It’s not enough that politicians be clear of actual wrongdoing when it comes to misdeeds, such as corruption or improperly interfering with the justice system. They must be completely free of the perception that they have crossed these lines.
This is a rule widely known, previously voiced even by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself.
That’s why we’re left scratching our heads about a story concerning judicial appointments coming out of New Brunswick.
As first reported by the CBC, five out of the last six judicial appointments in the province went to people close to federal Liberal cabinet minster and Trudeau friend Dominic LeBlanc.
The individuals appointed include, according to the report, a “neighbour, a LeBlanc family relation and three lawyers who helped retire debts from his unsuccessful 2008 leadership bid.”
The Liberal government has already released a statement saying all three appointments were merit-based. But Canadians will have a tough time stomaching that statement, regardless of its truth.
That’s because this isn’t the first time the Liberals have shown they have a problem with judicial independence.
A roll call of recent scandals related to the justice file is a troubling one. There’s the Lavscam affair, which was never fully resolved. We wrote in past editorials in this space that the RCMP should be probing the question of whether or not individuals in the Prime Minister’s Office broke obstruction of justice laws in persistently pressuring Jody Wilson-Raybould into offering a Deferred Prosecution Agreement to SNC-Lavalin even after the head of the prosecution service ruled it out.
Trudeau began by describing the story as false until eventually parts of the real story got out and the PMO changed its tune to state that while Wilson-Raybould was pressured, it was all — in former top bureaucrat Michael Wernick’s words — “lawful advocacy.”
Then, there’s the Vice-Admiral Mark Norman affair, where Canadians were left wondering why bureaucrats close to Trudeau even referred the case to the RCMP in the first place.
Then, there’s the reports that many judicial appointments were first screened through a database of Liberal donors.
The Liberals clearly have problems with judicial independence. Skepticism around this latest story is highly warranted.