It would take a significant amount of willful blindness at this point to convince oneself that the new Liberal government doesn't carry the DNA of Liberal governments of old. The party that came to power on a promise of kinder, gentler politics has shown itself perfectly capable of resorting to the hoariest of old-style tactics.
A debate in the Commons this week on a Conservative motion is the latest example. The motion called on Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to apologize for attending a $500-a-person fundraising reception held by a prominent Toronto law firm on April 7, and to return the money raised by the event.
This is a valid issue for the opposition to raise. Ms. Wilson-Raybould, who also serves as Attorney-General, met with lawyers, a group that is a stakeholder in the departments she oversees. Among other responsibilities, the Minister names lawyers to judgeships. There was a conflict of interest for her to be the star attraction at this fundraising event.
So what do the Liberals do? They deflect. They argued the event didn't violate Parliament's conflict-of-interest rules, which is true except that those rules are narrow and also completely at odds with the Liberals' self-imposed Open and Accountable Government rules. Those rules state that "ministers … must ensure that political fundraising activities or considerations do not affect, or appear to affect, the exercise of their official duties or the access of individuals or organizations to government."
Ms. Wilson-Raybould argued emptily that she attended the event as an MP, not as the Minister, without explaining why lawyers in Toronto would have an interest in meeting the representative for the West Coast riding of Vancouver Granville.
The Liberals also struck back with the preposterous accusation, made by Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef, that the motion was "a vicious and unfounded attack on an indigenous leader." It was a shameless implication of racism that was unworthy of parliamentary debate.
Couple this episode with the Liberals' less than forthcoming ways on the Saudi Arabian arms deal and the appeal of a controversial court ruling regarding residential school compensation, and a pattern emerges. Arrogance, deflection, opaqueness. It's all very Liberal indeed.