Yesterday was a rare day in Canadian politics or in Canadian political scandals; it was a day that delivered on its promise, and then some. The testimony from Jody Wilson-Raybould was some of the most compelling words we’ve heard in a Parliamentary Committee in a long time.
After three and a half hours of meeting, the story then moved to the other political actors on the scene; Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and then the Prime Minister himself. First of this trio to find their way to a microphone was Mr. Scheer representing his Conservatives and at this point I think it would be good to review something I said just last night about their approach going forward:
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.https://magpiebrule.ca/2019/02/27/devastating-truth/?fbclid=IwAR3pmbesZ2Av-q9rDhRNQreCuTNBlAJoBenmVcqeRD3BzX2WROmQcuTp70U
With that in mind, what did Scheer do when he had the chance to build on his party’s work in the Justice Committee? Well you can see here for yourself just how badly he overplayed his hand:
Scheer went straight to the top of the rhetorical list and in the process looked bad, boarding on amateurish. He overreacted and overreached, calling for something that was never going to happen so soon in this process. And by doing so, it gives the Liberals and the PM breathing space, simply because they don’t need to reach to an overreaching request. That doesn’t make the problem go away, but it doesn’t make the government sweat anymore than it already is. So just as they have done for three weeks prior to yesterdays Justice meeting, the Conservatives spun their wheels and haven’t added at all to the story or advance it one bit.
Now before yesterdays Justice committee meeting, the same was also true of the New Democrats; none of the opposition had to that point really. But for the NDP and Jagmeet Singh they have to worry about the same pitfall that just claimed the Conservatives; overreaching. So how did Singh do in his response?
Jagmeet Singh might have just had the best moment of his leadership to date. He and his team hit the right tone, found the proper mood and reacted with the right response. By continuing to call for a Public Inquiry, something they had already asked for in the past, it offered a reasonable way to get to the bottom of this issue while not jumping to conclusions. When asked if the PM should resign, his measured response was right on the mark; not closing the door, but not rushing to judgement. That brought some kudos from a different place than one might have expected for Jagmeet:
Then we heard from the PM himself, in Montreal, and his response left a lot to be desired:
Beside from the optics of the scene that was bad (with red “Liberal” signs splashed everywhere, which I think that some campaign folks will come to regret come the Fall), the answer itself was far from fulsome and didn’t respond to the issue at hand. It seemed like a dodge and a bad attempt at trying to have it both ways. It did nothing to stem the tide that the government is facing and left me wonder if that’s what he had to say, why put the Prime Minister out to speak at all? Silence might have been better than those words in that setting. The Prime Minister didn’t end the day well at all.
The next day started this morning, with two moves coming from the Opposition; one a solid request while the other another piece of overreaching theatre:
I can’t help but wonder what the Conservatives are thinking with this letter from Scheer to the RCMP. In a case of alleged political interference in the administration of justice, the Blue Team thought it was a good idea to send a letter to the head of the RCMP urging them to intervene? Wow, talk about bad judgement there and not a good look. The fact remains that the RCMP is independent and doesn’t need anyone to ask them to look into any potential crimes. Given all of the news around this story, does Scheer and Co. seriously think that the RCMP wasn’t noticing any of this? Does he think that their cable is out, or they’ve banned newspapers in RCMP headquarters? The last thing the RCMP Commissioner needed was a nod and a shove from Andrew Scheer to do something. Of course, that’s obviously assuming that the Conservatives are assuming that the RCMP is not. That might be a bad assumption to make and honestly just speaks to how short-sightedly the Conservatives are taking all this.
But alongside this most recent piece of overreach, the request for an emergency debate in the House of Commons was right on the mark. This is exactly the kind of case that we have this mechanism in place for, and the fact that the Speaker agreed to this so quickly goes to prove just how true that is. So tonight we’ll now get hours of debate in primetime, after the normal day is on the House is done. Starting at around 7 pm EST tonight, we’ll see some more political theatre in a week that has been full of it.
Tonight might deliver more results and big moments like yesterdays Justice committee meeting did, or it might simply result in a lot of heat and light signifying nothing. Regardless of what happens tonight, this story is in full bloom and the government has a big problem that it still hasn’t figure out how to handle. They haven’t seemed to get their plan together and emergency debates like tonight will give the Opposition parties a chance to get theirs together. The NDP seems to have theirs in place, while the Conservatives continue to reach for the moon that the Prime Minister says that we’re now going to, rather than taking a serious approach you’d expect from a serious government in waiting. One thing is for sure, I don’t think that a two-week break ahead has looked so good to a Canadian government in a very long time.