“Events, dear boy, events.” - Harold Macmillan
Since the Globe and Mail rocked the political world last Thursday, the chattering classes who follow Canadian politics have had more than enough to keep them busy (except Gerald Butts somehow found time yesterday to tweet about Iranian social media trolls).
In the period of less than a week, we are on the precipice of one of the most roller-coaster Parliamentary sessions, unseen since Stephane Dion, with the help of Jack Layton and separatist Gilles Duceppe, tried to take the reigns of power without the unnecessary hassle of asking voters.
If you would have asked any Member of Parliament a week ago what they thought they would be discussing, the sudden departure of one of the Liberal’s most proficient Ministers would not have been on anyone’s radar. For those who consider themselves Scott Brison fans, his mad dash wasn’t at all that surprising. It’s just a matter of time before the details of that situation soon boils over.
Yesterday, a few interesting tidbits were added to this evolving Liberal scandal involving the PMO and alleged political interference with the former Attorney General. If you want to learn what happened, please keep reading.
For those who watched Justin Trudeau’s press conference on Monday, most would admit, some even begrudgingly, that he didn’t look at all that flustered. Gale force winds were starting to pick up, however through it all, he was rather serene.
He said he spoke to his friend Jody and she helped him “remember” that he was completely vindicated from any of those nasty allegations that the Globe and Mail plastered above the fold just mere days ago.
He said that her continued presence in Cabinet spoke for itself. There was no riff between them. This was just a miscommunication and they talked it out, so stop asking pesky questions. And in a masterful performance, he was able to escape that press conference without so much as a flesh wound. So he thought...
As Michelle Rempel so eloquently said yesterday, as every news station broke their scheduled banter to announce to the country that there was news afoot, she tweeted, “Feminist pro tip #1 - don’t speak for a woman without actually speaking to her and getting her consent”.
Or as one constituent wrote in, “hell hath no fury than a woman scorned.”
Soon, BREAKING NEWS, was scrolling along the bottom of our screens.
There clearly was a break in communication between the Prime Minister and “Jody”, as somehow over the past few days, saying her first name seemed best suited for his communication needs. Knowing this PMO, they probably quickly assembled a focus group to test that.
Overnight, Wilson-Raybould ascertained a former Supreme Court Judge as her lawyer, quit cabinet and wrote a resignation letter. It should be noted that her letter thanked everyone except the Prime Minister. No one can really blame her for that. All the details will hopefully come out. In the meantime, we can only speculate they didn’t part on good terms.
With so many moving parts to this growing Liberal scandal, it would be wrong not to talk about Anthony Housefather’s TV interview Monday afternoon. Now you might not know who Mr. Housefather is, but he is the chair of the Justice Committee. He is by far one of the most gregarious and well-liked MPs in Parliament. While one would like to give him the benefit of the doubt that the PMO and the Liberal Party’s Whip wasn’t spoonfeeding him the lines, it was abundantly clear he didn’t think the Justice Committee should touch this with a ten foot pole.
As a Liberal MP, Mr. Housefather gets to wear two hats while he Chairs the committee as they grapple with the motion. The Chair of the committee, doesn’t normally vote or wade into the debate. Their purpose is to keep order, ensure the Standing Orders are followed, and keep the discussion moving. Now as a Liberal MP, he is also very aware of how important this meeting is. It can either mean relief and it fizzles or it can lead to weeks of PMO and Liberal insiders airing their dirty laundry. Or what many want to know, will they acknowledge that Bob Fife was onto something?
Asking the Chair of any committee what contentious motion should pass or fail is a rather fruitless exercise. The same well worn line of, “the committee will decide on what they want to do and I will not prejudge that decision,” is the standard boilerplate answer. So for the Chair of a committee, that is about to be standing room only, to wade into the arguments either pro or con, was an interesting strategy. Nonetheless, he should have declined the interview because he forgot the cardinal rule: when you are the Chair of the committee, you should never speculate. Leave that to the opposition, pundits and the twitter crowd.
Fast forward to yesterday, in the period of 24 hours, Mr. Housefather has seen the light. It seems that now with the sudden resignation of Wilson-Raybould, it is a good idea that the Justice Committee take up this investigation. In doing so, he also revealed his hand, which is that they will amend the motion and probably whittle down the witness list. The job of the opposition this afternoon will be to ensure that the main players in the PMO, PCO and anyone associated with this mess gets an invite to reveal the truth.
During the meeting, be prepared to hear the Liberal MPs talk a lot about “Cabinet confidence” and “solicitor-client privilege”. They will want to let anyone listening know that the committee should set expectations low and that most of the conversations that took place are probably not allowed to be shared. You might even hear some of them say that with the Ethics Commissioner’s investigation, some witnesses might not want to discuss anything before they meet with him.
Some of that may be true, but they should let the witnesses make that determination. The last time someone spoke on behalf of another, a Cabinet Minister resigned.
The other thing everyone should keep at the back of their minds, is the Liberals broke a promise in their platform. No, not the electoral reform pledge or balancing the budget. They broke their promise to make political staff’s emails eligible to be sought through access-to-information requests. Guaranteed, there is all sorts of information that could be gleamed from political staff going back and forth and trying to figure out what to do with SNC Lavalin.
While we wait to see what the Justice Committee does this afternoon, let us all agree that Canadians deserve to know the truth.
Everyday another layer of the onion is peeled off and the PMO has lost all control of the narrative.
Cabinet Minister’s don’t resign for nothing and they don’t lawyer up on their way out the door.