A politician’s true mettle is on full display when faced with a controversy.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau surely knows this political rule of thumb. Alas, he was all fingers when faced with a situation that required immediate action but received longer-than-expected inaction: the controversy involving Darshan Kang.
A former Alberta Liberal MLA, Kang was elected as a Liberal MP in the 2015 federal election in the riding of Calgary Skyview. It’s been a long time since a federal Liberal represented this city (1968, when Pierre Elliot Trudeau was prime minister). Kang was one of two, along with Sport and Persons with Disabilities Minister Kent Hehr. So he would have been perceived as a valuable political commodity.
Kang was a relatively quiet backbencher in the majority Liberal government. He was a member of the standing committee on health, performed his constituency duties and little else.
Until he was accused of sexual harassment, that is.
The Hill Times reported on Aug. 11 that Kang faced “sexual harassment allegations … made by a female staffer” in his constituency office. No further details were offered.
The situation soon intensified. An Aug. 29 Toronto Star piece noted that, according to the unnamed staffer’s father, Kang gave her “unwelcome hugs, held and stroked her hand during car rides, and once brought her in a taxi to an Ottawa apartment, where he allegedly offered her wine and pulled at her jacket to try to get her to take it off.”
This led to a new, eye-popping allegation: the rookie MP had “subsequently offered her a series of payments, which escalated to a total of $100,000, to prevent her from sharing the allegations with her parents.”
Kang finally stepped aside on Aug. 31 when The Hill Times reported a second woman had made similar allegations against him, dating back to his days as an Alberta MLA. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
It’s important to note that none of these allegations have been proven.
The House of Commons human resources department’s ongoing investigation of this matter, however, made it serious enough that something should have been done. Kang should have either immediately left the Liberal caucus until his name was cleared or Trudeau should have promptly asked him to step aside until the investigation was concluded.
Here’s the bizarre part of the story: nothing happened in the time between these two bombshell articles or even slightly after.
Trudeau was relatively silent on the matter, too. He did make this trivial comment just before Kang resigned from the Liberal caucus: “I can assure people that our whip’s office and the human resources of the Parliament of Canada are engaged, as they must be, in this process. And I have no further comment to make at this time on the independent process that is being undergone.”
Really? That’s the best you could do?
Remember, Trudeau turfed two Liberal MPs – Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti – out of his opposition caucus in November 2014 after they were accused of “personal misconduct” by two female NDP members. He was widely praised for his swift action and rightly so.
But since becoming our nation’s leader, he’s noticeably dragged his heels on former cabinet minister Hunter Tootoo’s sexual escapades and alcoholism (which was handled quite differently than current cabinet minister Seamus O’Regan’s battle with alcoholism) and now Kang.
Why? Was he worried that what little support remains for his party in Calgary – and Alberta – would immediately dry up? Did he fear the potential wrath of the Indo-Canadian and Sikh communities, which are both heavily in the Liberal camp?
It’s hard to say with any certainty. Here’s what is certain: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau isn’t even remotely the same as Opposition Leader Justin Trudeau when handling controversies.
In the quest for political power, his mettle has seemingly melted.
Troy Media columnist and political commentator Michael Taube was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper.
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