In Eugène Sue’s famous bon mot “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” By that measure, the platter of sour grapes that Bill Morneau presented over the weekend must’ve come out of a very deep freeze.
In his new book and in interviews, Morneau has provided endless fodder for the Conservatives as they ramp up for the next election, likely to come later this year.
All of their themes are there. Morneau stops just short of calling it Justin-flation but does hint that his warnings about the perils of a cost of living increase went unheeded.
Think Trudeau overspent? Don’t take Pierre Poilievre’s word for it, just ask Bill. He pouts that the highest number he’d have allowed for one key pandemic program was not followed by Trudeau and that Trudeau was (wait for it) trying to please the public. What a shocker!
That type of whinging simply underscores the obvious: Morneau was unclear on the concept of this “politics” stuff.
On CTV’s Question Period, Vassy Kapelos tried asking him twice whether Trudeau was a competent financial administrator. His refusal to answer spoke volumes.
The timing is of course mere coincidence, but it’s hard not to see a parallel between Prince Harry’s memoir targeting his own family and Morneau’s self-serving stilettos aimed at Trudeau. Two very wealthy, very privileged, very entitled men sharing their deep thoughts on just how unfair things have been for them, and settling accounts.
They weren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouths, theirs were 24-karat gold! But hey, we seem to live in a culture of victimhood, so why not give it a shot.
Harry is being paid US$20 million as an advance by his publisher, and millions of people around the world will side with him. Morneau won’t make more than pin money for his ruminations and other than the occasional former gopher, it’s hard to see who’s going to side with him.
One can safely predict that the entire Conservative front bench and their research staff will be quoting Morneau non-stop during question period. Beyond that, there won’t be too many ordinary Canadians interested in buying this door-stopper.
‘MORNEAU IS A SMART COOKIE’
Don’t get me wrong. Morneau is a smart cookie. Very successful in running his father’s business.
When Morneau jumped (or was dumped) from the political train, he hadn’t exactly accomplished marvels. Having first been elected in 2015 on a promise to run only an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weenie deficit, he had overspent by close to C$100 billion. When the pandemic hit, the record spending was on top of that. That’s no one’s fault but his own.
In 2021, the Ethics Commissioner ruled that: Morneau had contravened subsection 6(1), section 7 and section 21 of the Conflict on Interest Act, while he was finance minister. A serious problem in a financial world where compliance is considered paramount.
Prior to that he’d made a false statement concerning a villa he and his family owned in the South of France. A difficult “mistake” to understand coming from someone who has set up corporate ownership entities his whole life.
So what is it about Morneau that leads him to believe that he’s in any position to lecture Trudeau on anything?
His timing is curious given the fact that he’s been out of politics since 2020. Why now? Again, the answer appears to be that it’s now that his recriminations will have the greatest effect…against Trudeau. It’s hard to believe that it’s taken him since 2020 to lay this egg.
What exactly is the complaint about the generous pandemic programs? If there’s one thing that Trudeau will always deserve credit for it’s making it his top priority to help the millions of Canadians who lost their jobs overnight.
The first version put together by the gnomes in finance was a series of restrictions and hurdles that would’ve excluded many. Trudeau saw this and acted quickly. Trudeau overruled them. There appears to have been a clear decision not to let the usual hand wringing by bureaucrats worry this much needed aid out of existence. The money would flow even if some of the usual backstops wouldn’t be there. Any fraud could be caught further down the road.
‘TRUDEAU MADE THE RIGHT CALL’
The average Canadian family doesn’t have more than two weeks pay in the bank. Trudeau made the right call. Get the money into the hands of Canadian families so they can put food on the table.
There was a further series of requirements that could, and should, have been put in place with regards to the programs aimed at helping businesses. As University of Victoria Prof. Dr. Peter Dietsch outlined in a brilliant paper for the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian government should look at performance indicators of corporate social responsibility before handing over the cheque. Does the company respect environmental norms? Do they use tax shelters?… Early on, the Liberals seemed interested in such a filter then, poof!, it disappeared without a trace. The finance gnomes appear to have won that one.
Trudeau enjoys an enviable reputation on the world stage where he is now one of the more experienced heads of government. The right has been trying desperately to tear him down on that front but with very little success so far.
It’s the part of the job that he knows the best and that he loves the most. At a “Three Amigos” summit, he’s like a fish in water.
Trudeau’s biggest challenge is the part of the job that he likes the least: running the government. How boring. Can’t run the immigration department? Give a contract to McKinsey. They’ll do it.
When Canadians see everything falling apart in Ottawa, the absolute chaos and lack of accountability with airlines, the inability to deliver a passport, they don’t need a prepared line from Trudeau, they want a result.
Trudeau is the prime minister, the first and most important of all the ministers in our government. He runs the show. He is the boss and he’s responsible.
When Canadians see hundreds of millions in contracts being given to outside firms to do the work of government departments, they know something is wrong. Ministers aren’t doing their jobs. Taxpayers are footing the bill twice and getting nothing in return. Folks are starting to catch on.
This is what should be worrying Trudeau the most. He is a brilliant communicator, a spinner without equal. But there’s a limit to believing you can fool all of the people some of the time and the Liberals are now starting to hit that wall.
2023 arrived with sobering news for Trudeau about his polling numbers and the vulnerability of his government in the next election. He’d better start doing the homework on the subject he likes the least: running the government. Otherwise he might just wake up after the election with no government to run.
Tom Mulcair was the leader of the federal New Democratic Party of Canada between 2012 and 2017
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