Busi­ness as usual against back­drop of sex­ual-mis­con­duct reck­on­ing

Journal Pioneer - - EDITORIAL - Chan­tal Hébert Chan­tal Hèbert is a na­tional af­fairs writer.

As MPs re­turn to Par­lia­ment Hill this week, all par­ties are brac­ing for the pos­si­bil­ity that a vari­a­tion of the cri­sis that has en­gulfed the On­tario To­ries could strike them.

In matters of sex­ual mis­con­duct, no fed­eral po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion can blithely as­sume it is bul­let­proof.

Since On­tario Tory leader Pa­trick Brown’s bru­tal fall from grace last week, each has dis­creetly been scour­ing its clos­ets for clues of po­ten­tial sex­ual mis­con­duct trou­ble to come.

Kent Hehr - the ju­nior Lib­eral min­is­ter who left Justin Trudeau’s cab­i­net last week af­ter he was ac­cused of mak­ing sex­u­ally in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ments to women - was al­ready in trou­ble be­fore the Brown story broke. It likely ac­cel­er­ated his demise.

Call it a case of be­lated due dili­gence, for it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore the #MeToo move­ment caught up to Canada’s po­lit­i­cal class.

In the House of Com­mons, MPs got down to de­bat­ing a bill de­signed to re­in­force the safe­guards against sex­ual ha­rass­ment. It was the first piece of leg­isla­tive busi­ness on the 2018 agenda. At the in­vi­ta­tion of the NDP, they unan­i­mously ap­proved the bill in prin­ci­ple and fast-tracked it to a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee.

But there is only so much the adop­tion of af­ter-the-fact mea­sures will do to shel­ter fed­eral par­lia­men­tar­i­ans and their par­ties from the #MeToo storm that has hit the On­tario Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives.

Based on more than three decades of Par­lia­ment Hill watch­ing, the ques­tion is not whether there are or have been sex­ual mis­con­duct skele­tons in ev­ery party closet but whether one or more will come back to rat­tle its po­lit­i­cal fam­ily.

The tim­ing and the high­pro­file roles of the pro­tag­o­nists in the eye of the storm in the Queen’s Park de­vel­op­ments make it a po­lit­i­cal scan­dal of epic pro­por­tion. The de­cap­i­ta­tion of the On­tario Tory lead­er­ship only months be­fore an elec­tion that was the party’s to lose is an event for the his­tory books.

But the sub­stance of the al­le­ga­tions made against Brown and ex-party pres­i­dent Rick Dyk­stra, who also re­signed un­der a sim­i­lar cloud this week­end, per­tain to ac­tions that many in high places on Par­lia­ment Hill, as in other leg­is­la­tures, have long dis­missed as boys-will-be-boys be­hav­iour.

It was not so long ago that Brown and Dyk­stra were sit­ting on Stephen Harper’s Con­ser­va­tive benches. Some of the al­leged events date back to the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive watch.

Now fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer is fac­ing pointed ques­tions in­clud­ing from some of his own MPs as to whether the party un­der his pre­de­ces­sor turned a blind eye to the is­sue.

This year’s sit­ting of Par­lia­ment was al­ways go­ing to face stiffer-than-usual com­pe­ti­tion for at­ten­tion.

In the big eco­nomic pic­ture, the fate of NAFTA al­most cer­tainly matters more than the up­com­ing fed­eral bud­get. As MPs were mak­ing their way back to Par­lia­ment, the lat­est chap­ter in that on­go­ing story was un­fold­ing in Mon­treal.

Even be­fore Brown’s dra­matic exit from the scene, fed­eral politics were go­ing to take a back seat to the On­tario and Que­bec elec­tion cam­paigns in June and Oc­to­ber re­spec­tively, no later than the spring. Be­cause of the mag­ni­tude of the earth­quake that has be­fallen the On­tario To­ries, that has al­ready hap­pened.

The af­ter­shocks of what could be a frac­tious pro­vin­cial lead­er­ship cam­paign will be felt on Par­lia­ment Hill for there are less than six de­grees of sep­a­ra­tion be­tween the fed­eral and On­tario par­ties, es­pe­cially in an elec­tion year.

This is not the re­open­ing of Par­lia­ment Canada’s par­ties had been strate­giz­ing for only a week ago. Of course on Mon­day Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau was - as promised - taken to task by the Con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion for the eth­i­cal breach he com­mit­ted when he ac­cepted the hos­pi­tal­ity of the Aga Khan and hol­i­dayed on the lat­ter’s pri­vate is­land. And, of course, the gov­ern­ment and the of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion went through the open­ing moves of a pitched pro­ce­dural bat­tle over the leg­is­la­tion that is meant to pave the way to the le­gal­ized sale of cannabis next sum­mer. There were ques­tions about the Pa­cific trade deal Trudeau has agreed to sign and about the gov­ern­ment’s re­quire­ment that or­ga­ni­za­tions seek­ing sum­mer jobs grants at­test they re­spect abor­tion rights.

The House also marked the an­niver­sary of last year’s mur­der­ous shoot­ing at a Que­bec City mosque. But for now at least it is all hap­pen­ing against the back­drop of a col­lec­tive wait for a pos­si­ble other shoe or shoes to drop on the sex­ual mis­con­duct front.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.