When it comes
to the SNC Lavalin debacle, the Liberal government has been
trying to deal with for the past month or so, I have a somewhat
different take on the subject than most.
First of all,
I would like to make it crystal clear that Trudeau should
never have tried to intercede in the SNC Lavalin bribary
and corruption case currently before the courts. It was
a terrible idea to even suggest a plea bargain, let alone
demand such from the Attorney General.
Even though the
Prime Minister was technically within his rights to make
the demand, political interference are two words you never
want to see in a headline. Which brings me to Jody Wilson-Raybould,
the other antagonist in this drama.
By way of appointment,
Cabinet members are there to serve at the pleasure of the
Prime Minister. In this case, the PM had every right to
ask Wilson-Raybould to make the SNC Lavalin case go away.
As a member of Cabinet, she had two options – carry out
the Prime Minister’s directive or resign from Cabinet. She
did neither. Instead she waited until after she was moved
from Justice to Veteran Affairs in a mid-January Cabinet
shuffle, before resigning from Cabinet and going public
with her story a whole month later.
Since then she
has done everything possible to damage Trudeau and his government.
It was only a matter of time before she was kicked out of
the party altogether which inevitably occurred on April
2 along with former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott
who made the critical error of suggesting publicly that
she had lost confidence in the way the Trudeau government
had dealt with the situation and Wilson-Raybould in particular.
It was a direct swipe at Trudeau and she paid for it with
her expulsion from the party.
and Philpott have argued that the Justice Department and
the Attorney General should be independent of government
decisions but that’s a pipe dream. The Attorney General
is a member of the Cabinet and as such is charged with carrying
out the policies and directives of the government.
disagreed with Trudeau on how to handle the SNC Lavalin
case, she must have known there would be repercussions,
which is probably why she taped her phone conversation with
Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick during which he tried
to convince her to follow through with the Prime Minister’s
truly had the courage of her convictions, she should have
resigned from Cabinet the day after Trudeau asked her to
settle the SNC Lavalin case out of court. Inquiring minds
would have wanted to know why she resigned and the story
would have gotten out eventually. Instead, she wanted to
make it a cause célèbre and the inevitable happened.
So what type
of effect will this have on next fall’s election? That’s
a very good question. It certainly won’t help the Liberals
chances, which were already pretty grim. Support for the
Trudeau government was already hovering at 36 per cent at
the beginning of the year with the Conservatives trailing
three points behind.
Since the SNC
Lavalin scandal has come to light, their positions have
reversed. According to the latest polls, Liberal support
has dropped to 31.5 per cent and the Conservatives are ahead
at 36 per cent. Based on those figures, if an election were
held tomorrow, the Conservatives would have a 37 per cent
chance of winning a majority and a 67 per cent chance of
winning at least a minority, while the Liberals still have
21 per cent chance of hanging on to minority.
About the only
good news for the Liberals is that the election isn’t being
held tomorrow. If the SNC Lavalin affair happened in September,
the Liberals would be doomed. But we still have a whole
summer to go along with Labour Day and Thanksgiving. A lot
can happen between now and then – both good and bad.
The chances of
the Liberals holding on to majority status were always slim
at best. The chances of them even retaining a minority government
are at their lowest since they took office. If you are a
glass half full person you might think that the only place
left to go is up. History has taught us that while that
maybe true in some instances, things could just as easily
go from bad to worse. All it takes is one misstep and the
glass is not looking very full anymore.
can ill afford to make another misstep. In fact, it will
take a near perfect election campaign just to hang to power.
(If you wish
to comment on this or any other View Point column please
write to Fred Sherwin at email@example.com)