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Canada John Ivison: Trudeau’s willingness to opt for nuclear option to avoid awkward questions is troubling

02:30  21 october  2020
02:30  21 october  2020 Source:   nationalpost.com

He prorogued in August, but now Trudeau slams Tories for bringing back WE Charity investigations

  He prorogued in August, but now Trudeau slams Tories for bringing back WE Charity investigations OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is focused on COVID-19 and criticized the Conservatives for trying to bring back committee investigations into the WE Charity affair — investigations that were interrupted two months ago by Trudeau’s own choice to prorogue Parliament. “We are entirely focused on the second wave of COVID-19,” Trudeau said at a news conference Tuesday. “We will continue to stay focused on what we need to do to support Canadians facing a very difficult time right now. The Conservatives continue to want to focus on WE charity, so be it.

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Justin Trudeau wearing a suit and tie: What is clear is that this is a strategy that has been cooked up in the prime minister’s office to spare Trudeau’s blushes over the WE affair. © Provided by National Post What is clear is that this is a strategy that has been cooked up in the prime minister’s office to spare Trudeau’s blushes over the WE affair.

It reads like satire now but five years ago, the Trudeau Liberals were elected on a platform that promised electoral reform; stronger Access to Information legislation; an end to the use of omnibus bills and prorogation; and, more robust parliamentary committees that could better hold the government to account.

Having broken the first three pledges, the Liberals are now threatening to provoke a general election over the fourth.

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The House of Commons will vote Wednesday on a Conservative motion to create a new special committee that would focus on investigating the WE Charity affair and other alleged scandals.

The Bloc Québécois will back the motion but the NDP is already edging towards another deal with the Liberals.

New Democrat MPs like Charlie Angus have said they are comfortable dropping a request for documents focused on the prime minister’s mother and brother, which is at the heart of the government side’s ire.

The Liberals have proposed their own committee to examine COVID spending, albeit one chaired and dominated by their own MPs, and this may prove enough of a face-saving compromise for the NDP to acquiesce.

But Justin Trudeau’s willingness to opt for the nuclear option to avoid answering awkward questions is troubling.

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This was a government that promised to be open by default.

Did Trudeau perceive his deception back in the summer of 2015, or was he just incredibly naïve?

He was elected saying he would reverse the shift of power and influence from the centre.

But in the eyes of the dean of Canada’s political scientists, Donald Savoie, he has done the opposite. “Trudeau fils has strengthened the centre of government, rather than rolled it back,” he said in his 2019 book, Democracy in Canada: The Disintegration of Our Institutions.

In this case, Trudeau has taken a sledgehammer to the legitimacy that Parliament offers government.

If the Conservative strategy in all this is obvious – go digging for more mud to sling – the Liberal game-plan is less so.

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Pablo Rodriguez, the government House leader, feigned synthetic anger when he declared the Conservatives’ “dangerous partisan plan to paralyze government” is a matter of confidence.

Yet he said the Liberals are “totally open to give all the information that is requested from the opposition.”

That will be news to all the MPs who sat through hours of filibustering at committee last week because the Liberals were not prepared to hand over documents.

Rodriguez said MPs cannot establish a new committee “with sweeping powers” and assume there will be no consequences. “If they do that, they are saying that the government is corrupt. And that means that they don’t have confidence in this government,” he said.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said that, while he has no confidence in the government’s handling of the WE Charity issue, he does not want an election. Even NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said that the only way there will be an election is if the prime minister chooses to have one.

“Imagine the prime minister trying to explain to people who are worried about their livelihoods…his reason is because he doesn’t like the committee,” Singh said.

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The Liberals have performed the parliamentary equivalent of putting a butterfly on a torture rack – threatening an election in the middle of pandemic over an opposition motion to set up a committee aimed at keeping the government accountable.

It could be that Trudeau has looked at public opinion polls and decided to take advantage of the pandemic. At a time when one in three people say they would have been destitute without government support, the public mood certainly favours the incumbent Liberals.

But the prime minister risks a backlash at this brazen over-reach, which makes one wonder: What is it he doesn’t want people to know?

I had concluded the WE issue had played itself out with the departure of former finance minister, Bill Morneau, but I may have been premature in that conclusion.

What is clear is that this is a strategy that has been cooked up in the prime minister’s office to spare Trudeau’s blushes over the WE affair. It is a worrying extension of the executive democracy favoured by his predecessor, Stephen Harper, where the centre often attempted to reduce the House of Commons to irrelevancy. In Trudeau’s eyes, it seems the government runs Parliament, rather than being accountable to it.

Rather than restoring trust in democracy, as the Liberals promised five years ago, they are in danger of stripping it of its authority and dignity.

• Email: jivison@postmedia.com | Twitter: IvisonJ

Pushing back: Why the Trudeau Liberals were prepared to take Canada to an election .
OTTAWA – When rumours first emerged last week that the Liberals would take a Conservative motion designed to get a new committee looking into the WE scandal as a confidence vote, they were largely dismissed. Wild and ultimately unsubstantiated rumours are as common on Parliament Hill as Catholics in Vatican City. While the first ten months of 2020 have seemed much longer, the Liberals have only been in power a year. They have a fiscal update coming and legislation to pass. They have a small but not insurmountable lead in polls and plunging Canadians into an election with COVID-19 cases on the rise is a considerable risk.

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This is interesting!