Yesterday was a much bigger day than most of us expected. The resignation of Jane Philpott was something that many people simply didn’t see coming and had a huge effect on the course of this story. For the government, this was all kinds of bad and there is no way to really avoid that. If you read the columnists from all the major newspapers, that sentiment was unanimous, which is quite the feat when you think about it. It’s a rare day in Canada when all those different opinions land in the same spot, and you know that’s either really good, or really bad. And folks, this has gotten really bad.
So, before we go into the next act of this story tomorrow with the testimony of Gerald Butts in the morning and Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick in the afternoon, I just wanted to quickly touch on a few points to come from the days events. Firstly, I have to start with the comments made by the Liberal MP for Gatineau Steve MacKinnon. Steve is a decent guy and while I don’t agree with him on a lot, I got the chance to work with him and his office on a piece of legislation in my last two years on the Hill and he was very collegial. And I say this even though he unseated one of my favourite MPs of all time, Françoise Boivin. But last night he went on CBC’s Power and Politics and made a hash of this story with a simple poor choice of words:
I will just say this; given the history of the Liberal Party of Canada over the past 25 years, the word “entitled” should be completely extracted and banished from the vocabulary of their MPs and staff. That is especially true when talking about a story like this, because I doubt that you want to raise the memories of this:
So, make that another own goal from the Red Team on this story. And it was with that in mind that I read a certain post from the Globe and Mail’s Steve Chase, who broke this story with Bob Fife. Many have said this was just an “Ottawa bubble” story and that no one in the real world cared about it. Well Chase quotes Toronto-area Liberal MP John MacKay on this story, and it really leapt out at me:
This is a phenomenon that I’ve been seeing from other corners, from talking with people from across the country, especially because I talk a lot of politics. More than a few times I’ve had stories relayed to me about conversations they’ve had at the hockey rink, at the library, the grocery store, at work, all over really. Those conversations are about this story, and each time I’ve been told this I’ve asked them one question: What did those people say? Most wanted more information and to hear from more people, but most of them agree that something is up here and that the Prime Minister is hiding something. That’s not a good sign for the government. It’s a sign that this story has broken outside the Ottawa bubble and is resonating with people’s sensibilities.
One last thing I wanted to talk about was an interesting but new development that’s unique to this Parliament. One of the new things to come in this Parliament is the introduction of E-Petitions. Thanks to the work of former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, Canadians can now initiate online petitions through the House of Commons that the government must reply to, just like they do with any other petition. All it needs to go ahead is an MP to sponsor the petition, similar to with paper ones. So, when I saw this tweet appear in my timeline last night, I took specific interest:
It turns out a resident of New Westminster, BC started this petition on the whole SNC-Lavalin scandal and asks for two things; calls on the PM to totally waive privilege to allow Jody Wilson-Raybould to speak fully and calls for a National Inquiry into this scandal. This gives people another way to voice their concerns and engage with the process, but this is the first time I’ve seen e-petitions used on a matter of ethics like this. It’s an interesting development, and I doubt the last time we’ll see it.
So tomorrow promises to be another big day with four hours of testimony before us. We’ll see how much more Mr. Butts and Mr. Wernick have to say, but it will take a lot for it to rebut and outshine what we’ve seen so far from Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott. We’ll all be watching and it feels safe to say we’ll have a lot to talk about afterwards.