Having worked in politics for a decade, I always find it interesting to see when and how parties manage to get far out over their skies. While many professional political operatives have good political judgement and senses, sometimes those senses can be completely off the mark and off base. It’s always struck me how really bad political calculations can blow up in their faces and just how obvious that it was that they would.
There are many explanations for how those bad choices get made, everything between total over confidence, to having something to hide, right down to just purely bad decision making. No political party has a perfect record on these things, so everyone has their time in this particular barrel. Seeing these kinds of examples play out happen a lot, but they take on a whole new dimension in a minority government like we have in Ottawa right now. So it was with that in mind that I’m watching what’s playing out in West Block today, shaking my head at the whole thing:
You know everyone, it’s a rare event to see both a Government and the Official Opposition totally overplay their hands, at the exact same time, over the exact same issue. It’s a clusterf*ck if I’ve ever seen one, and it shouldn’t have gotten to this point. This all comes back to the WE Scandal, an issue that rocked this government in the Spring and Summer months and pushed the government to prorogue to try to stop the investigation of. The Liberals claim there is nothing here, it was dealt with, yet at the same time are fighting tooth and nail to stop. They have been filibustering multiple house committees in an attempt to stop investigations there, grinding them to a halt. That alone is overplaying their hand, going so far to try to stop something that they say is nothing. But instead of facing the reality of that appearance, they have doubled down on that filibustering by saying that the vote on this Conservative opposition day motion is a confidence measure, threatening to send Canadians to the polls over this. That’s crazy, but I’ll come back to that in a moment.
For their part, the Conservatives have done again what they always seem to do; they took a legitimate issue of concerned that needed to be investigated, and torqued it up with hyper partisan language making it impossible for others to accept. In this case, the Conservative motion took a good idea (creating a separate committee to investigate the WE Scandal and COVID spending measures) that would free up other committees to do other works, and injected a vile poison pill trying, calling it an “Anti-Corruption Committee”. By putting such a leading, partisan and over the top label on a serious committee that would have serious work to do, Erin O’Toole and his team completely shot the moon here. Why? I can only guess why they would, but it’s not the first time they have.
So in one fowl swoop, both the Liberals and the Conservatives have completely overplayed their hands with childish behaviour that trivializes a legitimate and serious issue of how the Government of Canada spends our money. There were many red flags that flew around the whole WE situation, and for the Liberals to suggest that getting to the bottom of that is some kind of character assassination or completely inappropriate while fighting a pandemic is ignorant, desperate and reeks of blind partisanship. As Global News’ David Akin correctly points out above, Canadians expect that their government can walk and chew gum at the same time. In fact, they elect them to do just that, because never does any government get to focus on solely one thing ever. There are always multiple balls to judge for any government, and a pandemic doesn’t make that any different. So for the Liberals to suggest that we must have an election because they simply can’t juggle these two balls at the same time is not only unbelievable, but also a damning indictment of their own abilities. Or otherwise put, a total overreach by this government.
For the Conservatives part, while the WE Scandal needs to be investigated and gotten to the bottom of, you can’t do that if you come in with a pre-determined decision in mind. By trying to call this an “Anti-Corruption Committee”, the Conservatives are assuming right off the hop that this Liberal government is corrupt and committed illegal acts of some sort. We don’t know that yet, we don’t have all the evidence yet and no matter how terribly the Conservatives view the Liberals as people or want to characterize them, that doesn’t make it so without the proof. The Liberals don’t help their cause by filibustering and trying to hide what they say isn’t there, but while those acts in and of themselves look bad, they are not evidence of corruption or crimes. It’s smells, but that’s not evidence that it’s sh*t that smells. You don’t know if it’s sh*t until you see it first-hand. That’s what this whole investigation should be about and there is a lot there to investigate. But that wasn’t enough for Pierre Poilievre, Erin O’Toole et al, they had to take this extra, inflammatory step that gave them a quick injection of partisan jollies that made the base feel good. Heck, even when they offered to strip “anti-corruption” from the title, as CTV’s Michel Boyer pointed out the replacement language in the motion for the name of the committee would have in the new special committee having the abbreviation of “SCAM”. That’s too cute by half and shows just how serious the Conservatives are about actually getting to the truth in all of this. In doing so, they too have completely overplayed their hand by taking a serious issue that deserves answers and turned it into rank, low-level politics that Canadians don’t expect at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic.
That’s left the NDP in the position of being the adults in the room again, as has been the pattern during this entire Parliament so far. NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus has proposed doing this separate committee, but stripping it of the offensive language and focusing on all pandemic spending for the government, which makes complete sense. Ottawa has had to spend a lot of money fast to respond to this pandemic, so it makes complete sense that we should have a special body to look at that spending and investigate any troubling situations that come with that, the WE Scandal included. In doing so, the NDP brought forward a constructive solution that would allow the WE Scandal to be investigated to its fullest, allow other House committees that were investigating WE to go onto other topics of importance during the pandemic and in effect, allow Parliament to continue to walk and chew gum, the very thing the Liberals claim is impossible. It’s a win/win approach that allows for proper parliamentary oversight to continue while we deal with the health crisis in front of us.
If that suggestion will come to pass will apparently need to wait until the idiotic shenanigans from the House today is dealt with. If this idiotic game of over-reach chicken being played out by the Liberals and Conservatives results in a snap election in the teeth of the second wave of a global pandemic, that would be the dumbest thing of all. Not only would we not get the answers to the legit questions that remain unanswered from the WE Scandal, we would be sending Canadians to the polls in the middle of a global pandemic while Ontario and Quebec are facing record high COVID cases daily, the Maritimes are still bubbled and the United States votes and potentially kicks off a constitutional crisis down there. All of that is a lot of gum we already have to chew while we walk, and we the Liberals and Conservatives decide to run for an election, it’s not like that gum goes away.
All of this means that both the Liberals and Conservatives have totally overplayed their hands and in the best-case scenario, are both in for epic walk backs of these insane positions. In the worst case, these gross political miscalculations will throw Canadians into an election we don’t need and don’t want during the biggest global health crisis in a century. This is a total clusterf*ck and a circus that Canadians just don’t need right now. It’s time for these two parties to tone down the rhetoric, walk back the over-the-top language and pull their heads out of their rear ends. We’ll see if they do it because if they don’t, I suspect that Canadians will be happy to punish these two parties for such stupid miscalculations on their parts, especially in these stressed days of COVID-19