With the official start of the 43rd General Election this morning, it’s on and the campaigns are into full swing. As the party leaders start to criss-cross the country and attempt to grow their caucuses, all of the parts of the campaign are swinging into action. That includes the air game, as the parties try to spread their messages about themselves and their opponents. And with the big Globe and Mail SNC-PMO Scandal story coming out this morning, there is a lot of grist for that particular mill.
With that in mind, the Conservative released their first campaign ad of the actual campaign period and wow folks, it’s a bit of a doozy:
Well, that was blunt, wasn’t it? Given Andrew Scheer’s response from the tarmac of Ottawa International Airport to this story this morning, it shouldn’t be shocking to many to see that ad come out. The timing with this mornings news is totally coincidental, but that first clip of Justin Trudeau saying “the Globe and Mail story is false” sure does take on new meaning today. The obvious question a lot of people would ask hearing that is “Which Globe and Mail story?”
So while Justin Trudeau should be called out for this scandal and everything that’s taken place around it, is Andrew Scheer the right person to be doing it? Are the Conservatives really in the best position to criticize the Liberals for their attempts to help SNC-Lavalin? Well let’s examine that for a minute.
To hear the Conservatives say it, their record is as pure as the driven snow when it comes to handling the Quebec engineering giant. But the facts don’t seem to bear that out. For starters, remember that Andrew Scheer did meet privately with SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce. The subject of that meeting? To discuss deferred prosecution agreements. And this happened as recently as May 2018, less than a year before this all hit the fan. After that meeting, Mr. Scheer didn’t speak out against a deal for SNC-Lavalin. No he waited until the scandal hit the news to finally find his outrage at the idea.
If that were the lone case, then you might be able to call that simply politicking but wait folks, there’s more. In March of this year, Mr. Scheer refused to say what he would do that was different in this case. He continued to sidestep the legitimate question of what he would do if SNC is found guilty of breaking the law. Instead of giving Canadians a straight answer, he decided to say that deferred prosecution agreements were “not the issue” that he was concerned with in this story. It wasn’t the provision that could give a corporation a slap on the wrist in a case like this that was the problem, that was the position the Conservatives took at the time.
Okay, if this were baseball we’d give them three strikes, correct? Maybe I’m being too hard on them, right? Well let me present you with this pitch. Back in 2013, when Mr. Scheer was a member of the Conservative caucus, the Conservative government of the day granted exemptions to SNC-Lavalin and other corporations that violated government integrity policies. Despite new integrity rules that should have disqualified them from doing business with the government, that Conservative government, which Mr. Scheer sat in, gave SNC-Lavalin Canadian government contracts by granting them “public interest exemptions” from those rules designed to protect Canadians interests. Strike three folks!
And if you need any more grist to feed this particular mill, remember that over a period of time between 2004 and 2009, the Conservatives did receive $8,187.73 in illegal donations that originated from SNC-Lavalin. Yes, when Andrew Scheer was in government his party also received illegal donations from SNC-Lavalin. Can we institute a fourth strike here, or is that overkill?
So while the Conservatives have sudden seemed to find the value of ethics laws and integrity rules now that they sit in Opposition and see political advantage in them, their actions in government show a very different approach. That is one that Mr. Scheer can’t distance himself from, because it’s part of his own record as a member of that government.
Does that mean that this isn’t an important issue and “a pox on all their houses?” No, not at all. It does mean that on this matter, the answers to these problems don’t lie with Mr. Trudeau or Mr. Scheer. Mr. Scheer and his Conservatives are not the knights in shining armor that they like to portray themselves as. While the Liberals have a lot to answer for in the SNC-PMO Scandal, the Conservatives have their own history that deserves some scrutiny of its own.