Month: July 2020

Prime Minister, how much broccoli did your family eat? In detail!

It was the moment they’d all been waiting for, some of them with cackling anticipation, some of them with dismay, some of them stuck on “mute”: The first-ever testimony of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a parliamentary committee. 

Trudeau and his opponents were, as always, worlds apart. To him, his family’s dealings with a charitable behemoth and his government’s dealings with them were as apples to oranges. To them, of course they weren’t.

And so, each in their offices (or home offices), often struggling with the virtual infrastructure, sans the heckling exclamations that would have rung through a committee room in person, this group of federal politicians—trusted by their electors to bring scrutiny and good policy upon Ottawa—settled into their predetermined positions for an hour-long repartee.

Because the ins and outs of Ottawa (and, it seems, charities) can be complicated, and politicians sometime struggle to speak plainly, here is a loose approximation of what down on this historic day.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: Colleagues, I’m here to tell you how much this government appreciates a healthy diet. We believe young people need—in fact cannot live without—vegetables. We know that the fields have been barren this year. Under extraordinary circumstances, our independent public service identified a farm from which a multitude of carrots could be distributed to our nation’s vulnerable students. Indeed it was the only capable—

Concerned MP: Point of order! Point of order. Chair, if I could just take a few moments to clarify the logistics—

Chair Wayne Easter: It is going to be okay. My iPad is at the ready.

Trudeau: (Clears throat.) My family has visited the farm and eaten its broccoli. Even though I am a vegetable expert myself and took extra time to scrutinize this decision, I should have stepped out of the room when my highly independent colleagues were discussing its merits. For this, for not moving away from the table, I take full responsibility. In fact, I volunteer it. In conclusion, I never talked to those farmers. I continue to believe in the fiddlehead class and those working hard to join it. 

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre: How much of the broccoli did your family eat, Mr. Trudeau? In detail!

Trudeau: I don’t have that.

Liberal MP: Point of order. Point of order. What’s the relevance of the broccoli?

Poilievre: I want an itemized list of every floret consumed by your mother, your wife, your brother, and yourself. Every floret. 

Trudeau: I don’t have that.

Poilievre: How could you possibly not know, when your spouse so recently consumed a sumptuous portion of broccoli?

Trudeau: The ethics commissioner approved that. I always co-operate with the ethics commissioner.

Poilievre: I don’t know how much clearer my question can be. They give you vegetables. And then you fertilize their vegetables. If broccoli isn’t an incentive I don’t know what is. Answer the question.

Trudeau: My mother—

Poilievre: Just the number.

Trudeau: I—ah—


Liberal MP: Um, guys? The chair’s power has gone out.

Poilievre: How convenient.

NDP MP: Actually, the the procedure is the vice chair takes over.

Poilievre: Oh. Well. That’s me. I’m going to give the floor to me.

Trudeau: Uh—


Trudeau: Well—


Trudeau: Have you?

Chair: It wouldn’t be the first time you tried to put my lights out, Mr. Poilievre! One more question.

Poilievre: You’re saying you don’t know how much broccoli your family has consumed. Nobody believes you. HOW MUCH BROCCOLI?

Trudeau: I’m co-operating with the ethics commissioner, and that’s what Canadians expect. 

NDP MP Charlie Angus: Do you realize what you’ve done here? You’re hurting the children, Mr. Prime Minister. Sure, there were red flags about this farm from the start. Underpaid labour, bad irrigation, uneven harvest. But now those children are left without carrots or vegetables of any kind.

Trudeau: We have been providing for Canadians. We have been providing breads. We have been providing fruits. We have been providing yogurts. We have been providing lobsters. We have been providing napkins, even.

Angus: Come on

Trudeau: In a drought such as this, it is just as bad to act slowly and without mistakes as to act quickly and—

Angus: Have some remorse!

Trudeau: I’d like to take a moment to recognize my deep personal admiration for the professional, independent public service.

Angus: Frankly, what about parsnips? What about sweet potatoes? Why were no alternatives considered? 

Trudeau: Canadians expect—indeed they know—that their government cares deeply about their access to root vegetable crops. 

Chair: Last question. 


Trudeau: Something something the public service, Mr. Angus.  

Bloc Québécois MP Rhéal Fortin: Your finance minister has a sprout growing at this farm! His family accepted massive amounts of broccoli free of charge and he… forgot about it?! How can you forget about that much broccoli? It wasn’t just a head of broccoli, Mr. Chair! It was a hydra of broccoli! 

Trudeau: I didn’t know about that. There’s, in fact, a lot I don’t seem to have known.

Fortin: By the way, did you ever try to find out if the farmers were registered to sell you their vegetables?

Trudeau: Well, they weren’t exactly trying to sell me vegetables. I was trying to help them provide carr—

Fortin: Did you ever ask any of your staff to check if they were registered?

Trudeau: Well, see, I don’t think they needed to—

Fortin: Did you ever ask the finance minister’s office to check if they were registered?!

Trudeau: Well, no.

Liberal MPs on the committee: Let’s all just take a deep breath, shall we? Inhale. Exhale. Let’s close our eyes and think about the wonderful job our government is doing. And let us also think about the children.


Chair: You’re muted, Prime Minister.

Trudeau: Sorry. Yes. The children, absolutely.

Liberal: The children whose carrots have been taken away from them by a mob of politicians and reporters. What about them? What about their carrots? Are those carrots not at the core of our very democracy? 

Trudeau: Certainly, and I’m glad you asked the question. Our government remains absolutely committed to the youth. To the carrots. To the procurement of carrots. Mistakes were made. But ultimately, the carrots, and no other vegetables pertaining to this discussion, are what mattered.

Liberal: Also, your mother is just wonderful.

Trudeau: It’s true. Let me take a moment to discuss her book.

Liberal: Isn’t it right, Prime Minister, that the broccoli is just a distraction? More to the point, isn’t it right that our friends in the opposition offer no credible alternative for leadership such that our ability to stay in power will not be threatened whatsoever by this debate? That, at the end of the day, our choices in vegetables, while predictable and narrow-minded, will have no bearing on our ultimate electoral results? That, whether or not broccoli was involved, and whether or not the farm itself falls apart, our ability to fertilize this nation’s lands in the best interests of the youth will be utterly unmitigated? 

Trudeau: Like I said, Mr. Chair. I am co-operating with the ethics commissioner. And that’s what Canadians deserve. 

@repost Domestic Agreement Contract

Via Divorce Advice


By The Wall of Law July 31, 2020 Off

A literally explosive day on Parliament Hill (due to construction)

Welcome to a sneak peek of the Maclean’s Politics Insider newsletter. Sign up to get it delivered straight to your inbox.

If you’re in and around Parliament Hill today, you’re in for an explosive experience. Seriously. Excavations are underway in preparation for the second phase of the Hill’s subterranean visitors’ welcome centre. Listen for a brief symphony of horns honking before the final act—specifically, three short horn signals will give way to a minute of silence; then another short horn signal will be the final opener for a controlled explosion. Rinse and repeat until sunset.

Within the safe confines of a parliamentary committee meeting, Justin Trudeau will answer questions on the WE scandal. The PM will testify at the Commons finance committee starting at 3 p.m. His chief of staff, Katie Telford, will follow for her own session. Yesterday, the committee met to talk logistics before today’s rendezvous. Opposition MPs passed a motion that demanded Trudeau stick around for three hours. As of early this morning, the exact length of Trudeau’s appearance doesn’t seem to have changed.

The obvious lessons Justin Trudeau keeps failing to learn: Paul Wells and Marie-Danielle Smith, writing in Maclean’s, sketch the organizational structure of a Trudeau government that hatched the ill-fated Canada Student Service Grant. At the heart of the bungled file, they found a Prime Minister and a process and a program caught up in Trudeau’s recurring flaws.

If it were all just a sloppy bit of program design in the midst of unprecedented crisis, the WE mess would be bad enough. What makes it worse is the weary sense of déjà vu it provokes. This doesn’t feel like a random Trudeau screw-up. It feels like a highly characteristic Trudeau screw-up. It’s the sort of thing the Prime Minister does now and then.

Addison Cameron-Huff, a cryptocurrency lawyer in Toronto who knows his way around various corporate registries, dug into the “labyrinth” of organizations—that’s Craig Kielburger’s word—tied to the WE empire. Cameron-Huff found his way to an Internal Revenue Service tax form for the U.S.-based WE Charity, submitted last year, that [scroll to page 8] revealed a $297,570 consulting expense paid last year to 202 Strategies LLC. One of that firm’s tag lines: “Turn crisis into opportunity.”

The Globe and Mail dug into a separate $130,000 expense paid to Firehouse Strategies, a Republican-connected consultancy that has ties to individuals who last year tried to discredit Canadaland, a media outlet that has published critical stories about WE.

How they see us: Jason Leopold, a BuzzFeed News reporter, got his hands on a document meant to prepare then-homeland security secretary John Kelly for meetings with Canadians. The three-page primer on Canucks reminds us what it means to be Canadian: our head of state is the Queen of England (wrong—she’s the Queen of Canada); we all speak English (wrong—13.8 per cent of us don’t); and we keep small talk to a minimum (wrong—our Prime Minister loves to dish about Trump with fellow world leaders).

Economist Armine Yalnizyan told her followers that John Loxley, whom she called the “father of the alternative budget”—the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ annual exercise in left-leaning fiscal advocacy—has died. Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew said Loxley “helped shape my understanding of economics” at the University of Manitoba—where, Kinew says, he met fellow Manitoba pol Matt Wiebe at the back of the class.

Anyone can watch every single step involved in the Conservative party processing leadership ballots. When Maclean’s tuned in, a party operative wearing a Roy Halladay T-shirt was opening “outer” envelopes that contain both “ballot secrecy envelopes” and other required documentation. From there, submitted ballots and documentation are verified in another room. Don’t miss the “escalation area.” Party spokesman Cory Hann explained that some voters might have inadvertently placed all documents—not just their ballots—inside their secrecy envelopes. “Escalated secrecy envelopes” are opened to verify that all documentation was, in fact, provided, even if slightly incorrectly. This, folks, is radical transparency at a devastatingly slow pace.

A Tory leadership debate hosted by the Independent Press Gallery of Canada fell apart yesterday after Leslyn Lewis’s doctor ordered her to stay away and frontrunner Peter MacKay backed out because he would only join a debate that included Lewis. MacKay called for a virtual rescheduling asap.

One man’s accountability law is another man’s lost job opportunity. Jamie Carroll, a former national director of the federal Liberals, wrote an op-ed for National Newswatch that insisted Stephen Harper’s first piece of signature legislation, the Federal Accountability Act, has reduced the labour pool of experienced politicos to the point that the best prospective staffers are barred from working in government. Tory MP Dan Albas politely subtweeted that view with a tidbit of trivia about good people in Ottawa: Scott Brison once gave up his private member’s bill slot so Albas could advance a bill to liberalize wine trade within Canada. Brison took no issue with the compliment.

@repost Divorce Advice

Via Easy Divorce


By The Wall of Law July 30, 2020 Off

Children afraid of father in Kuwait can stay in Canada for now, court says

Three children should not be sent back to their allegedly abusive father in Kuwait pending the outcome of their parents’ custody dispute in Canada, Ontario’s top court ruled Wednesday in a case that attracted United Nations attention.

@repost Custody Lawyers

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By The Wall of Law July 30, 2020 Off

WE all fall down: the Kielburgers and Liberal ‘whataboutism’

Grasping for any available defence or deflection from Justin Trudeau’s WE scandal, government MPs relied on a familiar approach, a Liberal security blanket of sorts: Stephen Harper whataboutism.

The retort of “your side sucks too” is more typically the refuge of hyperpartisan trolls on social media. But the tweeted and hashtagged tit-for-tat games now tend to bleed into our legislative debates and hearings, so politicians who should know better engage in logical fallacies, too. They respond to charges of Alleged Misdeed du Jour by dredging up Alleged Misdeed de 2008, or raise 2015’s Seemingly Innocuous Occurrence.

At the Commons finance committee, Liberal MPs routinely tried to “Whatabout” the Conservatives over their governing days and other opposition parties’ involvement with WE Charity and WE Day. The Kielburger brothers gamely played along.

RELATED: Every important number in the WE drama that’s consuming Ottawa

“To your knowledge, have federal Conservative MPs or ministers or prime ministers or individuals who are affiliated with the Conservative Party or any other opposition party appeared at WE events and/or hosted WE events?” Québec MP Annie Koutrakis asked, as though the mere presence of individuals with the Trudeau surname at the motivational student days at hockey arenas was the pit and prune juice of the Liberals’ current ethical mess. In her followup question, the Liberal went further: “Specifically do you recall being hosted at 24 Sussex back in April of 2013 after WE day in Ottawa?” The Harper days!

Craig and Marc Kielburger went on a name-dropping spree: Laureen Harper did host a WE reception at the Prime Minister’s residence; Alberta Conservative MP Mike Lake had been on WE-sponsored stage to discuss autism and his son; Peter MacKay’s spouse Nazanin Afshin-Jam spoke, conservative Prairie premiers Scott Moe and Brian Pallister were great supporters—and on the other side of the spectrum, provincial NDP leaders Rachel Notley and Wab Kinew in various capacities, too. “Truly we appreciate that the issue of service isn’t a political issue, we hope shouldn’t be a political issue—that every party believes in getting youth to volunteer and serve,” Craig replied to Koutrakis’ gently lobbed questions.

When Sean Fraser, a Nova Scotia Liberal, asked about WE programs with the past government, Craig got to mention former Conservative ministers Tony Clement and Jim Flaherty, and offer this conveniently selected factoid: “There’ve been previous years in the previous government under Harper where we actually had a higher percentage of our total budget given by the federal government than last year under the Trudeau government.” That’s an assertion which attempts to tiptoe past the fact that it wasn’t last year that Trudeau’s cabinet directed the operation of a hastily designed $543.5-million program (including up to $43.5 million in administration payments) to the Kielburger-led charity.

RELATED: Five takeaways from the Kielburgers’ testimony

The other politicians or spouses weren’t paid for their involvement with the organization that had long stated it didn’t pay for appearances—except to a select few speakers who do “auxiliary” events alongside WE Days, including Justin Trudeau’s mother and brother Sacha. So the potential conflicts of interest don’t apply, despite the strained parallels the governing MPs attempt to make. “I’m wondering if Mr. Lake, Madame Harper, Mr. Pallister—were they paid by your organization or did they engage you with a half-billion dollar contract?” Conservative MP Michael Barrett asked during the committee. (Craig, in a non-answer, replied that he really appreciates their work, all the same.)

Linking politicians of all stripes to WE does serve to remind the public of the charity’s longstanding reputation for good works, to which leaders across Canada and across decades have sought to attach themselves. Stephen Harper was also happy to associate himself and government grants with the Aga Khan, years before Trudeau accepted a helicopter lift to the philanthropic religious leader’s private island. With the Aga Khan, as with WE, sharing a stage is not the same as landing oneself into an ethics investigation for sharing much else.

Trudeau himself had played this bit of WE whataboutism earlier this month in House of Commons debate, so what about the likelihood he does so again when he faces the Commons committee?

@repost Equalization Payments

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By The Wall of Law July 29, 2020 Off