Today has been a wild day all around the world, between Michael Cohen’s testimony in Washington, Trump and Kim in Vietnam and the new tensions between India and Pakistan. There have been a lot of big things to take our attention, and rightfully so. But the biggest news that is running live all over TV across Canada is todays hearing in the House of Commons Justice committee. This afternoon Jody Wilson-Raybould went before the committee to deliver something we’ve been waiting for now for a while; her side of the SNC/PMO scandal and her truth. And deliver is something that she did in spades, and it was clear why she wanted that thirty minutes at the start:
There is something to be said for what Jody Wilson-Raybould said and her testimony before getting into the details; she was ready, she was prepared, she had notes, she brought paper and had proof to back up her words. The biggest thing that she did was manage to take this beyond a “he said, she said” story and bared the naked truth about this story. The scale and the details here are staggering; 11 individuals involved, 10 meetings and 10 phone calls, over four months of sustained and constant pressure from the Prime Ministers office, the Privy Councils office and the office of the Minister of Finance. She laid out a highly detailed timeline from September right up until her shuffle in January, and with that she methodically told us her truth. Instead of repeating it all, I’ll just share her written testimony here below:
So, what does this story mean going forward for everyone? Well for starters the Prime Minister must be the happiest person getting on a plane out of Ottawa today, as he won’t have to be in Question Period for the last two days before a two-week Parliamentary break. That gives him until March 18th until he has to face the Opposition to figure out a path forward. But that won’t help this go away, because everywhere he goes, this question will be dogging him.
For the government though, this is simply devastating. The details and extra proof that Wilson-Raybould shows clearly that this was not a simple misunderstanding or someone experiencing something differently than the rest of the team. Being asked to “help out”, being told that they don’t want to “discuss legalities anymore” and being told that PM will try to find a way to get it done, “one way or another”, doesn’t leave an impression of simple confusion. That’s all very clear, both in message and intent. This has all jumped to another level.
The damage to the government here is big and people will be gone over this; the question remains as to who, how many and from where. On top of that though, you have to wonder though how this Liberal caucus stays together as is; in fact, that seems impossible now. How does Jody Wilson-Raybould stay in caucus after this testimony today? She has made it clear that she is a Liberal and wants to run again as a Liberal, but how does that look logistically today? Caucuses are teams of a sort, and it’s already hard enough for a caucus to not remove members for lower-level things. So how is she able to stay after this bombshell testimony?
And further to that, if she decides to stay in caucus and the Prime Minister moves to eject her from it, how will the rest of the caucus react? Because of the reactions of some caucus members during this whole episode, who have shown their support for Jody Wilson-Raybould publicly, I can’t help but feel that if she was tossed that others might follow her out the door. That’s not based on any inside knowledge but is just a feeling I have. It seems that she has built strong relationships in her caucus and has good friends there, so it seems to fit that if she left, some may go with her.
For the Opposition parties, both the Conservative and the NDP, this committee meeting was their best meeting in this whole episode; this was their finest hour. They picked up the tone of the room today and didn’t go overboard; they stayed professional, asked good questions and let the witness lead this meeting where it needed to go. For the first time in this saga, some of their questions really helped to advance the story as well. But the biggest thing that happened today was the shot of high-test adrenaline that this story was given. It’s proved the Opposition right for chasing after this story so doggedly for the past few weeks and promises to live on long beyond today. This story could have died today, but that didn’t happen.
This story has now reached a point where this is going to change the narrative and the trajectory of this election year. Coming into 2019, it looked very strongly like the Liberals were on their way to a second majority, the Conservatives would fall short and the NDP was heading for oblivion. But after three by-elections and todays testimony, the ground has shifted and has the ability now to turn everything on hits head. This testimony today brings the images and memories of old Liberal scandals rushing back to mind, and hits many of the same themes those old scandals did. There is now enough “there there” to bring damage to the Prime Minister and his brand.
For the Conservatives, this allows them a big topic to talk about, as long as they don’t overplay their hand and go too far. Before todays meeting, they haven’t been able to do that so it remains to be seen if they can do it consistently going forward.
But for the New Democrats, this all couldn’t have come along at the best time. During his first Question Period on March 18th, Jagmeet Singh will have a ready-made issue to go after and to re-introduce himself to Canadians. This will give him a chance to get his feet in the chamber and build towards the election. It also gives the NDP a chance to present a strong alternative to the government, if they don’t overplay their hand as well. I always say that in politics, waves come and while you can’t create one, when a big one comes you need to be ready to catch it and ride it. That big wave is here, and Team Orange needs to do their best to catch this wave.
Today delivered on the hype and proved that beneath all that smoke, a good-sized fire was burning away. That fire has now broken wide open and is starting to singe this government. If they don’t take the right steps in the next few days, that fire will start to burn at the supports that are holding this government up. There are still a lot of questions about what might come next for the Liberals and the Opposition. But one thing is for sure, Jody Wilson-Raybould made good on her promise to deliver her truth, and that truth is proving to be quite devastating.