From Shaman’s Rock
By Jim Poling Sr.
It’s disturbing to see how intelligent people who get close to Justin Trudeau get burned.
The latest scorched victim is David Johnston, the former governor general who Trudeau appointed his special rapporteur on claims that China has interfered in our federal elections. He resigned that position last Friday citing “the highly partisan atmosphere” surrounding his appointment and his work.
Johnston is a prominent Canadian with an outstanding career in public service, particularly in the field of education. He has been the dean of the University of Western Ontario law school, principal of McGill University and has held other positions in other universities.
He was appointed governor general in 2010 on the recommendation of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and served until 2017.
He’s now another of the dedicated, intelligent people who joined the Trudeau team then found themselves cast aside or in untenable positions that left them little choice but to resign.
Jody Wilson-Raybould quit Trudeau’s cabinet in 2019 during a scandal involving SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec-based engineering firm. The firm was accused of using bribes to win contracts in Libya.
There were reports that Trudeau’s office pressured Ms. Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the case against SNC-Lavalin. She was justice minister and attorney-general at the time, but was demoted to veterans affairs minister before she quit.
Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s principal secretary and friend, resigned too, saying it was important for the prime minister’s office and its work for him to step away.
So did Jane Philpott, Trudeau’s Treasury Board president, saying she had lost confidence in the government’s handling of the Lavalin affair.
Then a year of so later Finance Minister Bill Morneau quit Trudeau during the scandal involving WE Charity, a youth empowerment movement.
Trudeau’s government gave WE a $43-million contract. Critics said Trudeau should have recused himself from the contract discussions because members of his family were close to the charity and had taken money from it for making appearances and speeches.
Moreau also was close to the family that operated WE and socialized with them.
That’s a basketful of people burned while working with Trudeau, who has a documented history of loose ethics and conflicts of interest.
Now there’s David Johnston, an honorable man who should have declined Trudeau’s request to investigate reports of Chinese political interference. He is a friend of the Trudeau family and has longstanding personal and professional connections in China.
The opposition parties were bound to jump all over his appointment. They did, saying that as Trudeau’s friend, Johnson had a conflict of interest in investigating Chinese interference and whether the Trudeau government did anything to stop it.
They also noted that a Chinese company donated $140,000 to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, a charity with which Johnston was associated. The foundation later gave the money back.
Two days before Johnston resigned, the House of Commons passed a New Democratic Party resolution calling on Trudeau to replace Johnston and urgently establish a public inquiry into Chinese political interference.
Johnston said he respected the right of MPs to express their opinion but refused to resign, then did so two days later.
You have to feel sorry for David Johnston, who did what he has always done: accepted a job in which he could fulfill a duty to serve his country. Wrong job. Wrong time. Wrong person to go to work for.
The affair has left Johnston’s sterling reputation badly tarnished. Recent polling shows that only one in four Canadians have faith in his credibility and impartiality.
Almost 70 per cent of Canadians polled said they are concerned about China’s meddling in their electoral affairs. Yet only 28 per cent of respondents said the Trudeau government’s handling of the issue has been good or very good.
Trudeau could have appointed any number of other qualified and independent individuals to report on China’s political interference and avoided what has turned into yet another Trudeau government mess. But Trudeau is an elitist who lives in a rarified world far outside the common world the rest of us occupy.
What is especially sad is the increasing number of smart, effective people who get burned when drawn into that Trudeau world.