American Republicans can overlook Donald Trump’s incorrigible conduct, because of all the “good” he is doing in their eyes to help the economy or get them re-elected.
It is that blinkered moralist view that also explains why Trudeau got away without paying any serious political price for his infamous “groping incident”.
“Often a man experiences an interaction as being benign, or not inappropriate, and a woman—particularly in a professional context—can experience it differently, and we have to respect that and reflect on that,” he “bluntly” said in his defence.
Same as he dismissed Jody Wilson-Raybould’s “version of the truth” in testifying about his inappropriate political interference with a criminal prosecution. Little more than an unfortunate flight of fancy in that Indigenous woman’s mind, he basically countered.
Meanwhile, Trudeau had no qualms about holding his minions accountable for their alleged misdeeds.
As the Star reported, he initiated “an independent investigation after then-cabinet minister Kent Hehr was accused of making lewd remarks to a former staffer. The following month, the PMO’s deputy director of operations, Claude-Eric Gagné, resigned in the wake of a third-party investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.”
Why do so many of Trudeau’s fans and followers feel that his double standard of accountability in that and other instances is OK?
Why are they prepared to so readily dismiss it as a minor flaw in his character, which they and he would all rightly assail if the person at issue was instead Stephen Harper, or Andrew Scheer—but not him—Canada’s handsome Crown prince of identity politics?
Why is it that we find it so easy to make political heroes out of such ethically despicable actors, left or right, if their parties' purported values align with our own?
How can we rationalize our conduct in essentially vindicating their tawdry and even illegal behaviour as somehow “good enough” for our leader, so long as we feel that his or her heart is otherwise in the right place?
Moreover, how can their heart be at all “in the right place” if it beats above all for political self-preservation, and not for the rule of law, for the independent administration of justice, for ethical conduct, for honouring public trust, and for unflagging accountability?
What a sorry example it holds for our children if there is virtually nothing that our preferred leader can say or do that is so wrong as to drive us away from voting for his or her party, if only because we so fear or hate the alternatives.
How is that “progressive” in any meaningful sense?
Never mind, if you will, the litany of lies, broken promises and hypocritical actions that variously define Trudeau as a flimflam artist.
Never mind that he broke his solemn commitments to all Canadians on electoral reform, on the Trans Mountain pipeline environmental review process, on balanced budgets, on the misuse of omnibus bills, and on countless other promises.
Give him a pass, if you must, that at least he’s mouthing some of the right words on climate action from the progressive side of his dishonest, mealy mouth, while also doubling down on massively expanding the fossil fuel industry with billions of taxpayers’ dollars for a dirty oil pipeline that is wrong on so many levels, and billions more in subsidies to Big Oil that he pledged to end.
Fact is, Trudeau is actually reinforcing Canada’s status as one of the world’s worst climate action laggards. He is ensuring that our nation won’t even meet Stephen Harper’s weak climate targets or his own solemn Paris commitments, while falsely presenting himself as a climate leader. But never mind.
Progressives know this, but don’t much care, it seems.
That is, they do not to the extent that Trudeau’s dishonesty and pathetic inaction in combatting the climate crisis is at least dressed up as progress, especially in comparison to Scheer’s ludicrous “plan” on that priority.
What all of those failings point to are core attributes of the tarnished truth of who Justin Trudeau really is beneath his made-up “brand” and persona.
It is who he really is in his most uncomfortable skin that should concern all Canadians, in demanding better for Canada.
In what alternate universe could it ever be considered “progressive” to vote for a leader who was the only prime minister in Canadian history to have broken the MPs’ conflict of interest and ethics law—not once, but twice.
Fact is, he should have been forced to resign the first time, after being found to have unlawfully accepted hospitality gifts from the Aga Khan, including the use of his private island in March and December 2016 and also travelling on his private helicopter, among other things.
And let us not forget that Trudeau tried to justify those benefits by describing the Aga Khan as a “close family friend”, which the conflict commissioner concluded was clearly not the case, given that their paths had barely crossed since Justin was a child.
Slippery, disingenuous, and blind to the rules that don’t suit him—a “selfie” like no other, our prime minister. His most basic stock and trade is posing, mostly for his own advantage.
How is it “progressive” to return to office a prime minister whom the ethics commissioner just last summer found abused his authority “to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson-Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer”?
In what perverse “progressive” democracy is it ethically tenable to endorse a prime minister who illegally interfered with his former minister of justice and attorney general, including for personal partisan considerations, in the criminal prosecution of a company charged with bribery and fraud?
A company that had so generously padded the Liberal party’s coffers, and that would stand to reap enormous financial benefits if Trudeau’s illegal interventions and bullying of his former colleague on its behalf had succeeded.
In what morally bereft construal of a more “progressive” Canada is it possibly defensible to politically legitimate a prime minister who refused to even apologize for his own unlawful actions?
A man who fired Canada’s first Indigenous attorney general, she believes, for standing up for the rule of law in the face of his inappropriate political pressure.
Progressive? Seriously? Voting for a repeat offender who added insult to injury by unilaterally booting two of his most capable female former cabinet ministers out of his caucus and party, without a vote, in apparent contravention of the Reform Act?
In what distorted view of “progressive” democracy is it morally justifiable to return to power a prime minister who dishonestly cowers behind the decisions of his own handpicked top bureaucrat that have denied the ethics commissioner and the RCMP access to critically relevant cabinet documents?
A prime minister who repeatedly hides behind the cloak of “cabinet privilege” that has prevented the ethics commissioner and the RCMP from properly examining his own role and whether any actions in the SNC-Lavalin scandal might constitute a criminal obstruction of justice?
Why would anyone vote for a guy who refuses to issue a waiver to that egregious frustration of evidence, as prime ministers Harper, Martin, Chretien, and Mulroney all did before him in waving cabinet privilege in aiding independent inquiries into their governments’ controversies?
How, exactly, is it “progressive” to re-elect a prime minister who has prevented Wilson-Raybould, Philpott, and at least nine other witnesses with “relevant information” from even talking to the ethics commissioner and to the RCMP about all that they know about his actions in pressuring Canada’s former top law officer into helping SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution in court?
In what twisted concept of a more “progressive” party is it OK for its leader—our prime minister—to flout the spirit of the law that his government passed, in supposedly ensuring full transparency about the true costs of all parties’ election platform commitments?
Only Trudeau’s Liberals are playing games with that process by refusing to refer all of their election promises to the parliamentary budget officer for independent public costing, and witholding PBO estimates for the billions of dollars’ worth of campaign promises they have already announced.
Onus on May and Singh to force Trudeau out of office
Should we discount all of that misconduct and vote for another Trudeau government anyway?
Or should we instead demand something and someone better, by placing our trust in one of the other leaders?
Should we not insist that a key condition of our support for any progressive party candidate—NDP, Green, or God help us, Liberal—is that they will not place their vote of confidence on our behalf in a Justin Trudeau government?
I mean, it’s not like Trudeau has a divine right to occupy the head seat at the cabinet table if enough MPs should decide that someone else more deserving of their trust should fill it.
He won’t resign and his supplicants, starstruck fans, and gutless followers sure won’t call for his dismissal. That much is sadly clear.
But at a minimum, should we not at least demand of all of the “progressive” parties’ candidates that they will make their potential support of any Trudeau government contingent upon him accepting real personal accountability for his actions?
Because government policies and actions are one thing. The person entrusted to shape and administer them is something else altogether.
And damn it, “responsible government” must start with ensuring that the head of the executive council is worthy of that mantel, not with rewarding a poster child of privilege who is truly a national disgrace.
Ideally, a deal-breaker for any “progressive” MP’s vote of confidence in a Liberal government should be insisting that its caucus replace Trudeau with a new, more deserving candidate to serve as Canada’s prime minister.
At a minimum, a precondition for supporting any Trudeau minority government should be him agreeing to waive cabinet privilege and solicitor-client privilege to allow the RCMP and the ethics commissioner to fully investigate his actions on the SNC-Lavalin scandal and any potential criminal obstruction of justice.
That “deal breaker” could and should be both May’s and Singh’s bottom line. It should be a precondition for any potential NDP or Green support of a Liberal government.
And those leaders and all Liberals with a moral conscience should run on honouring that public commitment, which would also likely win them a lot of swing votes.
Problem is, as things stand, even in a minority government scenario, it is obvious that both the Greens and NDP would now vote to give Trudeau back the keys to his office. In so doing, they validate his political strategy of obfuscation, obstruction, deceit, and denial.
Jagmeet Singh, in particular, has expressly vowed to never support a Scheer government. In so doing, he has essentially handed Trudeau yet another “get out of jail free” card in his game of political monopoly.
Elizabeth May has been more politically astute in tying her party’s support to its climate action imperatives, most of which are anathema to Scheer’s Conservatives. As such, May’s “good friend” Justin Trudeau would know that he can count on the Greens’ support as the lesser of two evils in frustrating that party’s broadly progressive vision.
Empty words and promises, he knows better than anyone, are cheap.
Trudeau’s cozy relationship with May and his willingness to dress himself up as a Green Giant (when he’s not inadvertently exposing himself as the emperor with no clothes) would be enough to win the Greens’ confidence for a spell, if ever they held the balance of power.
And therein lies the crux of the conundrum for millions of Canadians who are now wrestling with how to cast their ballot on October 21.
To the extent they want to punish Trudeau and hold him accountable for his actions, and not directly or indirectly play into his strategy to run away from his sorry recent past, they are being ushered into Scheer’s camp by default.
Which is to say, by propping up the inevitable prospect of a Trudeau government in a minority parliament, May and Singh are unwittingly making the case for a Conservative majority to otherwise progressive voters like me who are hopping mad at Canada’s prime minister.
It is inconceivable to me that any Canadians would vote for an unapologetic law-breaker who has demonstrated such wanton contempt for the rule of law, for law enforcement, and for public accountability where his own conduct is at issue.
No prime minister in recent Canadian history has done more to debase his office and prove himself unworthy of public trust than Justin Trudeau.
Don't let the look fool you
If Canadians only remember one image of Justin Trudeau when they enter the voting booth, I hope it’s not of him in blackface.
I hope it’s this one: that classic picture of him locking eyes and arms with his then newly sworn-in minister of justice and attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould.
Because he’s doing exactly the same thing to all Canadians—again—just as he did in 2015.
It’s a technique that Trudeau long ago mastered and instinctively deploys to disarm and engage his swooning subjects (images abound at this site). We see it virtually every night on the campaign news trail, as the cameras document his sales-perfect skills in physically connecting with adoring voters who melt in his grasp, gaze, and celebrity aura.
He is looking straight into our eyes, as if into our very souls, reflecting back our greatest hopes with pools of warmth, faith, confidence, and eternal reassurance that he is the real deal: a man of honour and a leader to trust.
A naïve wish, perhaps, born of disenchantment, of cynicism about his predecessor, and of a desperate desire to believe in someone and something better—a new Just Society, as it were.
A new Trudeau, more handsome than his father and as principled as his myth, if not quite as intelligent. That’s the one so many progressives voted for, if only indirectly, in 2015.
Yet if we’ve learned anything over these last four years, we should know that so much of the man that so many hoped was him was all a lie. A self-painted actor, ridiculous in his own right.
Not just another political disappointment, but a lost leader whose idea of “forward” is to move us all away from the person he has shown himself to be and that he is doing his level best to ensure we never see.
Not good enough for me. Not good enough for Canada. Not remotely good enough to reward Justin Trudeau with another four years as our nation’s prime minister.