Trudeau Tories’ best chance

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - STEVEN WAR­BUR­TON

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.

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