The more things change ...

National Post (National Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - CHRISTIE BLATCH­FORD Com­ment from Van­cou­ver

Nat­u­ral cyn­i­cism aside, elec­tions are ridicu­lously ex­cit­ing for the par­tic­i­pants and those, like me, watch­ing them.

Thus when Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau poked his hand­some head into the press sec­tion of his plane Wed­nes­day on day one of the fed­eral cam­paign and of­fered a cheery “Hello ink-stained wretches!” it was hard not to feel just a lit­tle charmed.

There we were, wretches all, on the PM’s char­ter, leav­ing Ottawa and head­ing to Van­cou­ver, fly­ing half­way across this gor­geous and largely empty coun­try.

All Cana­di­ans are privileged to live in this place — a democracy where you don’t get shot for dar­ing to line up to cast your bal­lot, where the vote is free and fair if not per­fect.

Where trees still out­num­ber peo­ple (which in my books is per­fect) and where it must be granted that al­most all Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans start off, how­ever they may end up, want­ing God for­bid to Do Good.

But none are luck­ier than the wretches of the press corps, get­ting to see it all close up — close-ish any­way — on the dwin­dling dimes of our com­pa­nies.

It is worth not­ing that this was our sole glimpse of Trudeau on the plane.

Some had seen him at Rideau Hall ear­lier, where the cam­paign was kicked off and where he was bom­barded with questions about the lat­est in the still-sim­mer­ing SNC-Lavalin af­fair.

The Globe and Mail re­ported late Tues­day that the Lib­er­als are stalling the RCMP in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether he and oth­ers pos­si­bly ob­structed jus­tice by refusing to waive cab­i­net con­fi­dence for nine wit­nesses Ethics Com­mis­sioner Mario Dion wanted to fully ques­tion in his probe.

Globe sources say that the Moun­ties have been sim­i­larly de­nied; Trudeau’s re­sponse was one of his two stan­dard mantras he has is­sued through­out the SNC mess.

He said his govern­ment gave the broad­est waiver of cab­i­net con­fi­dences in Cana­dian his­tory, which may be true but didn’t amount to the full waiver Dion (and pre­sum­ably the RCMP) sought.

The other mantra of course was, “I will al­ways stand up for Cana­dian jobs”. He said this so of­ten it ap­peared if asked about the weather, he surely would say the same thing.

The Polls show the Lib­er­als have largely bounced back from the SNC un­pleas­ant­ness — and the RCMP probe, as per the force’s cus­tom, is on hold dur­ing the cam­paign — which seems to me the first Justin mir­a­cle of the new age.

Prose­cu­to­rial in­de­pen­dence and an independen­t ju­di­ciary, which is what SNC-Lavalin is all about re­ally, are the cor­ner­stones of the vi­brant democracy.

As the ethics boss’s probe showed, Trudeau and PMO staffers and at least one of his se­nior min­is­ters (Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau) and the for­mer clerk of the privy coun­cil Michael Wer­nick all leaned shame­lessly on for­mer At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould in an at­tempt to get her to find a way to cut SNC the deal it badly wanted.

Wil­son-Ray­bould stiff­ened her spine and refused.

She was in short or­der de­moted, then cut loose from the Lib­eral caucus and sat briefly and is now run­ning, as an independen­t.

The scan­dal also cost Trudeau for­mer Trea­sury Board pres­i­dent Jane Philpott, who quit be­cause she be­lieved peo­ple de­served the whole truth. She too is now run­ning as an independen­t.

The Globe story, inshallah, may have given new life to SNC and the govern­ment’s han­dling of it, but it should al­ways have been a key cam­paign is­sue for Trudeau. How of­ten does a prime min­is­ter get caught and called out for at­tempt­ing to mess with a pros­e­cu­tor’s de­ci­sion (and broke the law in the process) and an AG who stub­bornly backed her?

Not to men­tion, of course, the way the PM and PMO kept in­vok­ing the names of for­mer Supreme Court judges as those who just might be avail­able to of­fer learned guid­ance as to why Wil­son-Ray­bould should over­turn her chief pros­e­cu­tor’s de­ci­sion.

Trudeau and his peo­ple dirt­ied the whole she­bang, and it’s not some ar­cane is­sue of law, ei­ther.

The sec­ond is­sue that ought to be high on the cam­paign list, and not just for Trudeau, is Que­bec’s aw­ful Bill 21, which means pub­lic ser­vants aren’t al­lowed to wear items of re­li­gious sig­nif­i­cance (kip­pas, hi­jabs, tur­bans, veils, etc.).

Why is the PM — and the other party lead­ers — not force­fully de­nounc­ing this dread­ful law? It may be that be­cause the Que­bec pre­mier has in­voked the notwith­stand­ing clause, there is lit­tle chance of the fed­eral govern­ment suc­cess­fully chal­leng­ing the bill in court, but that is lit­tle rea­son not to shout from the rooftops at its in­her­ent racism and un­fair­ness.

In the press goody bag on the Lib­eral tour — we pay $5,500 a week to travel with the PM so it’s no free­bie — are a Lib­eral red blan­ket, a wa­ter bot­tle (as if the young re­porters don’t travel with their own eco-friendly ones), and a Lib­eral red note­book.

I would have in­cluded a Lib­eral red hi­jab for the women and a kippa for the men, so we could all pro­claim our sol­i­dar­ity with the op­pressed in Que­bec.

Who am I kidding? That bill is enor­mously pop­u­lar with Quebecers.

Thus, in the end, the PM — af­ter all, as he re­minded Wil­son-Ray­bould at one of the meet­ings-cum-spank­ings he had with her, “I am an MP from Que­bec, the mem­ber for Pap­ineau” — has the same rea­son for not rail­ing at Bill 21 as he had for work­ing in the in­ter­ests of SNC, a Mon­treal-based com­pany. Que­bec Que­bec Que­bec: It’s al­ways about de­fer­ring to Que­bec.

PA­TRICK DOYLE / REUTERS

Lib­eral Leader Justin Trudeau speaks at a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day at Rideau Hall af­ter ask­ing Gov. Gen. Julie Payette to dis­solve Par­lia­ment and mark the start of the fed­eral election cam­paign.

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