No Sniffing at Liberal Diversity

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Convivium, 4 April 2019

Father Raymond de Souza’s diverse Small Talk roundup of news, views and vice-presidential smell tests.

Last week, I noted that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prattles on endlessly about how the Liberal Party embraces the splendid diversity of different views and exults in accommodating a breadth of opinions. This week, he threw Jody Wilson-Raybould out of caucus for recording a private conversation with the Clerk of the Privy Council. He also threw out Jane Philpott, who did not record a private conversation with the Clerk of the Privy Council. Diversity in action: Both doing and not doing get the same treatment.

The next day, a group of young women – “Daughters of the Vote” – assembled in the House of Commons chamber for a day of inspirational nattering from eminent worthies. When Trudeau spoke, about 50 or so turned their backs on him to protest his feminist preening after throwing two senior cabinet ministers to the curb. But the prime minister is never daunted. He emerged from that humiliation extolling the sheer magnificence of divergent opinions on display, which he expanded to include “choosing to hear” and “choosing not to hear.” He was being super-duper respectful of those Daughters who opted for a public display of disrespect to the prime minister. But it makes sense. If “choosing not to hear” is as fabulous a manifestation of diversity as “choosing to hear,” then it explains why the Liberal Party is diverse even when it chooses not to be.

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During the Mike Duffy affair, it was noted by many that Canadians have exemplary scandals. At the heart of the Duffy matter was that the chief of staff to the prime minister, Nigel Wright, thought that Duffy had claimed expenses that he was legally, but not morally, entitled to. Wright told Duffy to pay the expenses back, Duffy balked because he had not broken the rules – a position later vindicated in court – and so Wright gave Duffy the funds personally to pay the government back. It was an improper arrangement, but at bottom it was an effort to return money to the exchequer.

Now Jody Wilson-Raybould had been booted from caucus for the “unconscionable” secret recording of her conversation with the clerk. There is plenty of fair criticism of that recording, but at bottom it was done to bolster the case of prosecutorial immunity from political pressure. In most scandals, secret recordings reveal that someone is lying. Wilson-Raybould’s sin was to provide evidence that she was telling the truth.

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Jane Philpott is better off without those lousy Liberals. So says Don Martin, CTV newsman and author. Like Doris Kearns Goodwin writing on Abraham Lincoln, Martin wrote a biography of Belinda Stronach. A few weeks before Philpott was bounced, Martin wrote this: “As for Jane Philpott, her fate is still to be determined. She has spoken her truth to the highest power – the general public.

For that, she’ll become a pariah whose principled position will stand in unfavorable contrast to fellow MPs obediently carrying the increasingly tattered Liberal flag into an election they might not win because of her. Perhaps Jane Philpott should simply quit the Liberal caucus. They’re not worthy of her.”

My goodness, that’s higher praise than Martin even gave Stronach.

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Jane Philpott has other admirers. Indeed, columnist Heather Mallick at the Toronto Star puts Philpott on her “list of most admired humans.” More than that really. She is a bit like Jesus. Mallick confesses that “it was a bit of a shock when Jane Philpott suddenly quit her cabinet job, partly because the collection of notecards taped to the bookcase beside my bed includes this one: ‘What would Jane Philpott do?’ Every morning I say to myself, ‘I bet Jane Philpott would get out of bed’ and to my mind, the two of us were up and off to the races.”

WWJ(ane)D?

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