Liberal leader Trudeau on accountability, senate reform, constitution

Julian Wolfe
June 4th, 2013

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau told the Federation of Canadian Municipalities yesterday in Vancouver, the only way to restore public trust in public officials is to “raise the bar” on accountability. He also told the audience he is not in favour of the status quo in the senate and explained his stance on opening the constitution. Trudeau announced plans to announce new transparency measures in the near future.

“We will be coming out shortly with a way to open up and be more transparent about all our expenses in a way that will restore Canadians’ confidence and trust in holders of public office. We certainly will offer a level of transparency that hasn’t been seen before,” Trudeau said.

While avoiding specifics, one of the measures that wasn’t ruled out was posting Liberal MP’s expenses online. Trudeau pointed to his own actions, releasing his personal finances during the Liberal leadership race, as an example of measures he has already taken, measures that go well and beyond what MPs are required to do.

Trudeau has already taken steps required from cabinet ministers, placing his inherited stocks and bonds into a blind trust.

“During my leadership I raised the bar on transparency and accountability… and I intend to raise the bar again in my leadership as Liberal leader,” Trudeau told reporters.

Trudeau charged that Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who won his campaign due to accountability promises in 2006, showed an ethical lapse “when he allowed his chief of staff to pay a sitting legislator to obstruct and avoid the negative outcomes of an audit.”

Trudeau also took the chance to fire back at criticisms about his Quebec statements, and Conservative charges made by MPs and Senate leader Marjory LeBreton which claimed he supported the status quo.

Trudeau, who supports senate reform, was taking issue on the NDP’s stance to abolish the senate, indicating the move would hurt its new-found Quebec base who hold disproportionately more seats than any other province. Within this context, Trudeau said, “It’s to our advantage. Abolishing it, this is demagoguery,” leading to NDP and Conservative attacks claiming he supported the status quo.

However, Trudeau said he was taken out of context and not all of his statement was reported. “I also said that — and this was not reported — nobody who has watched the goings on in the Senate over the past year could possibly support the status quo.”

Trudeau responded saying anyone “preaching wholesale Senate reform” is pandering as “After all they know, or ought to know, that major reforms like creating an elected Senate, or abolishing it outright, would require protracted Constitutional discussions with the provinces.”

Trudeau went on to speak about the constitution where he mocks recent attacks on him saying “the third thing I said was widely reported and it leads to a confession. It is a deep dark secret. One that, apparently, my political opponents think they can use against me.”

“I am a Quebecer. When I am in the presence of other Quebecers, I will often use the pronoun “we”. But what I said then was a statement of fact. Quebec has 24 Senate seats to Alberta’s six. That is to Quebec’s advantage. And Ontario’s I might add. That is not my opinion. It’s a statement of Constitutional fact.,” Trudeau said.

“So, it stands to reason that abolishing the Senate would disadvantage the East, just as electing and therefore empowering the current Senate would disadvantage the West.”

Trudeau said reopening the constitution would “disadvantage everybody” as “We would have a fruitless round of negotiations that would end in acrimony, and distract from the very real challenges our country faces.”

The Conservatives meanwhile await a Supreme Court ruling over its powers in reforming or abolishing the senate. Harper’s Facebook page meanwhile said “our Senate as it stands today, must either change or be abolished” last Tuesday.

With The Duffy Affair still lingering and shattering the Conservative record on accountability, Trudeau is taking a strong stance while his opponents await to attack him and his Liberal Party that is ahead in the polls. What do you think of Justin Trudeau’s positions on accountability, senate reform and the constitution? Do you agree with him?

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