Ottawa Ontario – There have been a lot of media reports on Prime Minister Trudeau’s strange meeting with the Boyle family. So far the story simply doesn’t add up.
Prime Minister’s just don’t meet with anyone who requests a meeting and it doesn’t matter who that person is or their background. In most cases, a Prime Minister’s schedule is so tight that setting aside time for a meeting like this would have been very difficult.
It is true that every Prime Minister and party leader for that matter; will make time for meetings/photo ops. This is a political decision when someone in PMO (usually senior staff) thinks that the session will advance their political agenda. In this case though, there was clearly no upside to the meeting.
Back when the appointment was set up, the entire Boyle story was still pretty sketchy (even if we exclude the recent criminal investigation) and it would be a bit of a stretch to think that voters believed any or all of it. What then did Trudeau or more likely his senior PMO staff hope to accomplish?
When a request for a meeting is made, the most basic first step that his staff should have followed would have been a media/google search, so that they could prepare a briefing note for the Prime Minister. This note would include the person’s background, any media stories and potential questions that might come up and the note would have provided suggested answers. The note could also include items of shared interest or concerns- in other words information that the PM could use to make the meeting a successful one.
If there were red flags or controversies around the person, these should have been highlighted for senior staff and the Prime Minister. It is at this point where the issue moves out of the hands of the junior PMO staff and it has now landed on the desks of senior staff.
Due to the various stories and issues around the Boyle family, it is highly unlikely this basic research wasn’t done prior to the meeting.
In addition, because it was pretty clear that the Boyle story might be of interest to a number of government departments or agencies, including Global Affairs, Immigration and CSIS etc. someone at the senior staff level should have requested additional follow-up and input from those departments. While a request could go from PMO to minister’s offices, one should also have been made through the Privy Council Office (PCO) as PCO is the Prime Minister’s department, and they could have gone directly to officials including the RCMP, in those departments.
Both PMO and PCO would have issues management staff that should be on top of such issues. It is unlikely that PCO would have failed to provide briefing notes on the Boyle saga from the time the issue became public- that is one of the things that they routinely do.
There were more than enough red flags around this potential meeting to raise the question as to whether or not the meeting should have gone forward. Only the most senior staff and the Prime Minister himself would have been involved in making the final decision to go ahead with this meeting. A decision would also be made at this time as to which person in PMO would staff the meeting, make notes etc.
Unanswered questions include who made the go-ahead decision?
What was the recommendation of Trudeau’s senior staff- were they in favour or opposed to the meeting?
Did PMO consult with other government departments and agencies including security officials?
Did PMO ask PCO for a briefing or recommendation and what did PCO suggest?
No Prime Minister will always agree with meeting every person that is suggested to them. They have a pretty big say in this.
Did Trudeau over rule his senior staff or did he follow their advice?
In the end there are far too many unanswered questions including the simplest one- why?