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Trudeau missed the mark on this one

David Johnston not the person for the job, evidenced by public angst and political thrust

Monday May 29, 2023 | NATIONAL [Updated May 30, 2023]

Editorial insights by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends

May 31, 2023: House of Commons has voted in favour of NDP motion asking for a public inquiry (click here for Editorial)

Unfortunately for the time and resources spent and the damage being caused to the perception that Canadians have about the state of their democracy, the Liberal government’s exercise of appointing a ‘special rapporteur’ to try and smooth things over has stumbled badly.

Most surprisingly, it raises evidence of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau displaying an out-of-step assessment of how to take right-steps forward.

Trudeau appears to have been relying on the good character of a former governor general to carry much of the weight of his decision not to call a public inquiry. There seems to have been a shortfall in taking the temperature of the broader political picture on this issue, and more notably how the Canadian psyche has shifted to needing more than good character to carry the weight of something as important as hoping to protect the proper functioning of national security.

justin trudeau, mendicino, blair
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the findings of special rapporteur David Johnston in saying there should not be a public inquiry into foreign interference, May 23, 2023. [web]

Rejection by Canadians, ball carried by opposition leaders:

The degree to which Canadians have rejected the delivery mechanism (special rapporteur) of handling the exploration of government taking action to look into foreign interference, should be a red flag to Trudeau that the temperament of Canadian society is changing.

A carte blanche trust of someone who’s done well at one or other levels of service is no longer enough to satisfy reapplication of that person to another job or set of tasks.

The Peter Principle:

In the business world there was a phrase coined decades ago called ‘The Peter Principle’ (in 1968 by Laurence J. Peter) which highlighted how people move up the ranks of the corporate or governance ladder only to eventually be appointed to or hired at a level that is beyond their skill set.

the peter principle
The Peter Principle: promotion based on past success, to the point where reputation surpassed skill set.

It’s more about being promoted as evidence that a standard has been met rather than a clear-eyed view as to whether the acquired skill set is applicable to the next level of responsibility or performance.

In a business context, it’s seen as when a company or organization that relies too heavily on sales as a criterion for promotion pays twice for the mistake.

NDP motion asking that special rapporteur step aside:

Last week the federal NDP tabled a motion calling for Johnston to step aside as special rapporteur investigating foreign interference in Canadian affairs. Today NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the motion (first tabled on May 25 by NDP MP Rachel Blaney) will be debated tomorrow in the House.

david johnston, jagmeet singh
Former Governor General David Johnston (presenting his report on May 23, 2023) and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on May 29, 2023. [composite]

Given a “clear apprehension and bias” at this point which is “eroding the work” of the special rapporteur, the NDP is going to be asking Mr Johnston to step aside. Singh emphasized this is not about criticizing Johnston as a person but is due to a “mounting appearance of bias”.

Calling for a public inquiry is “the only path to re-instill confidence in our electoral system”, said Singh.

The NDP motion is offering a gracious way out for the former governor general and an escape hatch for the prime minister.

alistair macgregor, mp

Opposition criticism:

When the position of special rapporteur was first announced, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilivre mocked the title of the assignment. And when Johnston was named to the role, the Conservative position was that Johnston could not avoid bias or compromise.

Johnston and his wife were family friends of the Trudeaus, going back decades including Justin’s father then-Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

In a way it’s ‘guilty by association’ without perhaps any basis in fact (as Johnston tried to point out on May 23, but without the skills of a political wizard delivered his explanation in a clunky unconvincing manner).

dumont, summer, vehicle

Johnston is to be commended for accepting what in most ways would be a thankless task, but perhaps he might have had the fortitude to say no. That he did not decline the assignment may have been the first indication of bias (or blind allegiance), perceived or otherwise.

“Given the clear apprehension of bias at this point, we’re going to be asking for Mr. Johnston to step aside as special rapporteur,” said Singh in Ottawa today.

Singh said it’s clear there is a “mounting appearance of bias” with Johnston, so much so that it “erodes the work that the special rapporteur can do”.

In his report and recommendations delivered May 23, Johnston recommended against an inquiry despite acknowledging “significant gaps” and “many questions either unasked or unanswered” in his report. Instead he recommended a series of public hearings.

Public inquiry still requested:

changemakers, june 2023, event

As it now stands, all opposition parties are still calling for a public inquiry, saying there are unanswered questions in Johnston’s report, as well as continued reports into the extent of Chinese interference.

Both the Conservative leader as well as Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet declined the offer to review the secret information that was in part the content of the leak from CSIS which started the unfolding of this entire episode. Blanchet described that offer as a trap… they would see the information and then not be able to discuss it publicly.

Today NDP MP Jenny Kwan (who’s been told by CSIS that she has been and will continue to be “a target of foreign interference”) stated that “the federal government’s actions are not enough” and that “Mr David Johnston, the Special Raaporteur appointed by the Prime Minister, does not enjoy the full confidence of the House of Commons”.

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Island Social Trends (and the previous publications MapleLine Magazine 2008-2010, Sooke Voice News 2011-2013, and West Shore Voice News 2014-2020) delivers socioeconomic news insights about life on the west shore of south Vancouver Island. All news is posted at IslandSocialTrends.ca

Through these past 15 years Editor Mary P Brooke has been penning editorials that shed light in ways that provide leadership in sociopolitical understanding as well as the how journalism is faring amidst the landscape of the digital media onslaught.

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