Over four years ago, with a growing family and living in a small apartment, my wife and I decided to move out of the city to purchase our first home. So since that time, I’ve been doing the daily commute back and forth to Ottawa, a drive that’s normally an hour and a quarter without traffic. So once you add in the traffic on a regular week night, that normally gives me between one and a half and two hours to relax, unwind after the day, listening to the satellite radio and think about a lot of things.
Tonight on part of the drive I was listening to the news and it all got it thinking more about the whole SNC/PMO scandal. The rubber really seems to be hitting the road and after observing everything happening in the House today and outside it, it feels very different. It feels a lot like it’s about to jump up to another level, one that I don’t think that we totally understand the importance of yet, one that might have a long time effect on the historic path of the Liberal Party.
For starters, my former colleague Karl Bélanger made a comment on CFRA that I think perfectly encapsulates the Liberals current position; it’s seems like they don’t want to move on, they want to be right, but they’re wrong on this. When you hear the reactions from Liberal caucus members who went on the record today, the comments seemed to drip of that sentiment. At the end, to accept Jody Wilson-Raybould’s truth, you also have to accept that the Prime Ministers Office did something very wrong here, and they just don’t seem willing to be do that.
But those earlier comments really helped to set the context for the scene that came at the end of the day today. One of the great things about the new temporary chamber in the West Block is that there is literally nowhere to escape to; it’s a tight, confined space and the doors to the place are right on the street. That makes is easier for reporters to talk to MPs, which helped to bring us a scene like this below, where Jody Wilson-Raybould spoke again:
Over five minutes, Wilson-Raybould showed great strength but also showed how this situation is the near perfect box that the Liberals now find themselves stuck in. Wilson-Raybould points out that she’s simply doing her job, obeying the law and argues that she shouldn’t be removed from caucus for that reason, which is ultimately reasonable. Isn’t that what we want more elected people to do? When you compare that to comments from other Liberal MPs who said they “can’t trust her”, “don’t feel safe” with her in the caucus and that “she is costing us our jobs”. That makes a cold contrast, one that the Liberals can’t win in.
Now I saw this as someone who worked in a party caucus on Parliament Hill for nine years, so I get the whole “support the team” sentiment and the importance placed on trust. But I also understand that has its limits, which is different for every MP. And sometimes being in that position, in the vice of dealing with an ethical and legal dilemma, while also trying to be “trusted”, something has got to give. And in Wilson-Raybould’s case, she just laid that out well, especially when she tried to explain why she recorded the Wernick phone call.
And when you heard the Liberal MPs who reacted today, you saw why the Liberals can’t win this and can’t be right in the way that they want. The fact that these MPs jumped to attack and rush to conspiracy theories about leadership coups, instead of jumping to the more reasonable assumption that “hey, something was up here”, shows the depth of the Liberals problem. They are acting like everyone will believe that every politician is craven and power crazed, and the idea that someone would do something like this on principle is crazy. I know how most of the public is reading this, and it’s not what the Liberals are hoping for.
The worst part of the box the Liberals find themselves in is that there is no clear, quick answer to this issue. Expelling Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott will not help, and making them political martyrs will only make their situation worse. Doing so only makes it look like they have more to hide, and that something worse is lingering out there. But you know another way you can help spread that view? Well how about this nugget tonight from La Presse:
It turns out La Presse did an Access to Information request for documents, letters and emails from the Privy Council’s Office, specifically from the Clerk Michael Wernick, from November 1st to December 15th around the SNC case. Under this law, the department facing the request gets 30 days to give an answer with documents. But in this case, the Privy Council Office asked for an extension…. of an extra 240 days. 240 days would mean that the documents wouldn’t be released until after the election. Hmmm, I’m sure that’s all a big coincidence. Again, another action taken here that doesn’t look or smell like the acts of an innocent party. I’m not saying there is anything there to see, but when the Liberals are seemingly doing everything under the sun to try to avoid answering all the questions in the scandal, this turn of events just smells.
So at this point, it seems to me that the Liberals have to face facts. They want to be right, they want to say everyone else is wrong, but it’s their actions so far that have been wrong. They need to get their heads around the fact that the problem isn’t the person who blew the whistle on the problems, it’s the people whose actions caused the problem. So in that same vein, I find it disturbing that the anonymous Liberal who was quoted worrying about his job, wasn’t wondering aloud why the Prime Ministers actions aren’t putting his seat in danger. From this view if I was in the Liberal caucus, especially if I got elected riding the Prime Minister’s coattails in 2015, I’d be more worried about that then focusing on he actions of Wilson-Raybould and Philpott. Because ejecting them won’t get the Liberals out of this perfect box of their own creation.