Trudeau's transparency ploy can't lose

The big news: The Liberal leader challenges his opponents to post expenses online.

How Trudeau can avoid getting stuck in the middle

Mike Cassese/Reuters

Justin Trudeau’s clarion call for transparency on Parliament Hill, recited to reporters yesterday in Ottawa, was a masterful exercise in orchestrated naïveté. The Liberal leader so innocently called on his colleagues across party lines to follow him into the valhalla of open minds and open books. He urged fellow MPs to report detailed expenses online, as his Liberal team plans to do. Trudeau made it sound like a three-legged race at a family barbecue. To wit:

“This is the first step of what I hope will be a cascade of transparency and openness as the other parties try to outdo each other. I would love to see a competition in this, to try and see which party can truly be most transparent to Canadians because right now, the bar is set so low that I’m happy to raise the bar to this level.”

Cynics might call those words arrogant, hollow or a cheap ploy. The other parties declined to join the fun. Government House Leader Peter Van Loan said the board of internal economy, the committee tasked with monitoring MP spending, is looking at improving how it reports that spending—an “important initiative,” said Van Loan, but one that takes time. The NDP’s Nathan Cullen, who sits on the board, said the Liberals’ self-reporting style won’t work and that proper oversight requires outside eyeballs.

Probably, this is a story that sends most readers into a coma. Expenses are the most boring thing in the world until someone starts claiming things improperly, as several senators have learned the hard way. But the way this particular conversation among political leaders played out says a lot about how Trudeau hopes to outmaneuver his political opponents. Pick a harmless issue, pick a direction, challenge opponents to follow, and smile all the while. Posting expenses online, without being told to do so by some higher power, is not something voters will ever punish. Meanwhile, the other parties kick the can down the road.

Once Trudeau starts treating serious policy the same way he treats caucus transparency, and he picks a direction and challenges his opponents to follow, we could have a debate on our hands. We just might have to wait a while.


What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail  The head of Canadian Pacific wants tougher safety regulations on railways.
National Post  The cruise liner Costa Concordia has fully emerged off Italy’s coast.
Toronto Star  Toronto Community Housing faces a pair of potentially harmful probes.
Ottawa Citizen  A small-town mayor and two councillors will be charged with breach of trust.
CBC News  Children are injured on playground equipment at increasing rates.
CTV News  A woman who killed two sons in Alberta was found dead in Australia.
National Newswatch  Sen. Mike Duffy visited the Prime Minister’s Office after a troubling audit.

What you might have missed

THE NATIONAL Arctic crash. The three victims of a mysterious helicopter crash in Canada’s arctic waters died of hypothermia, according to an autopsy, not from the incident itself. The three men, members of the Coast Guard aboard the icebreaker HMCS Amundsen, had set off to find a route for the ship. They sent out no distress call before the crash.
THE GLOBAL French murder. A French jeweller, Stephan Turk, was charged with voluntary homicide after he shot—and killed—a 19-year-old robber who’d escaped his store. Protesters in Nice are defending Turk’s action as self-defence, while the robber’s defenders decry vigilante justice as irresponsible. Armed robberies have apparently increased in recent years.
THE QUIRKY Rats. Parks Canada is hoping to eradicate rat populations on two islands off B.C.’s coast. The agency will drop poison pellets from helicopters on Murchison and Faraday islands, where rats—who have no natural predators—have decimated bird populations. The assault is part of a five-year, $2.5-million campaign to restore the islands’ natural habitat.

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