This week, the governing Liberals proved beyond a shadow of a doubt what many of us predicted they would prove sooner or later: that the sunny, hopeful party of Justin Trudeau is the same wretched hive of corporatism and self-interest that it was 15 years prior. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has observed Canadian politics for long enough. What should come as a surprise is that these Liberals suck at it.
Ex-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s long-awaited testimony to the House of Commons justice committee was a masterclass in humiliation. She had the good sense to keep careful track of everything that apparatchiks from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Privy Council Office to the Office of the Minister of Finance said to her and her staff in the matter of the disgraced SNC-Lavalin. She had the nerve to lay it all out for the committee, and Canadians, to hear. She had the patience to wait until Trudeau had no choice but to free her up to speak. If anyone in Ottawa is certain to have more than one vertebra, it’s her.
And Trudeau himself? When tips came in that he’d be holding a media availability on the night of the testimony, we immediately reloaded our popcorn buckets, anticipating even more entertainment. And we got it – to a somewhat lesser extent – when he said that that he “completely disagreed” with the testimony that, moments later, he admitted he had not seen.
Such public self-soiling demonstrates that Trudeau’s skill with political optics has been greatly exaggerated. He’s been better at it than either Stephen Harper or Andrew Scheer, without question. But that’s a bit like pointing out that I am taller than Danny DeVito: technically true, but deeply misleading.
When a high-profile cabinet minister becomes insolent, and shows no sign of letting up on their insolence, party heads and their flunkies have two options: neutralize or destroy. For the first option, there was no better portfolio to offer JWR than Justice, so perhaps they could have promised to make good on one of her cherished causes in exchange for her obedience. For the second, if they had any dirt on her that was better than her being “difficult,” they would have leaked it sooner, perhaps to one of those op-ed writers that PMO chief of staff Katie Telford knows.
A true Magnificent Bastard would have employed a tactic like these, were they available, before JWR had a chance to win the hearts and minds of #cdnpoli junkies. Trudeau, clearly, is not that bastard. Nor is Telford. Nor is ex-Principal Secretary Gerald Butts. Nor is Finance Minister Bill Morneau. Nor is Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick. Take your pick. I’ve got six more.
The Liberals not named in JWR’s testimony aren’t faring much better. Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freehand, the highest-ranking party member not to have any evident involvement, has signaled her solidarity with Trudeau. During the committee hearing, MPs Randy Boissonault and Iqra Khalid repeatedly asked JWR why she did not speak to Trudeau about the inappropriateness of the pressure being exerted on her – which, of course, she did. The cabinet and the backbench are mostly with Trudeau. Unless there really is a Magnificent Bastard sharpening their knives in the shadows, there appears to be little chance that he leaves his leadership any day soon.
That, as far as we know, takes us to October’s federal election. Barring any surprises of sufficient magnitude to rehabilitate Trudeau’s image, how will he convince Canadians to trust him a second time? By not being a Conservative, he says, with the sort of oozing arrogance that only a Liberal could possess. Because Harper.
Speaking of which, how is Not Actually Harper But Close Enough handling this one? Calling for Trudeau’s resignation, naturally, as well as an RCMP investigation “into the numerous examples of justice the former Attorney General detailed in her testimony.” That was unnecessary. All he had to do when asked for comment was say “I have nothing to add to that,” then exit to bask quietly in his opponents’ bumbling. JWR may have done 90 percent of his job for him in the span of a few hours.
Of course, that’s no guarantee of anything. There’s still a very good chance that Scheer will not be prime minister by this fall. But between Trudeau’s dodginess and his incompetence at being just dodgy enough, there’s a good chance that he won’t, either.
Photo Credit: CBC News
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