Yesterday was a long day for many and even though it was only a Wednesday, you couldn’t help but feel that in political Ottawa, it already had been a very long week. The waves from Tuesday’s news is still rippling throughout #cdnpoli and the whole SNC/PMO Scandal just isn’t going away. Instead of stopping this story, the move to expel Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus has jumped it up to another level. And with that, comes a jumped up level of leaks it seems, as more of those came last night:
As the story goes, Jody Wilson-Raybould set out conditions, conditions that when you look at them look extremely reasonable. She wanted Gerald Butts, Michael Wernick and Mathieu Bouchard gone, an admission to the caucus or publicly that the PMO screwed up and a promise that the PMO won’t go ahead and interfere anymore with the SNC case. As political negotiations go, that’s a really low-price tag to be asking for; she wasn’t asking for a new cabinet role, wasn’t demanding to be put back as Attorney General, wasn’t asking for anything that was self-serving or that would enrich her personally. Basically, she was asking for those who allegedly acted wrong to be removed, for the Prime Minister to accept responsibility and apologize, and to promise he basically wouldn’t do it again.
And yet we ended up where we did. Gerald Butts resigned, making the whole “I don’t want to be a distraction” comments at the time make a bit more sense. Michael Wernick is retiring, so he’s going to be out of the picture in two weeks. So right there that’s two of the five asks down, with three left. Mr. Bouchard is still in place, and frankly, it seems odd to me that two people above him have fallen yet he’s still there. As a former political staffer, we know that we work at the pleasure of our bosses. So, if he was removed in this case, while not an easy pill to swallow, I doubt it would be that shocking given everything that’s gone on. Yet he still remains.
As for the other two alleged demands, these are ones that lay totally in the hands of the Prime Minister and basically come back to him doing something he’s refused to do all along; admit being wrong. He refuses to do so, even for the good of the team that he leads. And then to refuse to state that they won’t continue with this whole course of action that got them in trouble to begin with, well that’s just willful and looks even worse. Basically Wilson-Raybould is asking the Prime Minister to admit he did something wrong and promise not to do it again. In the grand scheme of potential punishments in the political world, that’s a slap on the wrist. Yet the PM refused to lower himself to get slapped.
When I read this story, I was really left to wonder who leaked it and why. If the PMO leaked it and try to make it proof that Jody Wilson-Raybould was just politicking and being all nefarious, make it seem that she wasn’t a paragon of virtue, then they totally misread this story. In the end, it looks like Wilson-Raybould was trying to give the PMO an out, a way to escape this scenario, to be seen to accept responsibility and move on. If done early on in this saga, would accepting those terms and issuing that humble apology staunched this in its track; maybe. But what stopped that from happening? For someone who hasn’t seemed to have an issue with issuing apologies for the past wrong doings of others (and rightfully so), this Prime Minister has seemed to be rather allergic to issuing fulsome apologies for his own. There’s probably a lesson in there for him somewhere in that.
But as this story continues, as it will, now Wilson-Raybould and Philpott are free to speak their truths and tell us their stories. And that continued this morning:
Going through these interviews and seeing what these two MPs have to say, the one thing that strikes me is the consistency in their words, their stories and their approaches. Their stories haven’t changed, which makes them that much more credible. Their approaches haven’t changed either, which to me shows me the sincerity of their actions and words. For all the people who have tried to ascribe other, more nefarious and maybe more normal motives for the past inhabitants of political Ottawa, they have been consistent in that they were just doing what they thought was right.
To me that is the sad irony of this story. In the end, the Prime Minister threw them both out of caucus, accusing them of trying to start a civil war within the party, trying to undermine them and not being a team player. But as more of this comes out, what is becoming clearer to me is that Wilson-Raybould and Philpott were probably the biggest team players of the group. They saw a big problem here and stood on principle to try to make sure their caucus acted right. They put their political careers in jeopardy by doing this. And in doing so, they were trying to protect the team from impending political disaster. But instead of heeding their warnings, the PMO trying to put their concerns underfoot, playing them off as the concerns of political neophytes who needed to learn their place.
And all of this happened for what? Basically, because the Prime Minister couldn’t allow himself to say sorry? To admit that he and his office were wrong here? And they risked all of this political fallout for that? The true hallmarks of a political team player if I’ve ever seen it. Yikes! I’d like to think that this would turn into a moment of introspection for the Liberal caucus and they might see that maybe they got this wrong, but I doubt it now. This has gone too far down the road and it’s too late to go back. They are in this mess and they own it now; all that’s left to determine is how it ends. But in the meantime, I guess they can sit back and wonder what might have been had the Prime Minister really taken one for the team and used the potential power of a fulsome apology.