November 21st, 2019

Scandal doesn’t mark the end for Liberals

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on March 2, 2019.

Former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould gave highly credible testimony Wednesday of inappropriate interference in the legal system by the prime minister’s office, but don’t expect this to be the Trudeau government’s death knell.

These allegations stem from the pressure Wilson-Raybould says 11 staffers from the Prime Minister’s Office put on her to forego criminal charges against Montreal-based construction company SNC-Lavalin, who if convicted would have been barred from bidding on government contracts for a decade.

Wilson-Raybould stood up for the rule of law by refusing to bend the justice system towards the Liberals’ political interests.

It’s clear this is the reason she was shuffled out of her high profile cabinet position, not, as Montreal-area Liberal MP Anthony Housefather suggested, because she lacked fluency in French, a laughable claim on its face, considering this wasn’t an issue when she was appointed to cabinet.

The opposition is calling for the prime minister to step down and the RCMP to open a criminal investigation, even before the ethics commissioner completes his investigation.

And pundits across the political spectrum, from former Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella, to Canadaland’s Jonathan Goldsbie, the Globe and Mail’s Konrad Yakabuski and Postmedia’s Christie Blatchford, say this is the end for Trudeau.

But not so fast.

While the Tories are fulfilling their role as the Official Opposition, they’re being overzealous by demanding a criminal investigation before we know what the ethics commissioner has to say on the matter. As he has repeatedly done since becoming Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer is seeking to import Trump-style “lock (him) up” politics.

Was Trudeau’s team pressuring Wilson-Raybould a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice? It could be, but we ought to let the ethics commissioner do his job before jumping to conclusions.

But professional political observers ought to know better.

After all, Trudeau was written off by the pundit class as a political lightweight when he was still languishing in third place before the 2015 election was called. And then he won.

Although it occurred before Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, Monday’s byelection results do bode well for the Liberals, since the allegations against the PMO were well known at the time.

On the surface, the byelections were a stalemate – the Tories took York-Simcoe in a landslide, leader Jagmeet Singh of the NDP won a seat in the House of Commons in Burnaby South and the Liberals won Outremont.

But going into the byelections, the NDP held Burnaby South and Outrement, the latter being Tom Mulcair’s old riding, so it was a bad night for the NDP, which is always a good thing for Liberal electoral prospects.

It could’ve been a lot worse for the Dippers if their party leader didn’t win a seat in the House of Commons, but losing the first seat they ever won in Quebec doesn’t bode well for their prospects in La Belle province, the epicentre of the 2011 Orange Wave that saw the NDP become the Official Opposition for the first time.

Prior to Mulcair, Outremont was a Liberal stronghold, so it’s not like the Liberals made inroads in hostile territory, but if we’re talking purely about seat counts, the Liberals were the net winners and the NDP were the net losers, with the Tories coming out neutral.

So will Wilson-Raybould’s testimony be the end of Trudeau? It’s far too early to tell.

But if the Conservatives want to form government, they need to expand support outside their strongholds like York-Simcoe and Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner.

They’re doing themselves no favours by reflexively calling for Trudeau’s head.

(Jeremy Appel is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions.)

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