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EDITORIAL: Where's Justin?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers short remarks during the Women's Economic Empowerment Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Running away won’t help.

Neither will hiding under a basket, or squirreling yourself away in a back room.

Even the old standard of getting out of town will only work for so long.

It doesn’t really help to flee to rally the political troops in St. John’s, N.L., and re-announce already-announced funding for a university science building, or to make yet another highway funding announcement in Nova Scotia.

A Monday morning spent in Prince Edward Island is always a wonderful thing — even if it’s meeting with the premier, a closed-door talk with National Defence employees and making an early-afternoon announcement at a business. But it won’t make all your problems go away.

Even something as laid-back as a late afternoon “visit with a Mississauga family to highlight the Climate Action Incentive payment” only keeps you out of the Ottawa eye for so long.

Eventually, you have to stop playing “Where’s Justin?” and start doing the side of politics that isn’t smiling and glad-handing.

Supposedly, as least as the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. (And not out of town, either.) And for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, it’s officially tough.

Trudeau is facing tough questions about what he and his office were asking of former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould — in particular, whether they were interfering with the criminal prosecution of Quebec engineering and project management giant SNC-Lavalin over alleged bribery offences in relation to work in Libya.

When Wilson-Raybould spoke to the parliamentary justice committee, Trudeau was on the road; he responded to her comments in front of the committee from a Liberal party event in Montreal.

Meanwhile, the House of Commons tottered into a two-week recess: there isn’t scheduled to be a Question Period in the House of Commons again until March 18.

A growing number of Canadians — some 55 per cent by the latest polls — are saying they think the case should go to court, instead of the solution the prime minister’s office seems to want — an agreement where criminal charges would be stayed, and, without a criminal conviction, SNC-Lavalin could continue bidding on federal contracts. (A conviction would mean a 10-year ban on federal work by the company.) Polling is also showing that the public’s belief in Mr. Trudeau’s trustworthiness is declining sharply.

There are some who suggest that, as the Trudeau government starts to roll out its campaign advertising touting its carbon plan, the government can change the channel on the current mess.

That’s a bad plan.

The problem is that the scandal has that most relatable of issues at its core: the idea that a government would try to get a special deal on criminal charges for a big company.

That it would bend the rules it a way it would not for others. It’s time for answers.

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