One thing that is consistent about politics just about anywhere in the World at any level is the rumours; people love a good political rumour and in this digital age, they can come from anywhere. With the House of Commons Justice Committee coming back to meet today to talk about the PMO/SNC Scandal again, there have been lots of thoughts and rumours about what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might do to get out of the mess he finds himself in.
And let’s be clear, he and his government are in a mess right now, one that doesn’t seem to have a simple, quick or easy way out of it. That has led some to say that bigger, more drastic measures may be required here. Given that the Prime Ministers Principle Secretary, his closest confidant, already resigned to try to quell this story, there aren’t many heads big enough left to role to end this. At this point, all that remains are the Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick or the PM himself; anyone below those two won’t cut it.
So the options basically now come down to one of two basic principles of human survival: fight or flight. Given that the PM refuses to apologize and accept full responsibility for this whole episode, he seems to have closed the door on a third option. The flight option is straight forward: resignation. Some people astutely pointed out that a couple weeks ago we had the 35th anniversary of Pierre Trudeau’s famous “walk in the snow” that lead to his retirement from politics, saying that maybe it is time for Justin to follow those footsteps too. That’s one choice.
The other choice is to fight, something that the Prime Minister and his team have seemed to be very reluctant to do, for good reason. The publics sympathy has not been with the Prime Minister and has firmly been with Jody Wilson-Raybould, Jane Philpott and Celina Caesar-Chavannes; any attempt to attack them has blown up in their faces, leading to a public apology to Wilson-Raybould from the PM for the anonymous attacks against her. And we’ve since seen the public response to attacks from people defending the PM, like Sheila Copps, which to be kind, haven’t helped the PMs cause.
So if the option is going to be a fight, the PM needs to find a venue for that fight that is to his advantage and that helps him get past this situation. What might that option be? Well Mike Cohen of “The Suburban” (which bills itself as Quebec’s largest English-language weekly newspaper) offers this juicy rumour to the table:
Of “fighting” options, calling a snap election would surely be one, but not one without risk. Remember Parliament has long since passed fixed date elections laws in the spirit of preventing exactly this kind of idea. On top of that, when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives decided to drop the writ a month early last time, leading to one of the longest election campaigns in Canadian history, the whole Opposition, including the Liberals, rightly attacked the move as cynical and unethical.
When you add the Liberals broken promise on electoral reform from that campaign, deciding to pull the fire alarm and call an early election to get out of this would come at a political cost that wouldn’t be insignificant. It would look at least as unethical as Harper, but probably more given everything that’s swirling around this. But maybe the calculus here is that there is no way out of this without any damage and that maybe going to the people for a mandate to save SNC jobs is the best of a bad set of choices.
All that being said, why am I even writing about this? There are all kinds of rumours floating around out there about so many things, so what makes this worthy of commentary or pointing out? Fair question, and honestly I would personally be surprised if the PM actually did pull the fire alarm after the budget like this. But there was a detail in Mr. Cohen’s piece that, as someone who’s worked more than a dozen campaigns in his lifetime, gave a few grains of proof to draw upon:
Several suppliers who are called upon by candidates in federal elections have told me they were contacted already to be prepared to start printing material soon for a May vote.http://www.thesuburban.com/blogs/cohen_confidential_with_mike_cohen/trudeau-likely-to-call-early-may-federal-election/article_2fa27aae-452a-11e9-94a4-4f77d989d503.html
That’s interesting, if only it seems that the Liberals are gearing up but that by itself isn’t proof; many candidates are already out knocking on doors and getting ready for the Fall, so it’s not totally unheard of. But usual a campaign will produce materials more specific to the campaign the closer you get to it, so that’s why I perked up here a bit.
Also after seeing this, I started thinking of what outstanding shoes there are out there to drop, things that are supposed to happen before the next election. One big shoe that has to drop before a writ drop, by law, is calling a by-election in the British Columbia riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith left open by former NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson. She officially resigned on January 2nd, meaning that the PM must at least call that by-election before the writ drops for the fixed date of a Fall general election. So why the wait? Why hasn’t he called that race yet? There could very well be a legit reason for not doing so, but its an interesting curiosity hanging out there that could feed into rumours like the one out of Montreal. Could he not be calling it because he’s thinking of calling an early election that would make the by-election a mute point? Hmmm
Personally I still believe that it would be foolish to rush to an early election and that the damage that would cause to the Liberal brand would be large, undoing any advantage given by catching the Opposition off-guard and would feed into growing perceptions of cynicism that is giving more life to that very same Opposition. I don’t think the PM will pull the fire alarm here. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t fun to speculate on rumours like these; they can be quite the thought excise as we ask ourselves “what if?”.