This afternoon the House of Commons Justice Committee sat to reply to an emergency meeting request from the Opposition. The topic of the meeting was straight forward; calling Jody Wilson-Raybould back to the committee to testify. Given the fact that at the last meeting the Liberals shot down a motion to bring Wilson-Raybould back to testify again and how bad that looked, one wouldn’t have been surprised to see them jump at this chance at a re-do. So what happened? Well, see for yourself:
Honestly everyone, I’m partially surprised here yet partially not by this turn of events. The part of me that’s not surprised, who’s sat in a few emergency meetings like the one called today, didn’t see something I’ve never seen before. When I was in the Natural Resources committee back in September, the Conservatives and NDP called for a meeting like this to discuss the governments purchase of the Kinder-Morgan Pipeline. In that meeting, it played out very similarly to this meeting today; the Opposition got to move a motion, both parties got to speak to it and at the first chance they got, the Liberals took the floor to shut it all down. I’ve seen similar things in the Harper years too, although I don’t know if that’s the comparison the Liberals were aiming for. But on the rules and such, that’s not new.
But the part of me is very surprised by this move because of just how terrible this all looks. Seriously, they have now gone out of their way twice to stop Jody Wilson-Raybould from testifying again, and done so with no rationale or explanation whatsoever. This is just pouring more gasoline on this fire, the one that the government set upon itself. So today this motion offered them a chance to get it right this time, and they just shot it down. Do they really think this will make it all go away? What does she have to say about those few days that are so damning that the government is going to so much trouble to stop her from talking about them? Inquiring minds wants to know and now many Canadians are including amongst the inquiring.
Another part of this that is surprising to me is the Liberals throwing away opportunities to change the channel on this. Let’s face facts, the government is in a very bad spot right now. The best thing from their perspective about having this testimony before that committee is that they get most of the time to ask questions, to give their perspective, maybe turn this story around. The committee is a controlled environment where they have some measure of control over what might happen.
But when you deny Jody Wilson-Raybould the chance to speak there, you’re forcing her hand. They are putting her under increased pressure to speak and address all of this somehow. And by turning her away from the committee, a place where you have some measure of control, you’re pushing her towards other venues, where the government has no control and no input. You want an example of what that looks like? Remember this from October of 2013?
I still remember that day vividly, when Mike Duffy went into the Senate, took the floor and gave a speech in a full defence of himself, with the full protections of Parliamentary Privilege. He used that speech to set fire to the Harper Government, a government that was trying to hide from the Senate Spending Scandal and hope it would go away. How did that work out for that government? How would that look in the House of Commons, with TV cameras rolling, as she speaks uninterrupted and unrebutted, giving the full, unredacted version of her truth. By taking ham-fisted moves like the Liberals just pulled in the Justice Committee, that is the kind of scenario that they are setting themselves for.
With the Federal Budget being tabled on Tuesday, the Liberals had a chance today to help slow this story a bit. But now thanks to this, the Justice Committee will be meeting again on the same day, promising to draw away important attention and discussion from the budget that will be the frame of the Liberal election platform. Why do you do that to yourself? I have no idea, because it makes no sense. The Liberals are only going to get so many chances to correct course and turn this around, but after today, you can’t help but feel they’ve almost ran out of them. They just spoiled a good chance here to start in the right direction and that is their own doing.