A week in political life can be a funny thing. Some weeks seem to fly by and feel just free and easy, but others seem to be painfully long, never ending and just unrelenting. For the Liberal government, this week has surely been the latter. And when it comes to that, I have an honest admission to make. When this story broke last week, I said to one of my colleagues that the best thing about this story for the government was that there was a break week ahead. In the moment, I genuinely thought and felt that once everyone cleared out of Ottawa, that would help take some of the heat off of this story and allow the government some time to get all of their ducks in a row to deal with it head on.
Well I admit it, this week has proved that I was so wrong on that count. Somehow during this break week, the SNC/PMO Scandal has grown and gotten new oxygen every single day this week, and in almost all of the cases, it was the government itself supplying that oxygen en masse. There has been a series of own goals from the government that has compounded their issues and helped this story grow to the point where they have lost complete control of it.
And today that continued, with the Prime Minister adding more to the story on two fronts. For starters, he gave more details about his conversation with Jody Wilson-Raybould back in the Fall. According to the PM, she approached him to ask if he intended to instruct her on the SNC-Lavalin prosecution, to which he says he said no and that it was her responsibility to decide. Of course, that’s his work, and his attempt to speak for her again. And of course, he is talking about a subject that he says is subject to privilege, which is keeping the former Minister from speaking about the same topic. I would assume that if the person who has the privilege, keeps talking about the subject that privilege covers in public to the media, that it would give the other party to that privilege to speak. Seriously, how long does the PM think he can talk about these things, giving his side, while trying to keep the other person in that conversation from speaking? It’s totally untenable nor credible. But if the logical gymnastics involved in that piece wasn’t enough for you, well the PM upped the difficulty level and decided to throw a new logical pretzel into this story:
Yeah, according to the PM all of this would never have happened had Scott Brison hadn’t resigned and that Jody Wilson-Raybould would still be Justice Minister. Amazingly there is some honesty in that comment; it’s true that the PM probably wouldn’t have moved Wilson-Raybould from her portfolio if he didn’t have an excuse to shake up his cabinet. Brison leaving gave him an opportunity to move people around, that’s true. But just because Brison left, that didn’t mean that Wilson-Raybould had to be moved. There were 30 other members of that cabinet who could have been moved who weren’t touched, so to infer that because Brison went Wilson-Raybould had to move too is nutty.
In fact, it really feels like the PM’s office gave no thought to what they sought to gain from this statement, because I can’t think of how pointing that out excuses anything that’s happened so far or explains the reasons for any changes to his cabinet. But what it does do is invite many more questions than it comes close to answering, like the following:
- If Wilson-Raybould would still be Justice Minister if Brison hadn’t resigned, given the comments he made about her duty to go to him if she was being pressured (where he tried to suggest she was derelict in her duty) does that mean that the PM still would have confidence in her if Brison hadn’t resigned?
- If no changes were coming if Brison hadn’t resigned, does that mean the PM really had no intention of creating a new Rural Economic Development portfolio? Was it only created because Brison left?
- When Brison resigned, why did he need to move five people around? Why did Wilson-Raybould need to be shuffled and why didn’t someone else in the cabinet get moved?
- If the PM is insisting that Wilson-Raybould would still be Justice Minister if Brison hadn’t resigned, what does that say about his view of his new Justice Minister David Lametti? Why isn’t he pointing to the qualifications of his new Justice Minister as a justification for the change?
And I could go on but one thing is very clear here; the PMO didn’t think this comment over before they used it, despite the fact that many journalists have commented that various PMO sources have been test-driving this line with them for days. That comment was the whipped cream on top of the crap sundae that this week has been for the government, and the cherry was provided by Scott Brison’s husband.
Yep, that’s quite the solid burn and totally earned. So what started as what should have been a quieter week away from the hustle and bustle of Parliament turned into quite the opposite. On Tuesday when the House returns, the government will be coming back to a full blown scandal, complete with quotes a plenty and all kinds of fodder for the Opposition parties. If any question during Question Period from either the Conservatives or NDP are not about this scandal, they should be hauled out of the chamber and charged with political malpractice.
This story has reached this point, all with the Opposition barely being able to land a punch on the government, but that’s mostly because the government has been too busy doing it all to themselves. The next two weeks in Parliament promises to be very lively, probably more so than we’ve seen in the entire 42nd Parliament to day. We’ll see if the either the Government or the Opposition parties are able to find their collective feet on this topic but one thing feels very safe to say; this promises to be an extremely consequential period and will go a long way to telling us what this Fall’s election will look like.