Up in Canada, they just don’t seem to be able to generate the kind of political scandals we have in the United States. In America, politicians regularly get caught not paying their taxes (everyone from Charlie Rangel to AOC), and the worst they wind up getting is a strongly worded letter. Cheating on your wife while claiming to be “hiking the Appalachian Trail?” No problem. You can move from the Governor’s office to Congress. And let’s not even get started on strippers and Playboy models.
In Canada, it’s somewhat different. We recently learned that Justin Trudeau’s tenure as Prime Minister was in danger because he’d been caught up in a scandal of his own. It involved alleged corruption on the part of a major employer in his home province and pressure on his Justice Minister to cut them a break for political reasons. Now, Trudeau’s supporters are complaining that the scandal is a big nothingburger. And the more we learn about this story – at least by American standards – they may have a point. (Associated Press)
There’s no money, no sex and nothing illegal happened. This is what passes for a scandal in Canada…
The former justice minister and attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, says Trudeau and senior members of his government pressured her in a case involving a major Canadian engineering company accused of corruption related to its business dealings in Libya. Trudeau reportedly leaned on the attorney general to instruct prosecutors to reach the equivalent of plea deal, which would avoid a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, because he felt that jobs were at stake.
“People south of the border would be astonished to think that this is the type of scandal that they have in Canada,” said Eddie Goldenberg, a former adviser to former Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
When this story first broke, the details were rather thin and the Canadian press made it sound like something far more sinister. As it turns out, the crime SNC-Lavalin was accused of was paying bribes to Libyan officials in order to do business there. But we’re talking about Libya here. The government there is so corrupt that nothing ever happens – particularly when it comes to foreign investors – without some serious bribery going on. One business executive recently published a confession about all the bribes he’s paid to do business in that country. The practice is known as baksheesh and it’s conducted right out in the open. If you don’t want to pay the baksheesh, you don’t do business.
And what about Trudeau’s part in all of this? Was he on the payroll of SNC-Lavalin or sleeping around with one of their female executives or lobbyists? There have been zero allegations of anything of the sort thus far. And the “pressure” he applied to his Justice Minister came in the form of asking her to reconsider the case after she had decided to take SNC-Lavalin to court. The conditions under which she was replaced (by someone more amenable to Trudeau’s wishes ) are certainly dubious, but what he was asking her to do was, in fact, a completely legal option at her disposal.
The only benefit that Trudeau sought was to avoid the negative political fallout that would come if the company got in major trouble and wound up laying off a lot of workers. And it’s a safe bet that all of those employees would rather see the company stay in business as well.
So does this actually qualify as a scandal that should cost Trudeau his job? I’m no fan of the guy. He’s a liberal, socialist gadfly who would probably fit in well with the current gang of new Democrats in DC and I certainly wouldn’t vote for him if I lived in Canada. But after hearing all of the details available thus far, the whole affair really does seem like much ado about very little. But then again, I live in the United States, where politicians need to threaten to throw a reporter off the Cannon House building balcony before they might lose their jobs. Perhaps I’ve just grown too jaded.