Justin Trudeau News – Listen Up! What the prime minister knew | Commentary
For the uninitiated when it comes to politics, Katie Telford is the chief of staff to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It is the most powerful non-elected position in government. The reality is that it is the source from whence cabinet ministers get their marching orders. When Katie Telford calls, everyone else, with the possible exception of the prime minister, jumps. That’s just the way it is.
I have not met Katie Telford, but I know of her. I know that she is very good at her job and is highly regarded for her political skills by most senior strategists of all party stripes who either depend on her strong leadership or have to go up against her. She is as good as they get, and she is highly regarded for that.
That is why I don’t believe for a single minute that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not know for a good part of his tenure that there were serious sexual abuse issues in the Canadian military, going all the way up to former chief of defence staff Jonathan Vance.
She may, as she voluntarily testified at a parliamentary committee hearing on Friday, not have told the prime minister directly about Vance, but there are ways around that, and she knew that he knew. Her job, of course, is to protect the prime minister at all costs, and that was what she was doing on Friday.
In a much smaller way, I have been there—when I was, for a short period of time, chief of staff to Ontario Premier Frank Miller. It’s not always a fun job. Often you have to tell your boss what he doesn’t want to hear. Sometimes he ignores you. But there is never a time, in my opinion, when a premier or a prime minister should be deprived of knowledge of an issue that could blow up in his or her face.
The first rule as chief of staff in protecting your boss is “no surprises”. You make sure that he or she is never caught publicly unaware of any issue that could affect the government. When an issue arises, you study it, you take it to the war room, which every political leader has in one form or another. You try to build a picket fence around the potential problem so that it does not spread, and you develop a strategy for the leader.
But you never leave your leader in the dark about an issue of which you are aware and know will eventually become a political problem. There is simply no way that someone as skilled in their job as Katie Telford would do that. She might, as many political insiders have, take the fall for her leader but the prime minister would never be uninformed and consequently a sitting duck for the opposition—unless, of course, he chose not to listen.
Chantal Hébert is a veteran columnist for the Toronto Star. Like most of her colleagues, she learned years ago to play primarily for the home team, and when it comes to the left-wing Toronto Star everyone knows who the home team is
But listen to what she had to say recently about Prime Minister Trudeau’s neglect of rampant sexual abuse in the Canadian military. In my view, it took courage.
The headline on Chantal Hébert’s article read, “Justin Trudeau’s mishandling of sexual misconduct in the military strikes yet another blow to his feminist credentials”. She points out that in the prime minister’s in-basket when he took office was a recently completed 2015 report by Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps, who at the request of then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper conducted an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct in the military.
Deschamps found it to be endemic and recommended the creation of an independent agency for reporting sexual misconduct. This and other recommendations from the Deschamps Report have never been implemented by the Trudeau Government.
Hébert questions whether the government’s most recent appointment of former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour to now do the same thing all over again will bear any better fruit than the Deschamps Report, in spite of her impeccable credentials, as the Liberal government has, “just spent the last six years allowing a similar report to gather dust on its shelves”.
Further on in her article, Hébert doubles down, saying, “This after all is a government that never lets an opportunity pass to flaunt its self-styled feminist credentials. Given that, being on the lookout for instances of sexual harassment would be expected to be a priority. It is not as if the problem and its systemic nature had not been flagged for the attention of the government. And yet, to listen to the prime minister recently, his advisers were unaware that the allegations against Vance were sexual in nature.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has much to answer for when it comes to his record on feminism. He takes pride in being a feminist. He once told an interviewer on Fintech Zoom, “Absolutely, I’m a feminist.” Is he?
I would suggest his record in that regard would be seen as flawed by any reasonable assessment over the past five years. A gender-equal cabinet doesn’t cut it when the majority of women appointed to it were in junior positions. Nor did it help his feminist claims when two of the few women who made it to senior positions in cabinet couldn’t work with him and resigned on principle.
But perhaps of greatest importance is Justin Trudeau’s total failure to deal with systemic sexual abuse where it exists in public institutions, especially the Canadian Armed Forces. Please don’t tell me the prime minister wasn’t aware of it. Of course he was. Every single detail? Perhaps not. But in general? Absolutely.
Why then has the prime minister not taken real action on this? Appointing justice Louise Arbour to investigate military sexual abuse does little to address the problem now, and actually, because the government deviously put her reporting time past the likelihood of an election, they will not have to deal with her findings during a campaign.
Why wasn’t Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan fired months ago? If he didn’t know what was going on, he damn well should have. A fair question is: as a former military man, was he covering for them? Whether or not he was, by now he should be sitting on the back benches.
Over the almost six years the Trudeau Government has been in power, there have been more than 500 reports of alleged sexual assaults and 221 reported incidents of sexual harassment in the Canadian military. Over that same period, again, according to Chantal Hébert, the government extended General Vance’s tenure, gave him a raise, and picked his successor, Admiral Art McDonald.
And to top it all off, Admiral McDonald had to leave his job within a few weeks of his appointment because he too was being investigated for sexual misconduct! How in hell did all of this happen?
As I write this article, it is Mother’s Day. As important as it is to remember mothers and the pivotal role they play in our lives and the lives of our children, I believe it is also important to remember and appreciate all women today—whether they be mothers or not—who in one way or another have contributed to the success and well-being of our society and in many instances have yet to obtain the equality and opportunity they so richly deserve. Many others who have have had to work twice as hard to get there. I know I simply would not be here were it not for a number of women in my life.
And so, I applaud those women and men who really stand up for feminist and women’s issues. I have very little use for those who just pretend.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc. and enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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Justin Trudeau News – Listen Up! What the prime minister knew | Commentary
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