Five ministers resigned from Brian Mulroney’s cabinet in the first two years of his term, and several more would depart as a result of unflattering situations in the years hence.
But, with typical elan, Brian Mulroney remembered his willingness to accept the resignations of his ministers as a mark of naive idealism.
“In 1985 I believed that ministers should be held to the highest standards of professional and personal behaviour … Practically, however, I realize now that I handed the opposition and media yet another weapon to use against us later,” the former prime minister wrote in his memoirs published in 2007.
“I failed to understand that I was going to be pilloried for accepting ministerial resignations and not respected for demanding them.”
Be that as it may, Mulroney’s cabinet ministers still had a special flair for finding trouble. His defence minister was bid adieu after visiting a strip club in West Germany. The fisheries minister was dispatched after approving the sale of sub-standard tuna.
By comparison, the misadventures of Justin Trudeau’s ministers seem rather unadventurous — perhaps not even Mulroney would have asked for their resignations just yet.
But hunting ministers remains one of Ottawa’s favourite pastimes. And while the federal government has been busy doing the various things a federal government does — administering programs, appointing judges, implementing policy — there has lately been a convergence of trouble for Justin Trudeau’s cabinet.
Indeed, at least three ministers are now competing for ownership of the adjective “embattled.”
The troubles of Lebouthillier and Hehr
Trudeau, like the other prime ministers who followed Mulroney, has likely understood that dispatching a minister doesn’t so much resolve a problem as it confirms the existence of serious wrongdoing.
Still, for at least a moment or two on Tuesday, it seemed Kent Hehr, the minister for persons with disabilities, was going to be in an untenable position after a group of thalidomide survivors accused him of making a series of insensitive remarks during a recent meeting.
But then he categorically denied the most unflattering of the comments attributed to him. And after asking two questions about the allegations on Tuesday afternoon, the…