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A Missed Opportunity

Yesterday Jody Wilson-Raybault and Jane Philpott decided to run as independent candidates in the next election.

While I respect their choice, I do wonder if it was the wisest move for these two talented MPs.

Obviously, they have reasons for not choosing the Green Party, most likely policy differences. However, it is rare that any MP or party member agrees 100% with an entire platform.

Both MPs have received constant media attention and adulation since resigning from the Trudeau cabinet. If they expect this to continue, they are sadly mistaken.

By election day they will be yesterday’s news as the media moves on to other issues. There will be a spike in attention to see if they win their seats, but it won’t last. I expect they will win their seats, although the record of MPs running as independents is not good. Assuming they win, what happens after that?

The governing party sets the seating allocation in the House and office assignment as well. My guess is that they will be buried in the furthest corner away from virtually every possible camera angle.

They will be kept off of committees, rarely get to ask a question of the government and that question will be in the dying minutes of Question Period when reporters are already packing up.

The two MPs seem to crave the limelight, but they have pretty much assured themselves of rarely returning to it.

If they had joined the Greens, much of the above would also have remained true without official party status in the House, but there would have been three talented MPs (Elizabeth May, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott) working together. They could have been a formidable force in Canadian politics, the type of force the Green Party needs to expand - a missed opportunity for now.


Are We Seeing the Start of A Green Wave?

Lots of folks are watching the recent gains of the Green Party at the provincial level in New Brunswick and PEI and the recent bye-election win in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. They are asking themselves if we are seeing the early beginning of a change in the political landscape.

There is no doubt that voters are disenchanted with the three old parties. You hear the same comments all the time from nonpartisans. No one except a few political partisans enjoys the nastiness we see coming from the House of Commons day after day after day.

The old parties are just that old and tired. Trudeau was elected as the new way of doing things. To say he has been a total failure would be too kind. There is nothing new in the way the Liberals under Trudeau play politics. From smearing the opposition with name calling to ignoring ethics guide lines and trying to manipulate the judicial process- same old stuff. Calling the opposition racist is just another day in politics for the Liberals dating all the way back to at least the 1990’s.

The Conservatives haven’t really offered a fresh, modern take on today’s Canada. They have yet to present an exciting vision of the future. They are still fighting the oil war that goes all the way back to Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Policy of 1980. Where are they on the key issues of the environment and climate change? They need to take a page from Mulroney’s book and raise their profile on these two issues. While voters are promised a climate action plan, it is just that a promise of something to come. New generations are coming up with new priorities. They haven’t offered much to millennials and they can be a key voting group. Maybe we will see something exciting in the next few months. It can’t just be about oil pipelines and taxes- they need to articulate a new vision for the Canada of the future.

The NDP should change their name to the Old Democratic Party. Same old party, same old stuff and policies. These policies haven’t put them in government federally since 1961.  But they keep preaching the same stuff over and over. Without an inspiring leader like Jack Layton, the question becomes where do their voters go?

The Greens have a long way to go to convince voters that they are a viable federal party worthy of Official Opposition status or government. They have to attract some outstanding candidates (I can think of two former ministers that fit that billing). They have to be pretty tough on who they let represent them and above all they have to convince Canadians that they stand for more than stopping pipelines and climate change.

Can they do it? The next six months will tell us if they are for real or if this is just a passing fantasy.


It Was Inevitable

Certainly no one can be surprised that Trudeau expelled Wilson-Raybould and Philpott from the Liberal caucus. It not only was a long time coming, it was long overdue.

For the Liberal Party to move forward into election gear they had to put this behind them and in particular the actions of Wilson-Raybould were damaging the brand of the PM and the Party.

We can argue all day long as to who was right or wrong or who said what to who; but in the end they had to go. The two ex-ministers conducted a well-executed PR game that kept this story front and center for almost two months and the public focused on the infighting as opposed to Liberal policy initiatives. For example, does anyone remember what was in the budget?

The PM was right when he said that as a member of caucus you have certain obligations. It certainly is not your “right” to sit in caucus, especially a government caucus. When you openly attack the PM on almost a daily basis, don’t expect the PM to place nice either.

For the opposition parties who have had fun with this issue, it’s time to get back to realty as well. Back to election prep, back to attacking Liberal policies and back to trying to convince voters (at least for the Conservatives) that they are a government in waiting. Just how long do the Conservatives think Harper or Mulroney would have left two MPs sit in caucus while they sniped almost daily at their Leader.

When you cut through all of the opposition BS around this issue, The Liberals did what any political party going into an election would do; it was inevitable. The only surprise is that it took so long for the PM to act.


Plausible Deniability

For political staff protecting the Leader is key.

Today the latest stink is all about who leaked information about the appointment of a judge and the counter accusations flying back and forth.

Even Justice Minister Lametti has expressed his concern, yet true to form (he has been pretty useless to date) he has done nothing to find the source of the leak.

A very small group of people would have been aware of the discussions around the judge’s appointment. Lametti can call in the RCMP if he so choses, unless of course he is concerned about what they might find.

When a minister or in this case PMO is under siege, staff tend to get a bunker mentality. Taking hits day after day is exhausting and this PMO wouldn’t be the first one to show signs of stress. When that happens the right decision is not always made.

There is a term that gets used from time to time by staff- “plausible deniability.”

This is when the boss be it a minister or Prime Minister wants an issue to go away. Staff then take action (perhaps a leak to a friendly reporter or two) but do not tell their boss exactly how or what was done. This way if the issue backfires and explodes in the media, the Prime Minister or minister can honestly deny knowing anything about it. Is this what we are seeing now? Somewhere down the road the truth will come out.

Should there be an investigation, it is the staffer who takes the fall, because in the end it is always about protecting the leader.


Is There Something to Hide?

So, what do the Liberals have to hide?

It certainly looks like they need to hide something when you consider how fast they shut down the emergency meeting of the Justice Committee.

At this point it looks like Trudeau has decided to double down and dig in and simply take his lumps on the SNC-Lavalin mess.

No doubt part of this is due to March break. There is no daily Question Period to give the opposition plenty of media coverage. Most voters are distracted, kids are home from school or the whole family is off on a holiday. Other than those in the Ottawa bubble, he is gambling most Canadians aren’t paying close attention at the moment. He is probably right.

In what has turned into “Round Two” of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, this is the first shoe to drop. What is the second?

Could it be bouncing the two former ministers from caucus? For all of the above reasons this is a good time to it. MPs are away, including those in his own caucus and by the time they return; any major media hits would be over. MPs can be reminded about who has to sign their nomination papers and either line up behind Trudeau or face the same as the former ministers. Judging by the parroting of Liberal talk points from ministers recently pledging their fealty to the PM; do you think there will be an outcry from sitting Liberal MPs?

Besides, there is always another story to change the channel- just look at the Boeing aircraft coverage today.

The best channel changer will be the budget and all of its pre-election goodies. Add in a few days of leaks around the budget and the Liberals can bury the former AG with other news. Then at the next few meetings of the Justice Committee the Liberal majority can keep shutting opposition motions down. After awhile it will get boring for all concerned, including the media.

As for all of the calls for a public inquiry that one is dead in the water. No Prime Minister facing what the Liberals are facing and knowing that the potential witness list would have to testify under oath will ever agree to one. A public inquiry is one more Opposition pipe dream.

It is not a bad gamble on his part providing more details around the SNC-Lavalin story and political interference don’t come out.

There are only 50 days of Question Period left and 10 of those are on a Friday, so really 40 days to worry about. With interest about to shift for a week or two to the budget, he could hang tough before the summer recess and the real election campaigning gears up.

Trudeau likes to surprise people and show how tough he can be- remember the boxing match.

Perhaps what we saw today was Trudeau trying to box himself out of a corner. The opposition will be hard pressed to prevent it.