With all the news that came last week in the SNC/PMO scandal, one question being asked by most observers was “What more was there to learn?”. It felt like by the end of last week that there wasn’t a whole lot of new info out there, and that maybe most of it was on the table. But earlier this morning a media advisory went out inviting people to a Sunday press conference at the National Press Gallery and the subject? New documents in the SNC/PMO Scandal. New documents you say? Given that everything in this case has come from inside the Liberal ranks, the idea of anyone in the opposition producing new documents at least proved to be different. So what did Mr. Scheer bring to the story?
Wow folks, honestly, I didn’t see this one coming for a few reasons. First off, this doesn’t feel like a usual, Trudeau, “Sunny Ways” kind of move. Threatening to sue is not a small step in the political arena, and this is the kind of thing that just doesn’t fit Justin Trudeau’s M.O.
Secondly, I find it something that we’re finding this out from Scheer and not Trudeau himself. If you were going to go to the trouble of threatening to sue your opponent for allegedly defamatory comments, you’d think that you would be telling everyone under the sun about it. You would tell people about it before the ink was dry on the letter itself. You’d do that as a proclamation of your innocence because it’s a big step; it’s not one taken lightly. So to do all that and not just tell no one publicly about it, but then leave it to your opponent to bring that to light? It looks very odd and takes some of the potential punch out of it.
Finally thought, and maybe most importantly, this threat really has the power to boomerang back on the Liberals and could really turn into some major overreach. In his press conference, Scheer basically dared Trudeau to sue, get things started so that they can get this to court as quickly as possible. This now leaves Trudeau having lost control of the narrative on this and leaves him with two pretty crappy choices; 1) calls Scheer’s bluff, following through on the suit and starts that process (which will involve having to submit documentation up the ying-yang, not to mention also likely being called to testify under oath) and ending up with everything on the legal record or 2) back down, retreat, pulling back the threat and look like a) you were trying to SLAPP down your opposition and b) that you’re afraid to go to court because you have something to hide.
Neither of those options is close to being a good option, yet because of his choice to threaten the lawsuit, he’s now stuck with one of them. I am genuinely wondering who suggested this to him and thought it was a good idea. In the past when you’ve seen governments take a step like this, it normally hasn’t worked out for them. The most recent example, that might have been the inspiration for this move, was former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne suing then Ontario Conservative leader Patrick Brown for comments he made. That didn’t turn that tide and eventually helped to lead us towards Premier Doug Ford.
So why anyone in the PMO or advising the Prime Minister would think this is the way to go now, I have no idea. It’s a bad suggestion, trying to cover up for another bad suggestion and to paraphrase something my parents said to me many times while I was growing up; two bad suggestions don’t make a good one. All this threat did was give more oxygen to this story, makes the Prime Minister look even worse than before and somehow makes those facing any legal jeopardy look better, which is quite a feat in this case. And of course, that’s all assuming that it’s a real threat and not just a bluff because if he’s bluffing, he’s opened himself up too all the same pain, while managing to add more to it when he backs down. I’m guessing we’ll find out more about this development this week but in the meantime, this feels like another bad own goal from the Red Team, one that they can’t blame Jody Wilson-Raybould or Jane Philpott for. But who knows, maybe we’ll be told this was all Scott Brison’s fault too somehow. Wouldn’t be the first time, right?