Trudeau doesn’t want advice from his dad’s friends

If China was setting out to sow political divisions in Canada in the case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, it must have been frustrated by the political unity it has encountered in this 18-month saga — until now.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is getting a remarkable degree of cross-partisan support for his firm decision to not intervene in Meng’s extradition case, despite a letter from 19 prominent Canadians urging that he do just that.

But the letter has highlighted one political schism that is a recurring theme in Trudeau’s career — the one between this current regime and Liberals who governed before him.

Jean Chretien’s signature was not on the letter signed by 19 of some of Canada’s most serious legal and foreign-policy thinkers, including former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour and former justice minister Allan Rock.

But Chretien’s name has been surfacing almost from the moment that this Canada-China tension exploded, and consistently on the side of political intervention to release Meng.

As Joan Bryden of The Canadian Press reported, Chretien called Rock last week to convey his support for the letter’s arguments in favour of Meng’s release.

Chretien also turns up in the new book by John Bolton, the former national security adviser to Donald Trump. Bolton doesn’t write much about Canada in his nearly 600-page tome — but the Meng case, and Chretien, made the cut.

“Canada was under great domestic pressure, which Trudeau was having difficulty resisting,” Bolton writes in The Room Where it Happened.

“Former prime minister Jean Chretien, never a friend of the U.S., was arguing that Canada should simply not abide by our extradition treaty.”

Bolton may be exercising a bit of literary license there with this “great domestic pressure” reference.

Conservatives are onside with Trudeau staying out of this, including the two top leadership contenders, Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole, who restated their support for non-intervention last week.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh went on the record ages ago to distance himself from one of his own MPs, Don Davies, who was arguing for Canada to stay out of the “politically motivated” extradition.

Not exactly “great domestic pressure” on Trudeau then, until that letter surfaced last week, which the prime minister immediately rejected as a bad idea.

Had Bolton been a little more acquainted with Canadian politics, he would know that Trudeau has not had much difficulty resisting voices from the past — especially the Liberal past.

Another former prime minister, Brian Mulroney, was floating Chretien’s name a year ago as the best envoy to deal with China in this complex web of extradition and political detention of two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. That idea went nowhere.

Put simply, some key Chretien-era Liberals and Trudeau Liberals have definitely not been on the same page when it comes to Meng’s extradition — though it should be said that both are motivated by the goal of ending this nightmare for the two Michaels as soon as possible.

Chretien’s former deputy prime minister, John Manley, publicly and controversially announced in December 2018 that Canada screwed up when it arrested Meng.

Manley argued that authorities should have exercised some “creative incompetence” and simply failed to catch the Huawei executive as she was passing through this country.

One thing should be clear to anyone who has been watching Trudeau’s life in the politics — this is not a prime minister likely to be persuaded by arguments from former Liberals.

From the moment he ejected Liberal senators from his caucus as a newly elected leader in 2014, Trudeau has shown a near-complete lack of deference to Liberals who came before him, including those who worked with his father.

His clear “no” to the recent letter very much echoed the tone of the senators’ ejection.

It’s not so much hostility (although it isn’t hard to find Liberals of earlier vintage who are deeply offended by Trudeau’s disregard for them).

The letter, even though it came from more than just Liberals, was another reminder of the wall Trudeau has erected between himself and the Liberals past.

All that said, there may be one Liberal ghost influencing Trudeau at this juncture, and that’s former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Thanks to the 2019 controversy over SNC-Lavalin, which also revolved around whether politicians should be dabbling in the legal process, Trudeau would be understandably averse to going down that road again — even if the two cases are very different.

Some political struggles are sweeping and global — such as the current one between China and the United States. Other political battles are historical and intensely domestic — such as the Liberals versus Liberals in Canada.

Last week, those two types of political intrigue collided in one letter, reminding us again that relationships within Canadian political families can be just as complicated as battles between international superpowers.

Susan Delacourt is a columnist with Torstar Syndication Services.

Opinion

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, reported 323 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)
‘We’re in a danger zone,’ says Hinshaw

The province’s top doctor says “we’re in a danger zone” when it… Continue reading

Mayor Tara Veer pleads with the premier Tuesday to review the decision to move to a consolidated EMS dispatch system, which will be moved to three centres across the province. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
‘Issue of life and death’: mayors plead with government to halt consolidated EMS dispatch

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer calls on premier to overturn consolidated EMS dispatch decision

A $2.3-billion expansion of Alberta’s natural gas transportation system has been approved. “This should provide significant benefits — and we need every little bit of economic boost we can get,” says Reg Warkentin, policy adviser for the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce. (Flickr photo)
Red Deer-area to benefit from $2.3 billion gas pipeline expansion project

Project will add 344 km of new pipeline between RMH and Grande Prairie

Dustin Snider was elected the new board president for Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Earl’s Restaurant manager re-elected Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce president

Dustin Snider has been re-elected president of the Red Deer & Distict… Continue reading

Red Deer singer Kayla Williams hopes listeners fed up with the pandemic are comforted by her new song, Stealing from My Youth, which is digitally available for streaming on Friday. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer singer summarizes universal pandemic feelings in a new single

Kayla Williams releases ‘Stealing From My Youth’ on Friday

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw warms up before Game 1 of the baseball World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Kershaw, LA stars shine, Dodgers top Rays 8-3 in WS opener

Kershaw, LA stars shine, Dodgers top Rays 8-3 in WS opener

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford leaps over a challenge by PSG's Presnel Kimpembe during the Champions League group H soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United at the Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Man United wins again at PSG; Messi scores in Barca rout

Man United wins again at PSG; Messi scores in Barca rout

Hamilton Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis, right, hugs captain Kyle Bekker following their victory in the Canadian Premier League soccer final against the Calgary Cavalry in Calgary, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. Under Smyrniotis, Forge FC has been the class of the Canadian Premier League. The two-time champions from Hamilton look to mark their internationally this week as they open CONCACAF League play in El Salvador. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Forge FC coach Bobby Smyrniotis’ influence on Canadian soccer continues to grow

Forge FC coach Bobby Smyrniotis’ influence on Canadian soccer continues to grow

Players' sticks are shown during a World Hockey Championships game in Moscow, Russia on Thursday, May 12, 2016. A senior hockey team in a small city in southern Manitoba has changed its name following a push against the use of Indigenous names and caricatures as mascots. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ivan Sekretarev
Manitoba senior hockey team changes Indigenous name to Bombers

Manitoba senior hockey team changes Indigenous name to Bombers

Jason Kokrak tees off during the final round of the CJ Cup golf tournament at Shadow Creek Golf Course Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in North Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Long drive champ Berkshire looking to compete in tournaments

Long drive champ Berkshire looking to compete in tournaments

The Los Angeles Dodgers line up during during the national anthem and a fly over before Game 1 of the baseball World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Pandemic World Series draws smallest crowd in over century

Pandemic World Series draws smallest crowd in over century

Keegan Messing performs in the Gala at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Messing dedicating his Skate America performance to grounded Canadian teammates

Messing dedicating his Skate America performance to grounded Canadian teammates

Most Read