National Post (Latest Edition)

There are few signs PM learns from mistakes

- John ivison in Ottawa

‘I REGRET IT ... WE ALL HAVE WORK TO DO AND I ASSUME MY RESPONSIBI­LITY TO DO BETTER IN THE FUTURE.’

prime Minister Justin trudeau

Justin Trudeau’s recognitio­n that he was “in error” when he chose to travel to a beach holiday on the first National Truth and Reconcilia­tion Day rekindles doubts about the prime minister’s judgment that have dogged him his entire political career.

Rather than attend an event in British Columbia to honour victims and survivors of residentia­l schools, Trudeau and his family headed to the surfer’s paradise of Tofino, to stay in an $18-million beachfront rental. Tk’emlups te Secwepemc chief Rosanne Casimir criticized Trudeau for ignoring her invitation to spend the day in Kamloops, where the unmarked graves of children who died at residentia­l schools were found earlier this year.

The prime minister addressed the issue for the first time at a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday, saying that travelling on September 30 was a mistake.

“I regret it,” he said. “The first National Day of Truth and Reconcilia­tion was a time for Indigenous people and non-indigenous people alike to reflect and connect, to think about the past and also focus on the future…. we all have work to do and I assume my responsibi­lity to do better in the future.”

We have been hearing these expression­s of contrition for a decade.

Trudeau is 50 on Christmas Day, a landmark in the maturation of any man or woman. Maturity is earned by being better than you used to be, making better decisions. But there are few signs that the prime minister has learned from his mistakes.

Quite apart from the numerous occasions when he has expressed contrition for historical grievances, often for political gain, how many times has he begged forgivenes­s for transgress­ions that would probably have seen him fired in the private sector?

A random selection of his greatest mis-hits support the suggestion of former colleague Andrew Coyne that Trudeau’s is a “cluttered and undiscipli­ned mind.”

That observatio­n followed his musing as the new leader of the Liberal Party that he held “a level of admiration for China because of their basic dictatorsh­ip.”

As leader, he worked hard to erase his wealthy dilettante image and displayed a rigour and restraint in his public engagement­s. But down the years he has made some inexplicab­le choices.

As a rookie leader, he was faced with revelation­s that he had charged a charity $20,000 for a speaking engagement, a lucrative sideline he employed to augment his MP’S salary (documents show he earned $450,000 in speaking fees in 2011).

In 2016, he was forced to apologize for elbowing NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau on the floor of the House of Commons, after an altercatio­n with opposition members. “I’m looking to make amends,” he said, one of the few times his expression of regret sounded as if it came from the heart.

The following year, he was obliged to apologize after a report by the Ethics Commission­er said he was in breach of conflict of interest rules for accepting a helicopter ride to the Aga Khan’s private island.

In 2019, another Ethics Commission­er concluded he improperly pressured Attorney General, Jody Wilson-raybould, to interfere in the criminal prosecutio­n of SNC Lavalin. On this occasion, he said he accepted the Ethics Commission­er Mario Dion’s findings but stopped short of apologizin­g. “I continue to say there was no inappropri­ate pressure,” he said.

A year later, he said sorry for not recusing himself from cabinet discussion­s about awarding WE Charity a multi-million-dollar contract to administer the summer student grants program. WE had paid Trudeau’s mother and brother $300,000 for various speaking engagement­s.

This list is far from exhaustive — it doesn’t include the thinking behind the sherwanis and bhangra dancing on his trip to India in 2018; his conclusion that Fidel Castro was “a larger than life leader, a legendary revolution­ary and orator”; or his decision to don blackface on multiple occasions.

There may have been family pressures at play in a couple of instances, including the Tofino beach holiday.

But a more holistic explanatio­n is that this is a man so convinced of his own righteousn­ess that he discounts lapses in own behaviour and judgment.

To this point, enough Canadians have given Trudeau the benefit of the doubt to enable him to get re-elected.

Despite everything, there is still an affinity for him not awarded to other politician­s — I speak as someone who watched him wade into enthusiast­ic crowds from coast-to-coast during the campaign (although there were noisy, hostile exceptions).

But Trudeau is always a miscue away from looking out of touch. Nothing screams that quite as loudly as the juxtaposit­ion of the grim commemorat­ive powwow in Kamloops and the opulent beach holiday in Tofino.

There remains something to his friend Gerald Butts’ assertion that “people want Justin to do well.” But there are limits for any politician — and Trudeau must be close to testing them.

 ?? SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS ?? Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at his Ottawa news conference on Wednesday.
SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at his Ottawa news conference on Wednesday.
 ?? DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES ?? Tk’emlups te Secwepemc chief Rosanne Casimir, second from left, plays a drum during a ceremony to mark the first National Day for Truth and
Reconcilia­tion, in Kamloops, B.C. Casimir criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for taking a beach holiday rather than attending.
DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Tk’emlups te Secwepemc chief Rosanne Casimir, second from left, plays a drum during a ceremony to mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconcilia­tion, in Kamloops, B.C. Casimir criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for taking a beach holiday rather than attending.

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