Life in a minority Parliament is something that is precarious at the best of times. Depending on the distribution of seats and who holds the balance of power, working in a minority Parliament can be challenging and require a lot of diplomatic work between parties. There’s an expectation on the part of the public that the 336 MPs elected to the House of Commons do what they can to make the Parliament they choose work; in short, they expect MPs to act like the adults they are. Admittedly sometimes that’s easier said than done, but it’s still the low bar that the people expect our MPs to meet.
At the best of times the consequences of not meeting that standard are natural; defeat at the ballot box. That’s normally enough to keep our elected folks in line and keeps their feet on the ground as it were. Given the number of opportunities to take down a government and the math involved, those MPs and their leaders are usually more attuned to those potential consequences. There is a risk in being seen to refuse to work with their colleagues, be completely obstructionist and not be constructive in their Opposition, a risk that grows exponentially if that obstruction brings about an election that few people want. It’s all a part of the balancing act of life in a minority, which makes it a unique experience for sure.
Of course we are not in the best of times. Heck, we’re not in even normal times. This global pandemic has affected many facets of our lives and weighs heavily on the decisions we may make. Naturally, that extends to this minority Parliament, as that usual expectation for our MPs to make things work is even more important. Therefore that bar that needs to be met to justify trying to take down a government is much higher than usual. With all that in mind, today we heard from Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet before today’s sitting of the House. And in this moment, at this time, he decided to utter the following:
Folks let’s be clear about this, nothing that Mr. Blanchet said today was new. He’s been calling for both the Prime Minister and for Finance Minister to resign over the WE Scandal. This scandal is something that needs a full investigation and I agree there should be consequences for the lack of recusal from the PM and Mr. Morneau. But here is the thing for me; if this were normal times, do we have enough evidence that either or both of those gentlemen should resign or face a non-confidence vote? That’s debatable. I would argue that more investigation is needed, and more questions need answers before we arrive at a non-confidence vote or talking about forcing elections.
Of course these aren’t normal times, and invariably that changes the calculus around talks of non-confidence votes. That bar you need to meet rises that much higher and if the matter of a non-confidence vote was debatable by normal standards, surely, it’s not going to be met in this situation. On top of that, there are serious risks in running an actual election campaign. Seriously, with Saskatchewan already having to go to an election in the Fall and the New Brunswick minority PC’s musing about forcing an election there too, we already have a lot of risk on the table when it comes to running a general election during this global pandemic. So to now threaten to bring down this Federal government in this circumstance is not responsible and has the potential to expose Canadians to serious risk.
But even if you put the irresponsibility of this threat from the Bloc aside, there is another part about Blanchet’s words that make this all the more incomprehensible. The fact is that the Bloc can’t force an election by themselves and they know it. They can threaten everything under the sun towards the Liberals, but they can’t do a bloody thing about it without having the Conservatives and NDP all onside with them. With the Conservatives electing a new leader next week (where the front runner in the race says he won’t try to trigger an early election if chosen) and the NDP continuing to make Parliament work by getting improvements to the government’s response to COVID, the Bloc has no leverage to do what they threatens. Yet Blanchet continues to threaten it, over and over, looking impotent and completely ineffectual in the process. Instead of getting to the bottom of the WE scandal and getting results for Quebeckers who are dealing with the biggest crisis since the Second World War, he is behaving like a whiny child who didn’t get the cookie he wanted for breakfast.
It’s a bad look on the Bloc leader and frankly is bad political strategy. In fact, there is no strategy anywhere to be found in this. To have the PM, his Chief of Staff and his Finance Minister all resign in one foul swoop has never happened in our political history over any scandal. And while the WE scandal is important and not the “nothingburger” that some have tried to make it out to be, it hasn’t risen to the level of the largest historical political scandals in our country.
To call for these resignations now, before the case is fully proved, is premature and completely off base. To threaten to try to send Canadians back to the polls during a global pandemic is completely irresponsible and a dereliction of the duties the Bloc were elected to fulfill. And to do so with zero ability or likeliness to pull it off is an act of political malpractice of the worst order. It’s the kind of act that shows how ineffectual a party is, how unserious they are and how little they have to offer the electorate. Of course, we are talking about the Bloc and that description has fit them well for over 20 years. If that’s what Mr. Blanchet was looking to remind everyone of, then he succeeded. That would be the only success he’ll have with these threats. They are as empty and hollow as the Bloc has been for the longest time, and clearly even a global pandemic hasn’t changed that fact.