The Canada Student Service Grant’s unusual cabinet ride -

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Andrew MacDougall: A look inside how Cabinet decisions are actually made casts doubt over Trudeau's extraordinary claim about the WE decision

Trudeau heads to the podium during a function at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention on Mar 2 2020

Because having read dozens upon dozens of MCs, I can’t say I can remember one with a ‘binary choice’. More to the point, nor can many, if any, who have been involved in the Cabinet decision-making process over its long and distinguished history, bureaucrat or political staff, including the current crop serving in Ottawa. They all know the surest way to kill your MC stone dead is to ship it to the “central agencies” , as must happen before a government decision is made, with a sole option.

In fact, we don’t even have to speculate as to the source of inspiration. It was Trudeau who announced the program on April 22, i.e. approximately two weeks after he first discussed a youth volunteering program with Finance Minister Bill Morneau on April 5, and approximately two weeks before Cabinet met to discuss Chagger’s proposal on May 5. To call upon some recent history, it appears the boss was in a “mood” to get something done.

Which brings us to another discordant note in the Prime Minister’s telling of the story: his willingness to throw the public service under the bus for recommending WE. Sorry, but in our system of government it is ministers who make recommendations to the Cabinet for decision, not bureaucrats. It is Minister Chagger who would have presented this pre-programmed turkey to the Cabinet, not the senior assistant deputy minister at the Department of Employment and Social Development Canada.

The need to ram the decision through the Cabinet also provides a better explanation for why Trudeau didn’t recuse himself despite his obvious conflict. In this scenario, Trudeau had to preside over the May 8 meeting of the full Cabinet precisely because of the unusual nature of the MC and the fact his office had already given the go ahead to WE to start spending. Any objections had to be squashed.


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'Andrew MacDougall is a director at Trafalgar Strategy, and a former Head of Communications to Prime Minister Stephen Harper'

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