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It Is CYA Time

The SNC-Lavalin scandal continues to expand with lots of twists and turns. Canadians are in for a real treat as the inner workings of the Trudeau government are going to be exposed.

As a result, it is CYA time- Cover Your Ass time! We will see a lot of that as anyone who is even remotely connected to this file will be analyzing every comment, decision, recommendation or email they sent or received on this file and that includes political and departmental staff.

It gets more complicated with the former Justice Minister and Attorney General threatening to speak out on how she feels she was pressured on this file. There will be lots of folks trying to justify their actions/involvement.

Keep in mind the RCMP can step in at any time if they think there might have been criminal wrong doing.

Today the Clerk of the Privy Council, the most second most powerful person in Ottawa (some would argue the most powerful) next to the Prime Minister and the person in charge of all federal civil servants was before the House Justice Committee.

If we ignore his inflammatory language which was probably a diversionary tactic IE what caught the media’s attention first, was it his assassination comment or the fact that he met with the Attorney General to discuss/review/ contemplate the SNC-Lavalin file.

The follow-up questions from the media should be:

  1. How many individual ministers did you meet with to discuss individual files since being appointed Clerk by Justin Trudeau?
  2. Name those files and ministers
  3. In each case who suggested to you (note not requested) that a meeting might be a good idea.
  4. How many ministers initiated the request for a meeting? How often did the “suggestion” come from PMO?
  5. Follow-up questions for any of those ministers who met with the Clerk should be how did you arrive at the decision to meet with the Clerk? Was it “suggested” as a good idea? Who by?

It is a red herring to suggest that Jody Wilson-Raybould had options such as going to the Ethics Commissioner if she felt pressured. What minister would every do that with the risk involved if it was ever made public?

I don’t know a single minister from my days on the Hill who would not feel a little bit intimated meeting with the Clerk of the Privy Council to discuss a file or meeting with senior PMO staff for that matter, especially if that minister felt PMO might not like their decision. Ministers hold their jobs at the pleasure of the PM- they know that all to well.

Let’s get to the bottom of it.

Why did this meeting even take place (the Attorney General has a deputy minister, who reports to the Clerk and senior political and departmental advisors who would have informed or briefed her on the pressure from the company, their lawyers or the Quebec government or PMO for that matter?


The First Shoe Drops!

Today Gerry Butts resigned. This is not a surprise as someone had to pay the price in PMO for the SNC- Lavalin mess. However, there is nothing at this point to link him directly to the scandal.

All too often political players get attacked in the media with little if any evidence of actual wrong-doing. We have had plenty of evidence of that over the last few years- just think of the Senators who were pilloried in the media as just one example.

While there will be all sorts of speculation and pontification from various pundits and media types trying to link him to the resignation of the minister- no one really knows at this point if he was involved or not. That story has yet to come out.

I spent over 15 years doing political issue management and one thing it taught me was to never fully believe the first days run of any story. As I used to say to staff, this is only the first shoe to drop, do what we have to do, but wait for the second shoe to drop as well.

With the election fast approaching the Liberals had to quickly shut down this issue before it damaged their brand as badly as the sponsorship scandal did to Chretien and Martin. We will see if it worked this time or not.

Either way with the loss of such a skilled political advisor the election dynamic has suddenly changed.

The SNC-Lavalin scandal still has a lot of twists and turns in it. There will be plenty of other shoes to drop before this story is done. It will be quite a ride, sit back and enjoy it.



Worth A Read

John Ivison and I had an exchange concerning the latest Trudeau PMO miss steps and what I would have done differently if still doing issues management. Part of that is reflected in this article which is well worth a read.


The Committee Got Nowhere- No Surprise!

Yesterday the drama on the Hill unfolded as expected when the Justice Committee met on the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Everyone knew opposition MPs would be demanding answers to the SNC-Lavalin mess while the Liberals would try and stonewall any investigation.

Other than a lot of phony outrage, did anyone actually expect the Liberals to allow an investigation into the actions of the PM and his senior staff?

Over my career, I spent many long days in committee meetings on both the House and Senate side as well in both Opposition and government. The result of this meeting was pretty much as I expected.

No one, especially the reporters who sounded so shocked at the outcome yesterday (as they tried to create some drama around the story) should have expected anything different.

The Justice committee has a Liberal chair and a Liberal majority. Who in their right mind thinks they will vote to investigate their own sides misdoings?

It is a sad fact of Canadian political life that this is how our committees behave. All MPs in these committees reflect the wishes of either PMO or their Leader’s Office.  To do otherwise is almost a guarantee that they would either be replaced, or a substitute member brought in to vote the wishes of the party.

I have written hundreds of talk points and speeches for committees. The Liberal speeches and talk points were either very sloppy or the MPs incapable of delivering them properly. Either way their messaging sucked. They did more damage to the PM and the Liberal brand than the opposition members at the table.

Lisa Raitt and Nathan Cullen were good. They were on message, stuck to their talk points and succeeded in positioning their respective parties for the next series of attacks which will come in Question Period and down the road as the election gets closer.

There is a lot more to come out in this story and it continues to be a fire that Liberal spinning and the smearing of Jody Wilson-Raybould cannot put out.

I would wager that it will be solid investigative reporting that will break this story open- not some committee meeting that was going nowhere before the participants even sat down at the table.


Is Tom Mulcair Right?

Back on February 4th Tom Mulcair was speculating that some NDP supporters might think the Green Party deserved a second look.

It is an interesting thought. Should it happen, it could seriously damage the election chances of the NDP, and it has the potential to damage the Liberals as well.

The NDP is in bad shape- they have come off of their worse fundraising quarter, their leader is struggling to be relevant and they keep sending mixed policy messages such as on Venezuela.

In the mean time the Greens are on a roll, at least at the provincial level. They elected three members in New Brunswick, one in Ontario and may have a chance in PEI. Plus, the federal party has just had its best fundraising quarter ever.

So called “progressives” (really who invents these terms) have the choice of backing Trudeau who has failed on almost every issue that is dear to them. From double-crossing them on proportional representation; to lots of flash, but little substance on environmental issues; to killing one pipeline only to then buy another one and the list goes on.

NDP supporters, especially those who are strong on the environment could easily go to the Green Party.

Other NDPers who worry about a Conservative win, may feel they have no choice but to hold their nose and support Trudeau. Either way the NDP pays a price.

As for the two main stream federal parties, they need to wake up and smell the coffee too. Voters are tired of the same old policies and lack of vision. They are tired of the daily antics they see from both sides. They are tired of the name calling and mudslinging.

Just look at the last election in Quebec where the voters gave both of the main stream provincial parties, the PQ and the Liberal Party, a wake-up call by electing the CAQ.

So far, the Greens have never really convinced federal voters that they have more to offer than their stance on environmental issues. But they do appeal to younger voters which is a growing demographic.

Most voters, young or old, would be surprised to know that the Green policy platform, excluding photos, only has 4 pages on the environment out of a total of 44 pages. There is lots in there on a national senior’s program, the CPP, reducing red tape for small business, supporting the manufacturing sector, pharmacare, eliminating student debt etc.

If they ever figure out how to communicate their platform better, they could become a force to be reckoned with. That is bad news for the NDP, and it should be a wake-up call for both the Conservatives and the Liberals.

Was Mulcair just causing a bit of trouble by trying to get even with the party that dumped him as leader,  or is he on to something? The next election will tell if he was right.