Justin Trudeau’s golden boy image tarnished by alleged scandal – Paris Gourtsoyannis

How suddenly political reputations can crumble when they’re built on shaky foundations. Justin Trudeau, unchallenged as the golden boy of Western liberalism while other leaders faltered, is seeing his collapse as Canadian elections loom.

Justin Trudeau is facing accusations familiar to those who know Canadian politics (Picture: Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty)
Justin Trudeau is facing accusations familiar to those who know Canadian politics (Picture: Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty)

The disappointment will be worse because of the gulf between the image he projected and the reality now emerging. Trudeau came to office promising a new era of transparency and integrity.

His predecessor, the Conservative Stephen Harper, was accused of being arrogant and aloof, proroguing parliament to avoid tough questions and muzzling scientists who disagreed with official policy.

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In fact, despite a reputation for being respectable and a bit dull – a fellow journalist once told me he could never work there because “there isn’t any news” – a rich vein of scandal runs through Canadian politics.

The last two Prime Minsiters from Trudeau’s Liberal Party became tangled in accusations of cronyism and patronage involving public funds funneled to friendly operatives, and Harper’s Tory predecessor was drawn into an investigation over alleged kickbacks from a lobbyist. Canadians don’t just shovel the drive and hold doors open for one another.

The most damaging thing is how familiar the apparent scandal now enveloping Trudeau sounds.

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A major Montreal-based engineering firm, SNC-Lavalin, faced corruption charges that could see it barred from public sector work.

Behind the scenes, it lobbied for a change to the criminal code allowing corporations to avoid trial by agreeing to out-of-court fines. But the Justice Department of then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould rejected a deal.

She now alleges that members of Trudeau’s circle put pressure on her, with a provincial election looming and the Liberal administration in Quebec languishing in the polls.

Fighting for equality is also a big part of Trudeau’s brand: his first act as Prime Minister was appointing a gender-balanced cabinet “because it’s 2015”. Now it’s 2019 and testimony from Wilson-Raybould, an indigenous woman, suggests the old-boys’ network and crony culture still survives.