'The Hypocrite': How readers describe Justin Trudeau—and Andrew Scheer

Letters to the editor, April 17, 2019: Readers weigh in on the drama of the SNC-Lavalin affair, the sorrow in Humboldt, and the certain fate of Rachel Notley

Senior writer Paul Wells wrote April’s cover story on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mishandling of the SNC-Lavalin scandal. The cover and the story both caused a stir among readers.

Your April issue cover featuring Justin Trudeau “The Imposter” was no doubt a big draw on newsstands, but unfortunately it ventured into the territory of personal denigration. We don’t want that in Canada; we’ve seen how it has poisoned politics in the U.S. Whatever the issue, whatever the rights or wrongs, please keep the conversation civil rather than inflammatory. Page 20 of that same issue contains a pertinent comment from your interview guest, Canadian ambassador to the U.S. David MacNaughton: “It’s about the tone of public discourse these days. We’ve got to figure out how we can be more civil to each other, because we can’t afford to drive good people out of public life.”
—Mary Greiner, Deep River, Ont.

“The Imposter” is the wrong title for the April cover story; it should be “The Hypocrite.” Merriam-Webster defines imposter as “one that assumes false identity or title for the purpose of deception” and hypocrite as “a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion” or as “a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.” When Canada proclaims to China that we can’t interfere with the arrest of a Huawei executive, but interferes with criminal proceedings on behalf of SNC-Lavalin, that’s hypocrisy. When the government interferes in justice to SNC for the stated purpose of saving jobs, but forces the cancellation of an oil pipeline by changing the rules, killing thousands more jobs, that’s hypocrisy. To ban tanker traffic for the Pacific but allow them up the St. Lawrence is nothing but hypocrisy. The word hypocrite ultimately came into English from the Greek word hypokrites, which means “an actor” or “a stage player.” Seems like an appropriate descriptor for Justin Trudeau in more ways than one.
—Paul Gagnon, Calgary

Shame on you! Justin Trudeau has done and will do more for women and Indigenous equality than any other leader. Yes, there was pressure on Jody Wilson-Raybould to revisit her portfolio, but as Gerald Butts and others have pointed out, it was not unreasonable. No laws were broken, and no other prime minister has given his caucus such freedom to speak and not just parrot speaking points. How quickly we forget Stephen Harper’s party of one! Mr. Trudeau has had to deal with a crazy U.S. president and international democracies tumbling, and many Canadian Indigenous nations all wanting something different. Look around the world and be grateful for the governance we enjoy. Could you please focus on the great things that have happened in the past three years and have some compassion for the enormity of challenges to governing in these crazy times? As people clamour to take down Mr. Trudeau, I remind you all to be careful what you wish for.
—Doreen McRitchie, Guelph, Ont.

Never have I read a more damning article on any political party than Paul Wells’, which is warranted. Canadians and Justin Trudeau were duped by the Back Room Club. The Liberals convinced almost the entire country that the young rock star was the answer to everyone’s dreams. They pushed Trudeau into a position for which he was ill-prepared. Having not even managed a work crew at the local coffee shop, he was made chief operating officer of the biggest, most complicated corporation in Canada. No other organization, anywhere, would have done this and not expect failures; only the Back Room Club.
—Brian Mellor, Picton, Ont.

You have had your go at Justin Trudeau, so how about the next cover being Andrew Scheer with the title, “The Hypocrite?”
—Dianne Powell, Wentworth Station, N.S.

At the height of the SNC-Lavalin scandal’s drama in Ottawa, bureau chief John Geddes profiled the rise and fall—in Liberal ranks, anyway‚of Jody Wilson-Raybould, a core member of Trudeau’s team in 2015 who suddenly found herself on the outside looking in.

I was absolutely transfixed by Jody Wilson-Raybould’s testimony. What a woman of integrity and courage! The moment her decision not to overrule the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision on SNC-Lavalin was made public, it made all of the attempts to pressure her into changing her mind into attempts to politically interfere in the judicial process of a case currently before the courts. They might as well have told her to call a judge. She didn’t resign; she held her ground to make sure the law was respected. I worked for Joan Smith, solicitor general for Ontario in the David Peterson government, and Joan used to tell us that if ministers resign just because they don’t agree with a policy, they lose the chance to have any influence on the final outcome. I thought of that as I watched the testimony. It’s not a sign of integrity to cut and run when a principle you believe in is under attack. You show integrity by staying and fighting the good fight in the face of strong opposition, and that’s what Wilson-Raybould did and continues to do. That the PMO was tired of talking about legalities says so much about them, and none of it good. The fact that the PM ultimately fired her as attorney general and minister of justice proves positively that they were pressuring her, tacitly threatening her. She was right to feel that a Saturday Night Massacre was the inevitable denouement. It disappoints me that several women ministers have said they’ve never been subjected to this kind of pressure, but they’re being watched by the PMO and expected to toe the line. Ultimately, they must know that if Quebec’s sacred cows are threatened in their areas of responsibilities, they too will feel the pressure from the MP for Papineau and his lackeys to do what’s politically expedient, not what’s right.
—Doreen O’Brien, London, Ont.

As Wilson-Raybould faced heavy scrutiny from critics in her own party, senior writer Anne Kingston wondered just how many times the former attorney general was supposed to say no to pressure from powerful players who hoped SNC-Lavalin would earn a deferred prosecution agreement.

I take issue with Anne Kingston’s framing of the SNC-Lavalin affair as yet another Me Too situation. Yes, Wilson-Raybould is a “she” and those “pressuring” her were not just one “he” but, as Kingston points out, a “he, he, he.” The comparison ends there, however. Though her gender and Aboriginal roots, in addition to her high qualifications, may have figured into her appointment as attorney general, once in the job they should no longer have been part of the equation. Wilson-Raybould was not, as is widely contended, asked to break the law, but to use her expertise as the top lawyer in the country to find some way within the framework of the law to bring about a positive outcome. She took her positions early and adamantly refused to change them even though “pressured” to do so. Some view this as a noble decision based solely on her desire to protect the sanctity of the law. Others contend that there was legally some room to manoeuvre, and her refusal to do so was more personal in that she felt her job was being interfered with. Whatever her reason for saying no and refusing to budge, it in no way compares to the situation of a woman trying to fend off unwanted sexual advances in which there is no room to manoeuvre. Making such a comparison diminishes the importance of the Me Too issues. Additionally, it does a disservice to women seeking high office and especially those in positions of high pressure.
—Dr. Margaret R. Oulton, Halifax

A year after tragedy struck Humboldt’s hockey team, associate editor Aaron Hutchins revisited the city—and found its people now, after having watched the nation grieve for them, hoping for a moment to breathe.

Your article about recovery from the Humboldt tragedy details how gradually, over time and with the help of family, friends and others, you begin putting the shattered pieces of your life back together. Unfortunately, there is no formula for how to comprehend and respond to an event as devastating as the one that happened to the Humboldt Broncos. What I do know as a result of going through my own critical incident is that you go on an extended roller coaster ride. Where you end up on this ride often reflects what you learn and resolve along the way. When you try to put the pieces back into a coherent whole, you will discover that some of the pieces have changed and some simply no longer exist. As Canadians, let’s continue to hope and pray that the survivors of this tragedy find their way on a journey that no one is ever prepared for.
—Mac Horsburgh, Winnipeg

Maclean’s contributor Patricia Treble detailed the life and times of Princess Patricia, whose uncommon approach to royal life was decades ahead of its time.

Thank you greatly for the excellent and detailed look at Princess Patricia by Patricia Treble. For 60 years, the princess was the namesake for one of Canada’s great infantry regiments, and was its first colonel-in-chief. But thankfully, the storyline does not end there. Two other fine and powerful women have carried this role since, both equally adept at the job. Lady Patricia helped ensure that she would be followed by her niece, then Patricia Knatchbull, who—after her father, Louis Mountbatten, was killed by the IRA in 1979—became the 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma. This colonel-in-chief was also known as Lady Patricia to the regiment, and served very actively for 33 years, visiting the soldiers of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry across Canada and in the U.K., Cyprus and the former Yugoslavia. When the second Lady Patricia became unable to continue her duties, she helped arrange with her cousin HRH Queen Elizabeth, and at the request of the PPCLI, that for the first time in Canadian history a Canadian woman be appointed colonel-in-chief of a Canadian regular regiment. Former governor general Adrienne Clarkson eagerly accepted and became the third colonel-in-chief in 2007; she has already served beyond her first decade with devotion and energy. She had gotten to know the regiment when she was commander-in-chief, and her husband was the son of a Patricia officer. Thus, the pattern of devotion and high quality of service established by the original Patricia did not die with her, but has been carried forward these 105 years of the regiment’s service to Canada by two other outstanding women.
—Vince Kennedy, brigadier-general (retired), Colonel of the Regiment, PPCLI, Brockville, Ont.

Alberta correspondent Jason Markusoff wrote about the plight of Rachel Notley, a premier whose New Democratic Party isn’t known for standing up for the oil patch—but which did, under her watch. Markusoff predicted she’d get the boot, anyway—which happened on April 16 when Jason Kenney’s UCP toppled the NDP.

The author of this article must be dreaming in Technicolor, as we used to say before the digital age. What we Albertans will remember about Rachel Notley are her cozying up to Trudeau, the green energy tax, which is hitting all of us hard in the pocketbook, and her deer-in-the-headlights reaction to the pipeline cancellation. But I will grant her this: she has obviously had an epiphany given the coming election. But that is basically nothing, and way too late. She recently announced with much fanfare that a new plant was being built in Redwater, Alta. The only reporter who bothered to check found an empty field. And, I would note, it wasn’t Jason Markusoff up there surveying the empty field. If Markusoff calls that “fighting like hell,” I suspect the only kind of fight he has seen is the sorority sisters having a pillow fight.
—Ed Andrews, Sherwood Park, Alta.


Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.