There is little more alarming and little more potentially dangerous to a democracy than a government that operates with a sense of entitlement—a belief that they know better than anyone else and can basically do whatever they want, with minimal accountability. While many will avoid seeing it, or excuse it, when they do, we are encountering an undeniable pattern of entitlement with our current federal government in Canada.
The various scandals and power grabs that have followed the Trudeau Government over the past several years, but at an increasing speed since the dawn of COVID-19, are not just a matter of poor judgment or ethical mismanagement or ‘oops’, a mistake here and there, worthy of an apology. Rather, they are the product of an ingrained culture of entitlement that seizes every opportunity to consolidate power and to cater to their friends.
The news this week of another scandal involving the prime minister’s office is not the tip of the iceberg. We saw that a long time ago. It might, however, be the last straw.
Katie Telford as chief of staff to the Prime Minister, is probably the most influential and powerful member of the Trudeau Government, other than the man himself. There is nothing that goes on that she is not aware of.
Her husband Rob Silver was, until his wife’s appointment in 2015, a Liberal pundit on CBC’s Power and Politics and the founding partner of a government-relations firm that lobbied the federal government on behalf of some of its clients. He saw the potential for a conflict of interest and stated that he wanted his wife to be successful in her new job and so he stepped away from both positions.
Subsequently, Silver was appointed a senior vice president of MCAP, a firm that describes itself as Canada’s largest independent mortgage finance company with a reported $105 billion in assets under management. Lo and behold, in recent months the Trudeau Government awarded a sole-sourced contract to MCAP worth up to $84 million to administer its COVID-19 Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program for small businesses. Furthermore, it is reported that Silver played a role in these discussions.
Despite the inevitable protestations to the contrary, anyone with the slightest understanding of how a prime minister’s or a premier’s office operates knows that the chief of staff would be fully aware of a multimillion-dollar contract going to a firm where her husband was a senior executive. It is equally hard to believe it didn’t also come up at home over a martini or two. It is also difficult to believe that the prime minister did not know about this. If he didn’t, then Katie Telford must have thought it would not be a problem for him. All part of the old school, you see.
No doubt we will hear again that with the pandemic in full force, as with the contract to WE Charity, there was no one else other than a firm that Ms. Telford’s husband worked for that was qualified to administer the COVID rent assistance program—and by the way (they will say), it was not a political decision, the civil service told them to do it. Right!
That might work once, but not twice. Surely only the most indoctrinated would believe that only organizations with close personal ties to the Trudeau Government are qualified to administer multimillion-dollar contracts paid for at public expense. I am more inclined to believe that the pandemic became more of an excuse for power grabbing and rewarding one’s friends than a justifiable reason for managing the crisis.
The pattern of entitlement we have seen with the Trudeau Government over the years is, in my view, disturbing. It’s a lengthy record which cannot be dismissed as coincidental. It ranges in part from holidays subsidized by individuals who lobby the government to interference in the judicial process related to SNC-Lavalin, to the suppression of Parliament in order to avoid accountability, to sole-sourced contacts to friends and supporters of the Liberal establishment, some of which clearly benefit individuals with ties to the Trudeau Government. Does anyone see a thread here?
As well, when you see individuals in addition to the prime minister, people like Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Katie Telford, crossing a very clear line of what is right and wrong in government, then one begins to see entitlement as a systemic problem with this current administration.
As a result of their recent scandals, polling numbers for the federal Liberals have plummeted to the point where they are barely above the Conservatives, who are effectively leaderless. There are those, therefore, who have changed their minds and now think that an early snap election might be a good idea. I am not one of them.
Less than a year ago, Canadians elected a minority Liberal government. They wanted Parliament to work and they wanted the government to be accountable to Parliament. The Trudeau Government was not given a free hand, but they have effectively taken it.
It is well past time that Parliament got fully back to work. They can hold the government’s feet to the fire, they can demand accountability, and they can severely limit their sense of entitlement. That the Trudeau Government has gotten away with what it has is at least in part the fault of Parliament for not insisting on doing its job. They have the numbers to do that.
We do not need another election yet. What we do need is a government that thinks more of their obligations to Canadians than they do of lining the pockets of their families and friends. The system works when we have a Parliament that ensures that the government gets those priorities right.
So far, we don’t have either and it is high time we did.
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