Don Martin: In a strange twist, Trudeau ignores his own red flags on the WE scandal
OTTAWA -- Clearly, we’ve had this WE scandal all wrong.
Justin Trudeau, we were told Thursday by the prime minister himself, was a skeptic, not a conflicted advocate, for WE Charity being the key delivery vehicle for a $912-million student volunteer program.
News the Kielburger brothers were the only organization capable of launching the handout program was sprung on the prime minister mere minutes before the May 8 cabinet meeting. (This, I’m told by a former PMO staffer, is not unusual).
And it was Trudeau, of all people, who spotted the “perception” of his own ethical problems with WE getting the job and “pushed back,” delaying cabinet consideration pending two weeks of closer scrutiny by the public service.
He then went even further, pushing for greater program oversight under the Treasury Board microscope.
Why, believe it or not, that almost makes Trudeau a HERO here.
In this new version of events, Trudeau’s interest wasn’t conflicted.
He was, in fact, the only person standing between a rushed recommendation and a premature rubber stamp.
That means it was the public service’s fault that a Liberal-connected, Trudeau-supported charity suffering many internal problems was sole-sourced for a highly-unusual government contract to deliver the program.
After they came back to declare it was either WE or ‘non’ to the entire student program, why, it HAD to be green lit by the cabinet, Trudeau said.
Sorry, but like almost everything else about this controversy, something smells very off about Thursday’s revelations.
How could a twice-convicted ethical violator like Trudeau not listen to his own inner voice whispering warnings to step away from a decision he admits has now killed the program.
It doesn’t add up. It creates the “perception” of a prime minister and his chief of staff, one Katie Telford who was a particularly shaky follow-up witness, revising history under extreme duress to save themselves.
Exactly how this new hard-to-believe version of events will play out as this scandal rolls toward the ethics commissioner’s verdict is difficult to decipher.
It’s already hitting Trudeau’s popularity in the polls and this won’t help the prime minister’s popularity with his base of young people to have their pandemic payoff axed.
But beyond this startling new version of events and some odd timelines that don’t make sense, Trudeau mostly delivered on a save-his-skin checklist during this very rare appearance before a parliamentary committee.
He didn’t lose his cool, even under extreme provocation from always-irritating MP Pierre Poilievre, who was in single-minded pursuit of the exact amount of WE payments to the Trudeau family, figures which are already in the public domain.
He repeatedly re-apologized for voting in cabinet for the WE contract.
He didn’t smirk once, a perception of entitled aloofness the Kielburger brothers didn’t understand in their smirky testimonial disaster earlier this week.
He repeated endlessly how pandemic pandemonium was engulfing an overwhelmed government that didn’t have time to sweat the small details.
And he emphasized at every opportunity that it was all about helping the kids do good deeds while under lockdown.
The prime minister’s goal was to extinguish the flaming WE dumpster which has engulfed his government.
To that end, he failed.
What’s worse, there’s a new perception that this prime minister is not only blind to ethical pitfalls easily seen by others, he even ignores his own advice.
That's the bottom line.