“Trust me” Trudeau has forgotten what got him elected

“As the saying goes, sunlight is the world’s best disinfectant. Liberals will shed new light on the government and ensure that it is focused on the people it is meant to serve: Canadians.”

Thus spoke Liberal leader Justin Trudeau during the 2015 federal election. His words graced the pages of the “openness and transparency section” of the Liberal platform, which made a slew of promises, including a thorough overhaul of the Access to Information Act and creation of an all-party national security oversight committee. The Liberals also pledged to open up government, which “(u)nder Stephen Harper… has grown secretive and closed-off from Canadians. Unprecedented power has been concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister and his office.”

Instead, the Liberals offered a change: trust. “Transparent government is good government. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians.”

Trust – or the lack of it — was indeed one of the issues that undid the Harper Conservatives. From muzzled scientists to the Mike Duffy affair, the government stood accused of both silence and spin. The media seized on the narrative as well. In 2012 the Canadian Association of Journalists awarded the Tories the dubious “Code of Silence Award”, and after the Liberals were elected, the Toronto Star editorial board urged them to “reverse Harper’s legacy of secrecy.” “[T]he Liberal government’s best strategy might simply be to set a virtuous example when it comes to sharing information, including findings that don’t cast it in a particularly good light. That is the test by which Trudeau’s promises of openness should be judged.

If that’s the test, the Liberals have flunked, big time. After three years in power, openness has given way to opacity. Just this week, it took a grilling by the opposition to get the Prime Minister to admit that he received an overnight bag from the Aga Khan as a gift during his now-infamous vacation on Bell Island. Trudeau hadn’t disclosed the gift because it was deemed “unacceptable” by the Ethics Commissioner, and thus did not have to be publicly disclosed due to the wording of the Conflict of Interest Act, which only requires the disclosure of “acceptable” gifts over the amount of $200, other than those from a relative or friend. Trudeau still refuses to reveal the value of the gift or what happened to it, and while it might appear petty to insist on knowing whether the bag was Walmart or Vuitton, that’s what you get when you win power over promises to “do things differently” from your secretive predecessors.

The bigger issue, however, remains the government’s continued stonewalling on the Atwal affair, which has already engendered one filibuster and threatens to spawn another. In this case, the Liberals are refusing to allow national security adviser Daniel Jean to explain to MPs remarks he made during a media briefing, that forces within the Indian government sought to embarrass Trudeau by inviting Jaspal Atwal, a former Sikh extremist and convicted attempted murderer, to state functions on the Prime Minister’s recent tour of India. Atwal has refuted Jean’s statements, the Indian government expressed outrage, and opposition MPs have accused the PM of using Jean to “spin a conspiracy theory that somehow the Indian government is trying to make the Liberals look bad.” In response, Trudeau has defended Jean’s comments, and the Liberals have offered a “classified briefing” to Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, but refuse to let Jean testify before Parliament.

Read the full article on iPolitics.

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