Timing can be quite the thing in politics; it can be a great boost to one’s fortunes, or it can be the biggest drain on them. It’s not always what exactly happens itself, but the timing of when it happens that can bring about questions, raise thoughts and create impressions. A certain act happening at a certain time can say a lot more in general than the exact same act happening at another time. In politics, this is especially true of when someone decides to leave the scene and walk away. And with us now being so close to the Fall election, those kinds of decisions can take on a different view. It was with that in mind that I saw this announcement this morning:
Andrew Leslie was one of the Liberals star recruits in 2015 and why not? The retired lieutenant-general served 35 years in the Armed Forces and rose as high to be Chief of the Land Staff and Chief of Transformation in the Harper years. He was a well-respected figure, who gave the Liberals huge credibility and gave the novice Liberal leader a big boost. But here we are, after one term, and he is walking away. That is something that speaks volumes by itself, but in the last while he hasn’t been alone in making this decision. Who else has done the same?
And that’s not even the full list. That’s a lot of MPs who have decided to go home instead of running again. Now for some, there are legit reasons around retirement and I tip my hat to them and wish them the best. But even with that, their timing is interesting because it leads one to believe that if things had been better, they would have stuck around. Even in the retirement of someone like Rodger Cuzner, who is well respected, there were hints that part of his decision had to do with him being overlooked in the January cabinet shuffle that took place.
But here is the thing everyone, I’ve gotten to know a couple of those names listed and observe others up close in my work on the Hill. I can’t say that there is any one of those MPs walking away that leaves me say “Good Riddance, run don’t walk away”. They are a good group of elected officials who I believe served for the right reasons and were hard working in Ottawa and in their ridings. These are the qualities that you want in your elected officials, and to see them walking away is not only bad for their party, it’s bad for our democratic institutions.
So why am I raising this now? Well for months we heard this drum beat from folks in Ottawa about New Democrats walking away, not re-offering, as a sign of the impending downfall of Jagmeet Singh. Yet here we are, with high profile MPs walking away close to an election and no such chatter is coming about the Prime Minister. Now to be fair, I didn’t believe that narrative was appropriate when it came to Singh because of everyone’s individual circumstances, so you could argue the same applies here.
But then I have to come back to that timing thing. How does the announcement of an MP walking away on May 1st compare to someone who decided long before this? You could easily argue is speaks more loudly. And I will say that while I didn’t agree with the chatter and narrative that formed for a while around Singh and MPs not re-offering, I do agree when you hit a certain threshold it becomes harder and harder to ignore. For the governing Liberals, the resignation of Andrew Leslie feels like that threshold being hit, and there are rumours floating around that he won’t be the last to make a similar announcement. So maybe now is the time to ask the question about why so many solid, hard working MPs are walking away. Hey, at least the timing would demand it because MPs don’t tend to make these decisions this late in the game if things are all hunky dory.