Is Trudeau treating himself the same way he treated other Liberals caught in scandals?

OTTAWA—Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has asked Canadian voters for forgiveness after being exposed for wearing blackface makeup on at least three separate occasions.

But have other Liberals under his leadership received the same benefit of the doubt?

Since becoming Liberal leader in 2014, Trudeau has had a track record of being decisive when members of his team have been caught on the wrong side of a scandal. But facing one of the largest controversies of his own making Wednesday, Trudeau appealed to Canadians’ for forgiveness.

“I think there are people who have made mistakes in this life, and you make decisions based on what they actually do, what they did, and on a case-by-case basis,” Trudeau said in a press conference Wednesday night.

Here’s a look at some of his case-by-case decisions as Liberal leader.

Liberal senators

Trudeau’s decisive streak was first widely apparent when he decided to expel Liberal senators — important organizers, fundraisers, and the institutional memory of his party — from the Liberal caucus at the height of the Senate expense scandal.

“There are no more Liberal senators,” Trudeau told reporters outside the House of Commons in January 2014.


The move stunned Liberal senators, who were told just before Trudeau made the decision public. It came as the auditor general was preparing to audit individual senators after Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin were accused of improper expenses.

The Star’s Ottawa bureau chief Susan Delacourt reported at the time Trudeau and his advisers were explicitly looking for a “dramatic and decisive” way to distance the Liberals from the partisan Senate, as it was mired in controversy.

Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti

Two Liberal MPs were almost immediately suspended from Liberal caucus after two female NDP MPs accused them of sexual misconduct in November 2014.

Newfoundland MP Scott Andrews and Quebec MP Massimo Pacetti both denied the claims, but Trudeau moved swiftly to remove them from the Liberal caucus. So swiftly that it made one of their accusers uncomfortable.

“I think it was too fast for him to act like that,” one told a Star reporter at the time.

After an independent investigation into the claims, neither were invited to rejoin the party. Pacetti did not run again, while Andrews ran as an independent in the 2015 election and lost.

Hunter Tootoo


The Liberals were fresh off their historic 2015 victory when Trudeau announced that Hunter Tootoo, his fisheries minister, had resigned from cabinet and Liberal caucus to seek treatment for alcohol addiction.

At the time of his resignation, May 2016, unnamed sources suggested Tootoo’s resignation had something to do with an incident at the Liberals’ convention that year in Winnipeg. But CTV News subsequently reported that Tootoo was dating a staff member before starting a relationship with her mother.

Tootoo told reporters that he told Trudeau everything, and that the prime minister was supportive. But the Nunavut MP, who is not running again, never rejoined the Liberal benches.

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Darshan Kang

Trudeau did not move as quickly in the case of Darshan Kang, a Calgary MP accused by two women of inappropriate conduct.

The Hill Times reported in early August 2017 that Kang was under investigation for inappropriate advances toward a female staffer. A second woman, who worked for Kang when he was an Alberta MLA, also came forward with accusations.

The Star reported at the time that the Liberal party’s deputy whip travelled to Calgary months earlier to interview one of the women. But Kang, who maintained his innocence, resigned from caucus at the end of August 2017.

Kent Hehr

A day after an Alberta civil servant accused then-cabinet minister Kent Hehr of inappropriate sexual comments, Trudeau announced the minister’s resignation from cabinet.

“As a government we take any allegations of misconduct extremely seriously, and we believe that it is important to support women who come forward with allegations and that is exactly what our government will do,” Trudeau said in January 2018.

While Hehr resigned from cabinet, he was not removed from Liberal caucus. Hehr is running again for the Liberals in Calgary Centre in this October’s election.

Raj Grewal

The Brampton MP told the Prime Minister’s Office in late Nov. 2018 that he had a gambling addiction, borrowing millions from friends and family to finance his problem. Three days later, Grewal announced he was resigning his seat for personal reasons. The following day, Trudeau’s office revealed Grewal’s addiction problems.

Grewal was also the subject of a conflict of interest investigation by the federal ethics commissioner.

Trudeau praised Grewal’s decision to step down as “the right call,” but when Grewal suggested he had changed his mind the following week, Trudeau’s office quietly reiterated the prime minister’s statement. On Wednesday, CBC News reported Grewal will not seek re-election in Brampton East.

Alex Boutilier

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