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A Liberal Conflict of Interest: It Isn’t the Ethics That Really Matter

The problem with conflicts of interest is that it’s always about the other guy.

Imagine what would have followed if Stephen Harper had attended a fundraising dinner with Chinese-Canadian businessmen in 2015 just as one of them was in midst of applying for a Canadian banking licence.

The Liberals would have hit the roof, accusing the Conservatives of employing “pay for play” partisan fundraising tactics, breaching conflict of interest rules, etc.

But now that they’re in power, the Liberals don’t seem to get how malodorous their own actions seem. After the Globe and Mail reported this week on Justin Trudeau’s attendance at a $1,500-a-ticket fundraising event at the Toronto home of Benson Wong, a leading Chinese-Canadian businessman, the prime minister went on about how he was simply trying to attract foreign investment and how no rules had been broken.

It turns out that one of the businessmen attending the fundraiser was Shenglin Xian, who was awaiting final approval from federal authorities to launch a Schedule 1 bank, Wealth One. Final approval came from the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions in July.  (excerpt from the article in entitled “why are Liberals so utterly clueless about pay for play?”  24 Nov. 2016

This is politics. Politics is amoral. Expediency rules. Politicians, by circumstance, are forced to make personal compromises of all kinds. It doesn’t matter who is ‘the flavour of the month,’ on any particular issue. It is easy to be ‘caught out,’ and nearly impossible to avoid the fire from time to time.

Trudeau is an earnest, honest, affable individual confronted by the amoral nature of the game of politics. He can change or adjust, as many politicians do, or he can leave as others do, but he can’t change the game or the way it is played. It is nasty and it takes a strong, malleable character to survive for many years on the Hill.

Voters expect high ethics in a place where expediency, compromise, and a backroom deal are the norm. Personal values are largely irrelevant for survival. This is a test for him. Can he talk his way out of the corner in which he finds himself?

The really good people, the kind of people too many of us think politicians are, leave politics rather than accommodate themselves to the amoral nature of the game. It isn’t their fault. They seek election believing that they can make a difference. Surely nobody can doubt that Trudeau was one of these positive, ambitious, young people motivated by high ideals but politics isn’t focused on high ideals; maybe it should be, but it isn’t.

Politics is the unrelenting, unbridled pursuit of power. The Opposition can smell embarrassment, at least, or wrongdoing that might punch a hole in Justin’s ‘pure’ image and lead to a change of government in the next election. The right or wrong isn’t driving the Opposition parties; it’s the smell of ‘win and lose’ that has put the bit in their teeth.

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Professional. Retired. Canadian.

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