WE Have A Problem
Trudeau's WE Deal Exposed Corruption and Incompetence in the PMO
25 July 2020

Today the Globe & Mail reported corporate sponsors are abandoning WE. Since Justin Trudeau’s non-competitive $912M contract was handed to the WE Charity, the organization’s foundation has been cracking under the stress of daily damaging reports. This is terrible news for Liberals as it signals the death knell of WE’s image as a reputable charity, thereby worsening the optics of the WE contract, to begin with. The fact that Canada’s corporations are dropping a toxic partner should inspire the Liberal caucus to consider doing the same. We are not even halfway through the parliamentary investigation and their defiance to play ball with aw-shucks apologies is digging them a deeper hole. It will become a point where the damage spreads from the individual brands of entangled ministers and pollutes the entire party.

As of now, Bradish Chagger is making to be a convenient sacrificial lamb. It was ostensibly her deal, but the reality is that she’s a lightweight politician with very little real power. Her political career went from a N.O.B. (name on ballot) in a region where she was the party executive assistant, to running a non-existent ministry. Her entire presence in Trudeau’s cabinet is to superficially feed his gender and diversity branding, rather than her real-world experience and expertise. When factoring in the strength of centralized power at the PMO, the suggestion of her having any autonomy constructing this deal is laughable. With her exalted position being objectively underserved, it might be expected that she falls on her sword like a good soldier. However, exiting politics with a thin resume and tarnished reputation offers her limited prospects. Plus, she is ~16 months short of the extremely generous MP pension. Given what’s at personal risk, it will be interesting to see if she puts up a fight by throwing a grenade in the PMO bunker where Justin is hiding from the media and parliamentary question period.

I see Chagger is an inevitability, but regardless of the course of her ouster, it shouldn’t pacify Charlie Angus, the Bloc, or the Conservatives. The crosshairs will move to a bigger fish like Bill Morneau whose involvement in this scandal is perhaps criminal. But the real person who should be held accountable is Trudeau himself. Once a critic of how Harper centralized governing control in the PMO (and rightly so), Justin’s grip on power makes Harper’s look anemic in comparison. There is no way that Justin was unaware this was happening, or that his immediate family were profiting greatly from the bogus demand and value of their public speaking worth.

Trudeau’s claim that he wasn’t involved in awarding WE the $912M no-bid contract are so absurd I have to let out a scream (LAIR!!!!). OK. So my personal involvement in much smaller $350M deals with each of the Harper and Trudeau governments gave me a credible perspective on how they govern. It was clear the Cabinet Minister was the boss in 2014/2015. And in 2017/18 it was clear Trudeau’s handlers in the PMO were the boss. The cabinet ministers’ roles were nothing more than weigh stations of little authority. Their control over the process was an illusion. Everything had to go through the tough to schedule PMO, and each meaning they issued edicts on what they wanted (shockingly, they stressed optics that aligned with Justin’s brand over the substance of policy🤷‍). The PMO failed to collaborate or delegate with the Ministers. It was sad and a complete failure of leadership.

No need to trust my experience, the lines between the Trudeau team and the Liberal party went from faint to non-existent over the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was unquestionably in a place of moral authority in the scandal, was fiercely kicked from the cabinet and caucus for damaging Trudeau’s reputation. Her sin? Just the honest admission of Justin’s planned political interference in our legal system and her refusal to participate in it. The ouster of JWR, along with her friend and cabinet minister Dr.Jane Philpott, made it painfully obvious that Trudeau had a Xi Jinping stranglehold over government. We can see these autocratic-like tendencies with his contemptuous denial of wrongdoing, yet his Ministers aggresively working to limit the reach of investigations that could uncover any evidence against him (so much for “the transparent government” he promised).

The entire scandal should shine a bright spotlight on a major problem with Trudeau’s government: his cabinet is full of woefully ineffectual MPs. When Trudeau announced his gender-parity cabinet in 2015, he had the media too busying swooning to care if appointments were qualifed. Very few actually questioned the credentials of the people he was handling portfolios to – or those who he was giving them over. Why not? “because it’s 2015” of course 🤦‍♂️. Many were embarssingly bad, Chagger being just one of them.

The credibility of the cabinet worsened after losing his majority in 2019. He didn’t have two of his most accomplished women, JWR and Philpott, and he had given two of his old drinking buddies portfolios. With so many paper tigers means Justin would not be held accountable by his party. These empty suit ministers owe their unmerited positions to him and have to ride on the coattails of his easy charm and media appeal to keep them important (cough, outwardly important). This was not by accident. Having a weak cabinet of ministers was likely a strategic play of Gerald Butts. It gives him the veneer of D&I to galvanize online SJWs, consolidates power at the PMO to govern, but it also mitigates the chance of a Paul Martin emerging. No one of competence has been given the space to build a national brand or a party base to be a leadership threat during an opportunity like this one. I once thought it could be Freeland – she might be competent but has only shown traits of a loyal soldier.

Even if he is caught red-handed, he will reach back to his days as a drama teacher and put on an empathic face to say how deeply sorry he lost public trust and it was a learning experience. This seemed to work when we learned his history of blackface. Sadly, I expect will work again because all of Canada’s political parties are dysfunctional messes that are not equipped to offer salvation from a crisis in national leadership. I hope one of them, or a white knight in the Liberal Party (paging Mark Carney), can get it together before Trudeau’s next inevitable scandal costs Canadians something greater.