If elections were held today, the Grits would likely romp to victory, according to a recent poll. We would then be faced with the scary prospect of drama teacher Justin Trudeau hamming it up in the role of the next Prime Minister of Canada.
Only reflected glory has brought him to office. Becoming leader of the Liberal Party has done nothing to stop him from committing gaffes. For example, he attributed terrorist activity to "root causes." That surely pleased a lot of disenchanted Islamist radicals who must have seen him as a "useful idiot" who bought into their manufactured complaints of injustices.
Many Quebecers would rejoice at Trudeau's election. Here's a politician who can appear to understand their grievances well enough to identify with them better than with Canadians as a whole. He recently commented to a Quebec newspaper that keeping the troubled senate is a good idea because it would benefit Quebec (Quebec and Ontario are both allocated 24 senators).
The rookie politician could offer only inanities to deflect criticism of this stance. "The status quo...has certain advantages for the East in...sheer numerical value and that's not a statement of opinion," he said. "That's a statement of fact of what's in the Constitution."
His defence of this blunder continues to miss the point and just piles absurdity on absurdity. He stands by what he said because the senate does indeed benefit Quebec. That is not the issue. No one even challenges that Quebec benefits from its proportional representation in the senate. The point the nation must confront is highlighted by the scandal around Mike Duffy's senate expenses: How can the very existence of the senate be justified? The distribution of senator numbers is irrelevant to this issue.
He should have spoken about the issues surrounding the Mike Duffy scandal. Instead he chose to make a comment that only further confirms the view that Trudeau, no matter how charismatic some may consider him, is not fit to be Prime Minster of a developed and influential country like ours.
Justin Trudeau does not even appear to understand why he was criticized for his remarks. In his defence he argues that indeed Quebec has 24 seats. He stresses that this is a fact, not an opinion. But why bring it up?
It is Trudeau's undue focus on it that is troubling. Does he not understand this? Let's see how many more gaffes, distractions and inane ideas are in store for us from the new head of the Liberal party.
It is a scary prospect to see someone as disconnected from reality as Justin Trudeau strive for the highest office in the country. It also puts the current state of the Liberal Party in a dim light given that it apparently thinks electing someone like Trudeau is what is needed to get its image back on track.
Discerning voters can sometimes respect a politician with whom they disagree, as long as he or she can at least recognize the crux of an issue. In making statements and bringing up facts that are not apposite to the controversy surrounding the senate, Trudeau has shown how poorly he grasps the issues. There are many steps to statesmanship; Trudeau has yet to take his first one.
Pamela Wallin, at Tory senator from Saskatchewan, also found her expense claims under close scrutiny in Februrary when it was revealed <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/13/pamela-wallin-travel-expenses-harper_n_2680229.html" target="_blank">she billed taxpayers $142,190.26 for trips between March 1, 2011, and Feb. 29, 2012</a>. But only $10,551.99 of her expenses were related to travel between Ottawa and Saskatchewan, while the remaining $131,638.27 was filed under "Other." Questions were also raised about whether or not she satisfied the residency requirement needed to represent Saskatchewan in the Upper Chamber. Wallin split her time between Toronto and New York prior to being named a senator in 2008, but <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/08/senate-residency-pamela-wallin-duffy_n_2648325.html" target="_blank">does own a plot of land in the province and two properties with family members.</a> <em>With files from CP</em>
Patrick Brazeau first came under fire in December of 2012 amid reports he was using <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/08/patrick-brazeau-charges-sexual-assault_n_2643606.html?utm_hp_ref=patrick-brazeau" target="_blank">his former father-in-law's address </a>in Maniwaki, Que., to claim a Senate housing allowance, while actually living in Gatineau, just across the river from Parliament Hill. The Senate Board of Internal Economy subsequently asked an auditor to look at Brazeau's residency claims and expenses. In early February, Brazeau was arrested and charged with <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/08/patrick-brazeau-charges-sexual-assault_n_2643606.html?utm_hp_ref=patrick-brazeau" target="_blank">assault and sexual assault </a>after a heated argument with his girlfriend turned violent. The charges promptly got Brazeau turfed from the Conservative caucus. On February 12, Brazeau was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/12/canadians-growing-ever-we_n_2667332.html" target="_blank">suspended indefinitely </a>from the Upper Chamber. <em>With files from CP</em>
Conservative Mike Duffy also courted controversy over his housing allowance. The P.E.I. senator <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/22/mike-duffy-paying-back-money_n_2744800.html" target="_blank">claimed his cottage in Cavendish as his primary residence</a> and his long-time in home in Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa, as a secondary residence for which he collected $33,000 in living allowances he since 2010. While always maintaining he was entitled to the compensation, Duffy <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/22/mike-duffy-paying-back-money_n_2744800.html" target="_blank">vowed on February 22 to repay the money</a>. He blamed the entire issue on confusing and vague Senate paperwork. <em>With files from CP</em>
Pierre-Hughes Boisvenu, a Conservative senator from Quebec, came under fire in early March when it was revealed <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/03/pierre-hugues-boisvenu-senate_n_2803052.html?utm_hp_ref=pierre-boisvenu" target="_blank">he collected a housing allowance of $20,000 despite living little more than a drive across a bridge from Parliament.</a> Boisvenu claimed his primary residence was in Sherbrooke, but sources said he had been staying at his secondary residence in Gatineau since separating from his wife in February, 2012. Boisvenu was then forced to admit in March that he had been <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/26/pierre-boisvenu-affair_n_2957596.html" target="_blank">carrying on a relationship with an aide, Isabelle Lapointe</a>. The Senate ethics officer had told him last year that he couldn't have his girlfriend on the office payroll but Boisvenu ignored the warning for months. The two have since split up and Lapointe is now working elsewhere. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/26/pierre-boisvenu-affair_n_2957596.html" target="_blank">Boisvenu has repaid the $900 stipend he collected while living with Lapointe for three months near Ottawa.</a> <em>With files from CP</em>
Liberal senator Mac Harb also had his expenses audited after it was discovered that he claimed <a href="http://metronews.ca/news/canada/560000/senate-controversy-senator-mac-harbs-home-in-the-spotlight/" target="_blank">about $40,212 in living expenses for a secondary residence in Ottawa from Nov. 30, 2010 to Nov. 30, 2012</a>. Harb, a former Ottawa MP, claims his primary residence is <a href="http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/senator-harb-rarely-seen-in-area-he-calls-home-neighbours-1.1198184" target="_blank">a bungalow in the tiny village of Westmeath</a>, but neighbours claim that nobody lives there year-round and that it is basically a cottage.
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