This may have been Justin Trudeau’s worst week since he became prime minister — and that’s saying something.
The week started when Trudeau clearly fired his most qualified and experienced cabinet minister Bill Morneau, although we were told it was a resignation that had nothing to do with the giant dumpster fire inside the PMO.
He then appointed a former journalist to the most serious and important post in government. Journalists can be incredibly competent people, but Chrystia Freeland was not a financial writer nor an investigative reporter — she wrote fawning profiles about powerful men, and when she was given the chance to run part of the business side of a news organization, she bankrupted the project.
Freeland is very smart, no doubt about it, but she doesn’t seem to be very good with money. At age 45 — when she returned to Canada to run for office after mostly living abroad since she was a teenager — she needed her parents to co-sign her mortgage. She bungled her very first press conference as finance minister, bizarrely announcing that she was going to “decarbonize” the economy — a concept thoroughly rebuked in a recent column by my colleague Lorrie Goldstein.
Meanwhile, we learned the RCMP is looking into Trudeau’s ongoing WE scandal and the Trudeau-appointed Governor-General is undergoing her own crisis of confidence with more whistle-blowers denouncing her as incompetent, untrustworthy and mean.
In the midst of all this chaos, Trudeau made the rash decision to prorogue Parliament, which shuts down the committee investigating the WE scandal and gives him a month to come up with a new story to justify the huge mess he finds himself in. And he’s going to need it.
Right before the WE scam committee was dissolved, it received a document dump of emails from the civil service. Not only did bureaucrats cavalierly joke about the endless pit of money Trudeau gave them to spend, their communications made it clear that they only started working on a WE proposal after Trudeau and his top ministers met with WE, were lobbied by WE and Trudeau himself announced the details of the program.
This flies in the face of Trudeau’s excuse that he was simply following the advice of the civil service when awarding the massive contract to WE Charity.
Some in the media like to claim that Trudeau is like teflon — scandals and screw-ups slide right off of him. If this is true, it’s only because of the way that some in the media treat Trudeau during times like these.
When Trudeau announced that he was proroguing Parliament, CBC host Rosemary Barton appeared quick to play the role of his press secretary by pushing out his partisan talking points: “PM says the difference between his decision to prorogue Parliament and Stephen Harper’s is that Conservatives did it to avoid a confidence vote… whereas he will have a confidence vote when Parliament returns on the date it was scheduled to return.”
Every time Parliament is prorogued the new session starts with a confidence vote, something high school students are taught in social studies.
When Harper prorogued Parliament back in 2010, the media howled with outrage. CBC posted the headline, “Academics slam suspension of Parliament.”
This time around, the CBC headline simply said, “Trudeau to hit parliamentary reset by proroguing Parliament amid WE Charity controversy.”
When some Canadians started questioning Freeland’s experience and readiness to be finance minister, CBC brought on former prime minister Kim Campbell to defend the Liberal appointment.
“Do you think that inherently is sexist?” asked CBC’s Vassy Kapelos, of the criticism Freeland is facing. Kapelos’ leading question prompted exactly the response you’d expect: “That’s really how sexism operates,” said Campbell, allowing CBC to run headlines concluding that criticism of Freeland is a product of sexism.
That’s how media bias works, and that’s how a scoundrel prime minister survives a terrible week in office.