Pledge to transparency will top agenda at Liberal caucus retreat -

Pledge to transparency will top agenda at Liberal caucus retreat

Insiders say Trudeau to unveil more proposals for making politicians more open and accountable


OTTAWA – There is method to Justin Trudeau’s reefer madness.

His willingness to confess his past proclivity for puffing pot is part of a deliberate strategy to brand the Liberal leader as a different kind of politician – one who’s open and transparent to a fault, even when it might be more politic to dissemble.

It’s a calculated risk that could pay big dividends or blow up in his face, Liberal insiders acknowledge.

But he’s determined to make transparency a trademark of his leadership.

His voluntary admission last week that he took a pull on a joint at a dinner party three years ago — while he was an MP — wasn’t the first example of Trudeau’s potentially perilous frankness and it won’t be the last.

During the leadership contest that crowned him last spring, Trudeau voluntarily disclosed all his sources of income, including his inheritance from his late father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, and more than $1 million earned on the public speaking circuit.

The fact that he continued to accept hefty speaking fees from charitable groups and educational institutions after being elected as an MP in 2008, sparked sufficient public backlash that he eventually offered to refund any group that felt it hadn’t gotten its money’s worth. In the end, none took him up on the offer.

As with the marijuana admission, the speaking fee controversy handed Conservative and New Democrat rivals an opportunity to jab at what they consider Trudeau’s Achilles’ heel: his judgment, or lack thereof.

But Liberals are gambling that the appeal of Trudeau’s candour will outweigh any concerns about his behaviour.

“It’s the type of leadership that (Canadians) have been waiting for,” Liberal House leader Dominic LeBlanc wrote last week in a blog on the party’s website as the pot controversy raged.

“Rather than duck and dodge, our leader gave straight answers to tough questions.”

The commitment to transparency isn’t going to be confined to the leader, however.

During a three-day caucus retreat in Prince Edward Island that begins Tuesday, Liberal MPs and senators are to be presented with a template for publicly disclosing their expenses online, starting this fall. That’s in keeping with a promise made by Trudeau last spring amid the uproar over the Senate expenses scandal and it could potentially turn up some unwelcome surprises.

MPs will also be given a rundown on how the party intends to handle Trudeau’s pledge to hold open nominations in every riding across the country, forgoing the leader’s power to appoint candidates or protect incumbents from challenges — and risking some messy internal battles in the process.

And insiders say he’ll unveil yet more proposals later this fall for making politicians more open and accountable.

The emphasis on transparency is aimed at contrasting Trudeau’s Liberals with what they claim are Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ethically challenged, tightly scripted Conservatives.

Trudeau’s openness about smoking marijuana, along with his call to legalize and regulate weed, has the added benefit of appealing to the young and progressive voters who might otherwise support the NDP, Liberal strategists contend.

While some voters may have qualms about the wisdom of a lawmaker openly confessing to flouting the law, Trudeau’s team believes most are more concerned about economic issues and that’s where they’ll pass judgment on the leader’s fitness to govern.

To that end, Trudeau is likely to unveil some specific proposals this fall in a bid to put some meat on the bones of his declared top priority: improving the fortunes of the struggling middle class.

Major platform planks will await the election in 2015 but Liberal finance critic Scott Brison says the plight of middle-class Canadians is too urgent to ignore in the meantime.

“We’re not just waiting until the next election,” he says.


Pledge to transparency will top agenda at Liberal caucus retreat

  1. The Scarecrow Syndrome

    I could wile away the hours,
    Conferring with the flowers,
    Consulting with the rain,
    And my head I’d be scratching,
    While my thoughts were busy hatching,
    If I only had a brain.
    I’d unravel any riddle,

    For any individual,
    In trouble or in pain,
    And if it got too hot,
    I’d smoke some real good pot,
    Then go dancing in the rain.
    Although I’d try to be transparent,
    To be very honest and apparent,
    It would mean I’d cause a strain,
    And I’d get a real good thrashing,
    With so many MP’s busy laughing,
    If I only had a brain.

  2. People live their lives on FB now…it’s in keeping with that.

  3. The Harper Conservatives ran on transparency in government, and instead gave us the most closed, scripted, and secretive government seen other than in a dictatorship — (of course with the hold Steve has over the party we’re not that far from having one at the moment).

    I for one welcome a party that won’t gift us with any Pamela Wallins or Mike Duffys but will instead make public their expense accounts and other “perks” that seem to come with Conservative jobs.

  4. I would take Trudeau integrity and openness over harper corruption any day.

  5. Anything politicians say in an election campaign needs to be viewed with skepticism. This is true for any political party. Candidates say anything necessary to attract votes. Saying anything else makes no sense.

    But once in office, there is no assurance that all, or some of the promises will actually happen. Transparency, more that most promises, is problematic for a PM. He knows national secrets, inside information on a wide range of issues, and he initiates plans into the future that cannot become public knowledge prior to implementation of those plans.

    Any PM cannot conduct national affairs in “transparency.” It is simply impossible and no politician should be held to account for something that is impossible. One can interpret transparency as a degree and imagine that, though complete transparency is impossible, ‘some transparency’ is possible. In practice, transparency is seldom possible to the degree that the public is satisfied. The desire to know everything cannot be contained within tidy parameters.

    So, vote however you like, but don’t imagine that Trudeau can do this. He cannot do the impossible and voters should not hold him to it. He has often said “that he will change the way politics is done in Ottawa.” He can’t do that either. Politics is amoral. Politics is the art of compromise and a backroom deal. Personal ethics are irrelevant.

    It is highly desirable that voters have a real choice in the next election campaign, but the choices must be realistic, not fantasy.

    • That pretty much describes the political process. But regardless of how informed the general electorate become during the run up to an election, people still tend to vote for the devil they know. If they did employ critical thinking when picking out a suitable candidate, then no one claiming that they could solve all the country’s problems would ever get into political office.
      I’ve worked the last two provincial and three previous federal elections as an information officer here in Edmonton Alberta and voter behavior almost always follows the same predictable pattern regardless of who’s running for office.
      Getting Albertan’s to for anything but a Conservative government would be a nothing short of a miracle. And I rather doubt, that after this boneheaded stunt by Junior, that the Liberals will ever be returned to sit at the seat of power in my lifetime.

    • Well at least you have dropped the line that Trudeau is only being open because he would get caught in a lie…

      What you say certainly applies to Harper, who rode the white horse of accountability into the PMO and then quickly forgot everything he promised. In retrospect that should have been obvious since he was not open and accountable before he won the election. The contrast between the two is obvious – Trudeau is living the promise NOW, not telling us to vote for him and he will be more open in the future.

      OF course he cannot divulge national security secrets, and he is not saying he is going to tell us everything about everything, but he also knows what is making people angry in this country – being openly lied to, and seeing the lies continue even after they are exposed.

      What he needs to do is show the contrast between a Trudeau government and a Harper government. He is doing that.