Trudeau and the Ethics Commissioner's Report
A beautiful, sunny, warm New Brunswick summer afternoon, so what better way to spend it than in front of the TV, following the fallout of the Ethics Commissioner finding Prime Minister Trudeau guilty of contravening Canada’s Conflict of Interest Act. Such is the plight of a political junkie.
But what for the plight of our Prime Minister? When the SNC Lavalin scandal broke, it drove the Liberals from a four-point lead in the polls to a three-point deficit. But then in the latest polls they bounced back to a slight Liberal lead. Will that change again? Does anyone care?
I would hope Canadians care. Not “give up a sunny afternoon to watch it” care, as that may be a little over the top, or perhaps just plain lame. But levity aside, interfering in a prosecution is serious. Our justice system is a fundamental part of our democratic infrastructure, and messing with it for political purposes simply should not be allowed to happen without consequences. Plus there’s the fact this is the second time the Ethics Commissioner has ruled the PM out of bounds.
Should the consequences be electoral defeat? That of course is up to Canadian voters. But as Joe Biden has said – “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.” And the alternative, might be the strongest hand Trudeau has to play. If he wins re-election, it would probably have more to do with the alternative than because he earned and deserved another term.
It’s still early for that comparison though, and of course it would involve lots more than this. So instead, some random thoughts on yesterday’s coverage of the Ethics Commissioner’s report.
First, still no apology from the PM. He says he accepts the report from the Ethics Commissioner, and wishes he had found a better way to handle the conflicting priorities of jobs for Canadians and judicial independence. And he said he will never apologize for trying to protect jobs. And he again mentioned the 900 jobs. This was in a news conference that was broadcast live, but not one reporter challenged him on that number, a number that has been well discredited. Shouting at the TV didn’t help. But it strikes me that if SNC Lavalin is out of the mix, some other company would build whatever they would otherwise be building, and presumably the same number of people would be employed doing the work. If I’m missing something here, please enlighten me.
When this first blew up back in the spring, with Trudeau under attack, Andrew Scheer overplayed his hand by demanding Trudeau resign. Yesterday though, Scheer didn’t repeat that mistake, but when asked why he changed his mind on that, he avoided answering.
The CBC coverage was disappointing in that their “strategy experts” brought on to analyze how Trudeau and Scheer were handling this, and what it all could mean, turned out to be ultra partisans, a Liberal from Hill Knowlton and a Conservative from Navigator. Both are major communications firms, and if they couldn’t offer up people who could give an unbiased analysis, CBC has many others at their disposal. The folks from that Insiders Panel they used to have on The National for example. A disappointing fail for that. That part especially wasn’t worth missing part of a nice day for. For context, the network did feature analysts with relevant comments later, including Jamie Watt, also a partisan, but one capable of parking his bias at the door.
The bigger takeaway though, is that our system worked. The Prime Minister couldn’t force his will to overrule the Attorney General’s decision not to interfere in the prosecution of SNC Lavalin. He tried, and that’s his bad, but he couldn’t force it. Mind you it is because the then Attorney General Jody Wilson-Rayboult was strong enough to hold her ground, and it may have been a different outcome with a weaker Minister. But it couldn’t be forced. That’s the salient point. That is what distances us from lesser democracies.
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Cover photo credit: Ester Tuttle - unsplash