It’s surprising how little attention politicians pay to government given the profession they’re in. To be fair, one weird thing about politics is that the skills needed to get the job are disconnected from those needed to discharge it in a way unknown in, say, medicine. But politicians also seem to give remarkably little attention to politics. Take the SNC-Lavalin scandal… please.
Anyone who knows me, or reads my columns, can guess how successful I’d be in politics in front of the curtain or behind it. Certainly my brief stint with Reform in the mid-1990s was not a success, for me or them; I was not skilled at spin or nods and winks and I thought articulate principle was a good idea. And yet watching the Trudeau administration meltdown, I cannot help thinking these people have made mistakes from the get-go that had it been me would have been avoided.
Never mind the initial decision to pester the Attorney-General over a DPA for SNC. Sorry, a Deferred Prosecution Agreement for SNC-Lavalin. Among its disagreeable aspects government swarms with TLAs. (Three-Letter Acronyms.) And others; an American security official once told me a good rule of thumb was the longer the acronym, the less important, powerful and prestigious the institution. At which point the US had the DHS in charge of emergency management and we had OCIPEP. Not good.
Anyway, back to the scandal at hand. I think at some point somebody should have realized that Jody Wilson-Raybould was not going to give in or go quietly. In about the only thing he admitted to being sorry about, Justin Trudeau said he should have been aware of the breakdown of trust between his office, a.k.a. Gerry Butts, and his MoJ. Uh, Minister of Justice. Yeah, probably. Especially when it’s all about relationships and the portentous half-sentence you need to know who’s not on the same page or, in this case, in the same book. But suppose they didn’t.
Suppose, even, that they got as far as her presence in cabinet speaking for itself before realizing they were foozling the enterprise. Suppose it’s only when she quits that they go holy moly, it’s so bad we need RDC (Robson’s Damage Control). Well, what should they do? And the short answer is, almost nothing they did.
I grant for purposes of argument that there are things they could have done that they did not that would have been worse, like punch somebody out, bribe a judge, stagger naked and drunk down Wellington Street. Life, like golf, is never so bad that it can’t get worse and so I think is damage control. But within the bounds of the remotely possible, what?
Should Trudeau’s principal secretary and alter ego, if not Rasputin, have quit precipitously while declaring that nothing was wrong? Was there any possibility that doing so would not fling chum into the feeding frenzy? Surely he had either to stay, or to go taking responsibility. Weird.
Then there were various smear jobs about Wilson-Raybould being arrogant, non-francophone, her father’s puppet etc. How did they not see that these would backfire individually and en masse create the unmistakable impression of nasty incompetence? Did nobody say when people object won’t we have to back down shamefacedly?
Also, what was that about Michael Wernick warning of assassinations if people didn’t stop doubting the wonderfulness of such eminences as, well, shucks folks, me? And then petulantly waving online insults. Think the rest of us don’t get those?
Then there was Trudeau leaking that he was thinking of apologizing then appearing to express pseudo-semi-contrition before flying off to burst into tears about what someone else did to the Inuit before he was born. Not that the latter wasn’t possibly worthy of acknowledgement and regret. But the juxtaposition said clearly that this smug scion of privilege was so conceited that even in the midst of a scandal he was sanctimoniously horrified at the wrongdoing of others because he regarded himself as incapable of error.
I don’t know about Sheila Copps suddenly resurfacing to say if it had been aboriginal jobs Wilson-Raybould would care. Perhaps that was freelance reputation-shredding not part of the campaign of friendly Op Eds that Katie Telford allegedly told Wilson-Raybould’s chief of staff they could arrange. So let’s let them off the hook for it. It’s rather harder to excuse their MPs putting out almost verbatim Tweets that were meant to be spontaneous expressions of confidence in the PM and the PMO. Did they think nobody would compare them, even online?
Then there’s the awkward stonewalling of Liberal Justice Committee members refusing to hear from key witnesses. And Trudeau swanning off to an exclusive Florida resort just as the OECD started making rude noises about the whole business.
It seems to me incontrovertible that the Trudeau people did not realize that interfering in a prosecution on grounds expressly prohibited by the law they themselves drafted at the behest of SNC-Lavalin was wrong. And thus that they know little of governing. But watching them try to put out the fire it seems they are incompetent at politics as well. Bringing me back to the question what exactly they’ve spent their adult professional lives thinking about?
Photo Credit: Jeff Burney, Loonie Politics
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