Is wanting an ethical leader too much to ask?
What the hell Trudeau?
Like many, I was so relieved when Canadians finally threw Harper out of office, relieved and hopeful that he would take all his negativity, pettiness and meanness of spirit with him, while Trudeau rode in on a wave of optimism that Canada would return to a country of progressive values. By comparison it was night and day. On one hand a petty man who wanted to destroy his opponents, and on the other an enlightened man who embraced diversity, inclusion and cooperation, or so I thought.
But it is getting harder and harder to see where ethically, Trudeau is all that different from his predecessor. I am not one of those people who see leaders in black and white. Most are a mix of good and bad. Admittedly I am hard pressed to find anything good to say about Harper. Couldn’t even say he had good hair. But with Trudeau, there’s certainly the mix of good and bad, and what tops that list in my mind is the adoption at long last of a national housing strategy to reduce homelessness. That is going to make a huge difference.
And there are other positives, but what stands out more are the negatives. First, there was the backing down on his promise that the election he won would be the last one fought under the first-past-the-post format. He promised that we would move to something that better reflects the wishes of the voters, not something that gives someone with 47% of the vote, 100% of the power.
Then there’s the secrecy and the control shift to the PMO. Harper was rightly criticized for this but Trudeau has proven not to be any more open than his predecessor was. Many expected more.
Then there was the ethical breach. I don’t think his vacationing with his billionaire friend is a big deal, but the optics were bad and optics matter, and the rules were broken, so in a sense it was.
And now we have this wrinkle on grants for summer students where groups hoping for funding have to check off a box that basically says they philosophically agree with women’s right to choose. It is nuanced but seems to suggest only those who subscribe to Liberal point of view on this need apply.
The disappointing part is that we had hoped that with Harper gone we would be passed this kind of thing. You may remember Harper cut off funding to many environmental groups, consistent with his ideology, or simply consistent with his sucking up to the oil industry.
He was roundly criticized for that, including by Liberals who rightfully took issue with the unfairness and small-mindedness of it. Which begs the question – what’s the difference between what Harper did then and what Trudeau is doing now?
Precious little I would say, but there is one difference. Trudeau is being more hypocritical than Harper ever was. We knew there wasn’t much ethical going on with Harper, which he proved in spades with his racist Barbaric Cultural Practices election strategy. But Trudeau has positioned himself as pro-diversity, and by definition, that means acceptance of the right of others to have differing views, and that includes on abortion. And that includes not being blacklisted for taxpayer funding because of those differing views. Requiring someone to abandon their principles, to betray their conscience, to have a shot at government funding is fundamentally wrong on several levels. And it sets a terrible and dangerous precedent. For example, will the next right-wing government be inclined to deny summer student funding to any group that is pro gay rights, or for that matter pro anything that the Conservative government doesn't favour?
Let me sum this with some simple questions. Why can’t we have an ethical leader? We’re a good country for the most part. We deserve one. But where are we? Harper set an extremely low bar, but even that is proving to be a challenge for Trudeau. So where from here? Back to the Tories? Don’t think so. Leader Andrew Scheer hired a man formerly affiliated with the racist website The Rebel to run his campaign, so apparently no ethical hope on that horizon. Hey Jagmeet, what’s in your closet?
This is depressing. And being reduced to saying at least none of them is Trump is little consolation.
You can share this blog to your networks through any of the buttons below. If you want to subscribe to this blog, there's a button up above to do that. Thanks for reading.