Let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction — to borrow a mangled phrase from a dear departed Republican primary candidate — that the Liberal Party has brought transparency to the Canadian government. The Liberal Party has not brought transparency to the Canadian government.
We have known this for some time. Justin Trudeau’s star cabinet ministers have made fatuous non-answers the unofficial lullaby of most press conferences and question periods.
Want to know why the Liberals abandoned electoral reform? Well, here are some platitudes about the value of diverse voices in our democracy. How closely will the government be involved in its supposedly arms-length multibillion-dollar infrastructure bank? Uh … can I interest you in some banal remarks about building up the middle class? How about quotes about investing in Canadians’ future?
Meeting with the ethics commissioner
For the most part, the prime minister has left the rather humiliating exercise in partisan servitude to his rookie cabinet ministers, but this week, during an appearance in question period, he took up the cause himself.
The question posed to Trudeau in the House Wednesday was how many times he has met with the ethics commissioner to talk about his trip to the Aga Khan’s private island. Trudeau was asked the question 18 times — and each time he regurgitated the same non-answer:
“Mr. Speaker, as you know, I am always pleased to work with the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner to answer any questions she may have.”
Yes, but how many times have you met with her?
“Mr. Speaker, as I have always said, I am very pleased to meet with the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner and work with her to answer any questions she may have on this subject or any other.”
So, more than two, or…?
“Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to work with the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner to answer any questions she may have. That is what Canadians expect of the prime minister and that is exactly what I am doing.”
Sorry, how many times?
“Mr. Speaker, Canadians expect the prime minister to work with the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner any time she has questions, and that is exactly what I have been doing.”
Now, it’s fair to say the question itself was a rather frivolous one — it really doesn’t matter how many times the prime minister has met with the ethics commissioner — and it probably wasn’t worth the opposition’s time to ask the question after the third failed attempt to get an answer.
But the onus here isn’t really on the opposition. Yes, the Harper Conservatives parroted the same sort of brainless, robotic responses when they controlled the House, and they were rightfully excoriated for it at the time. But the Liberals campaigned on a promise to do things differently. So far,…