OPINION: Candidates with controversial histories should not be in politics

Oct 14, 2022 | OP-ED, Opinion

Politicians in Canada who have a lengthy history of controversies and scandals continue to hold power.

Yes, in 2022.

They still hold leadership positions, seats on councils and parliamentary titles. It’s appalling to know they haven’t been removed from their jobs. I agree the only choice we have to voice our concerns is to vote, but is there no other way?

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was called out in 2019 for wearing blackface makeup in 2001 while attending a school function when he was still a drama teacher.

Many Black and racialized Canadians took serious offence by his actions, claiming it was racist. South Asian Canadians were offended by the fact he was wearing a turban along with his painted face.

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh commented in 2019 saying it was “more proof that the Liberal leader isn’t the person he claims to be in public.”

Singh said he couldn’t fully explain how much it hurt to see images like that.

It wasn’t the only major controversy for the Prime Minister. In 2020, it was alleged the WE Charity had been granted millions of dollars by its government to administer the Canada Student Service Grant program (CSSG).

The prime minister had approved the proposal because he believed they were the only charity capable enough to manage the program, which sparked enormous criticism from his political opponents. They called on him to take a leave of absence from his role as prime minister until the investigation was completed.

He did not step away.

Weeks of testimony took place in front of the Clerk of the Privy Council to share their knowledge of the deal, including Trudeau and some of his cabinet ministers.

According to the Trudeau lll Report, submitted by the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Trudeau did not violate the Conflict of Interest Act and was cleared of any wrongdoing in 2021.

Despite the accusations, it was also revealed he was never paid by the charity, which was founded by Craig and Michael Kielburger, and never had a close friendship with them. He was invited to speak at their events numerous times, however.

But the report showed that members of the prime minister’s family, including his brother and mother, were paid substantially to attend and speak at WE events.

Going back to 2020, investigations also found that then Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau had concerning involvements with the charity.

Morneau, who is one of the prime minister’s closest friends, was found guilty of violating the act. He didn’t recuse himself from talks to award the charity the contract while his daughter was employed by the charity and he had a close friendship with Craig Kielburger.

He then resigned his position and his seat in parliament. Despite Trudeau’s close links to those accused, he managed to escape the fire.

While Trudeau was not complicit in the WE Charity scandal, controversies like the Aga Khan Island trip saga and the SNC-Lavalin affair found Trudeau violated a few sections of the Conflict of Interest Act. He was the first prime minister to do so since the legislation was passed in 2006.

It’s disappointing to learn that Trudeau was never challenged for a leadership review by his party and was still clear to run for re-election in 2021.

He isn’t the only politician to breach conflict of interest rules. Former Conservative Public Works Minister Diane Finley, who was cited for breaching the rules in 2015, comes to mind. Unfortunately, it won’t come as a surprise if other politicians violate the rules in the future.

Why are politicians who have violated the rules still in politics and holding leadership positions when it’s clear that he’s shown poor leadership? These kinds of politicians should be removed sooner rather than citizens having to wait for the next election.

So why can’t politicians in Canada be punished?

They’re our leaders and are supposed to be setting examples for us to how we ought to live our life. But if they’re continuing to cause controversy after controversy, then they don’t have a place in politics and should be barred from ever returning.