Trudeau Tories’ best chance
Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has demanded that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tender his resignation for his alleged role in the controversial SNCLavalin affair.
His demand was likely motivated by a sense of decency and respect for the office of the Prime Minister, but it certainly wasn’t born out of any hard-thought political strategizing. Indeed, if Mr. Scheer wants to become the 24th Prime Minister of Canada following the Oct. 21 election, then the last thing he wants is for Mr. Trudeau to hand in his notice.
If Justin Trudeau does resign, he shouldn’t do it over the whims of the Tories but rather to maximize the chances of the Liberals forming the government again come fall. Should the PM need any additional reflection on this, all he need do is examine the case of one Kathleen Wynne, former Liberal Premier of Ontario. Voters may recall that in the spring of 2018, Ontarians were frustrated with a number of issues – one of them burgeoning Hydro rates – and they focused their scorn on Ms. Wynne.
Shortly after the election, a former Liberal insider told us that had Ms. Wynne simply resigned as leader before the election, there was a chance that the Liberals would still be in power today. Unfortunately, she held on until it was too late and Doug Ford’s Tories swept to victory.
What Justin Trudeau is facing in Ottawa is a lot more serious than rising Hydro rates. Indeed, what’s happening in Ottawa could even carry criminal consequences.
It’s not hyperbole to suggest that last month’s events could go down in history as the biggest Canadian scandal of the 21st century. Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould implicated the Prime Minister’s office for pressuring her to help the Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution over fraud and corruption charges in Libya. Following a day of intense testimony, the PM stood pat. He disagreed with how his former Attorney General framed in-house discussions about the SNC-Lavalin affair and said that the country’s ethics watchdog will decide who’s telling the truth.
Mr. Trudeau would do well to remember that it’s not the ethics watchdog that decides the next government, it’s the voters. And regardless of the watchdog’s findings, those voters might ask themselves a number of vexing questions, one of which might be: “If the PM had nothing to fear from Ms. Wilson-Raybould, why would he remove her from the attorney general’s office shortly before this scandal broke and make her the Minister of Veteran Affairs?”
The next couple of weeks will be critical for the Liberals as they go into damage control mode. The CBC recently quoted Kady O’Malley, a freelance parliamentary correspondent, who said that the Liberals are “not willing to challenge Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s credibility in terms of suggesting that she may be not giving the whole truth — they want to kind of shed doubt on the way she's characterizing it,” adding that the Liberals are working overtime “to try to come up with some sort of evidence that would corroborate an alternative narrative.”
There’s no doubt that’s exactly what the Liberals will do. Whether Canadians will buy that alternative narrative is something else entirely.
Like all political leaders, Mr. Trudeau believes it would be disastrous for the country if the opposition were in power.
As such, he will have an important decision to make in the coming months. Will he ride it through in hopes of prolonging his political legacy or will he step down so he’ll have a chance to save his country from a Conservative government?
And should he step down, one has to wonder if Ms. Wilson-Raybould would be willing to take a crack at his job.
If the majority of Canadians believe her side of the story, then the Liberal brand could be safe for at least another decade with Ms. Wilson-Raybould as Prime Minister of Canada.