There is an old saying in politics that governments defeat themselves.
They are often brought down by arrogance, carelessness and the lack of a meaningful agenda. Voters resent governments that begin taking their power for granted.
We may be seeing this now with the federal Liberals in their almost allergic reaction to accountability. The lack of respect they routinely demonstrate toward a public whose trust they promised not to betray is beyond disappointing.
We see this playing out in ways big and small.
It’s been five months now since we learned, courtesy of the Toronto Sun, that someone in the Canadian delegation to Queen Elizabeth’s funeral in September stayed in a swanky London suite, replete with butler service and a killer view of the Thames, at a nightly rate of more than $6,000.
The news media and Opposition have since tried to find out who used the room for five nights. It was not the Governor-General, who made a point of publicly stating this, likely because she had earlier been embroiled in a spending scandal of her own.
In the grand scheme of things, what is $30,000 for a five-night hotel stay, you might ask. But that is certainly not the point. If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is going to enjoy such pricey digs – it’s been assumed it was him – then he should be big enough to own up to it. To hide behind made-up excuses (see: security reasons) is pathetic.
He might see it as the Opposition and right-wing media trying to score cheap political points, and he’s probably right. But he still has an obligation to answer the question. To refuse makes him look like both a coward and someone with a complete disdain for the public purse. Either way, it’s not a good look. And worse for the government, it’s allowed the story to live on. Now the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has commenced a legal challenge to find out who stayed in the suite.
It’s ridiculous, but also symptomatic of bigger issues.
Last week, Canada’s Ethics Commissioner made damning comments about the government’s atrocious record when it comes to following the country’s conflict-of-interest guidelines.
Mario Dion, who is leaving his post five years into a seven-year term because of health issues, made his remarks after finding Mr. Trudeau’s parliamentary secretary, Greg Fergus, violated the Conflict of Interest Act by writing a letter of support for a television channel’s application to the CRTC for mandatory carriage, something the legislation prohibits.
He is the fifth Liberal MP found to have violated the conflict guidelines. Mr. Trudeau himself was found to have abused them on two occasions.
This is an issue, as Mr. Dion pointed out.
If our leader shows disregard for our country’s laws, why should any of those who follow him pay heed to them? If there are few, if any, consequences for those who commit violations, what incentive is there to follow the rules? By twice defying the conflict code himself, Mr. Trudeau has put himself in the position of being unable to mete out punishment to others who did the same.
“People follow the leader, leading by example in every management book I have read,” Mr. Dion said. “Therefore, it most probably has an impact on the people who are led that the Prime Minister has twice been found to be in contravention of the act. You always look up to the leader. ... What the leader does always has an impact on the troops. It’s unavoidable.”
This trickle-down conceit now imbues this Liberal government; it’s become part of its overriding culture. Mr. Dion noted that the government hasn’t specifically mandated training that would educate all MPs about what constitutes a breach of the Conflict of Interest Act. You would think that for cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries, in particular, it would be an essential part of orientation training.
More than that, it should be training that is renewed once a year. Drill it into their heads that actions such as awarding government contracts to close personal friends are a no-no. Although, you would have thought Trade Minister Mary Ng, who did this very thing, would have innately understood it was wrong.
The only real penalty for breaking conflict laws at the federal level is the public shame you feel by being found out. But when you’re a government without shame, that is hardly a punishment that is going to change your behaviour.
Not only do Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have no fiscal anchors, it turns out they also have no moral ones, either.