Ottawa Ontario – The Monday news coverage should have been another bad day for Prime Minister Trudeau. Joshua Boyle was going to be in court and the expected news coverage would have dragged the PM’s name and his foolish decision to meet with Boyle into the spotlight yet again. This was something the Liberals certainly didn’t want to happen, especially with the PM about to start off on yet another feel good-selfie tour.
Fortunately for the Liberals, the Conservatives proceeded to shoot themselves in the foot and they managed to attract all that negative news coverage onto themselves.
Senator Beyak getting herself kicked out of caucus is certainly not a loss for the Conservative side, but you have to question why now?
I have been around as a senior staffer on a few occasions when decisions were made to give someone the boot. It is never easy and it never happens overnight. There is a buildup that eventually leads to this decision. Thus the leader’s office can pick when it happens and they get to consider the timing. Did no one in the Opposition Leaders Office (OLO) anticipate that Beyak would go out with a bang and attack the Leader? Pretty much everyone in her position will do exactly that, if only out of spite or wounded pride. People bounced from caucus react exactly as she did. Did no one anticipate the negative media coverage at a time when everything negative should have been focused on Trudeau?
These letters weren’t new ones, they had been up for quite a while on the senator’s web site and the Opposition Leaders Office had failed for months to act. If the sudden interest in these old letters was the work of the Liberal Research staff digging stuff up- then they should get some credit for coming up with a good channel-changer for their side.
If it wasn’t their work, then the Conservatives showed poor judgement in handing the Liberals a channel-changer that they so desperately needed.
The incident played out as Boyle went to court and the Scheer-Beyak issue dominated the news and buried the Boyle story to much applause I am sure from the PMO. This also allowed reporters an opportunity to question Scheer’s leadership abilities.
While Scheer has not set the Canadian political scene on fire, he is much better than some of the other choices who were in the running. Being bland in politics isn’t always a bad thing; neither is being under estimated by the media or your opponents. Scheer is a decent guy, hardworking and knows his files. If he as any weakness at all it is that he is a decent guy. He made his mark in politics as the Speaker of the House of Commons. This is a role in which you have to practice nonpartisanship and playing fair to everyone. This is not the rough type of training you need for political leadership positions.
Leaders have to have a tough ruthless streak in them. Politics is a tough business and it is fair to say only the strong survive. If Andrew doesn’t have that ruthless edge, then he should bring some people (who are respected by both the Senate caucus and House caucus) into his office and let them do the dirty work.
It is not necessary for the Leader to be front and centre personally doing the tough stuff, such as kicking someone out of caucus. The Beyak story is a good example of why you keep the Leader one step away- it avoids a “he said, she said” story. If the Conservatives have known about these letters for months, the Beyak issue should have been handled long before now. There have been plenty of parliamentary breaks when it could have been done with minimal damage. If they didn’t know about these letters, then that speaks to staff issues within the OLO itself.
Yesterday was also compounded with Bill Morneau getting a pass on one of the two investigations that are under way. Again it reminded folks of Scheer’s demands that Morneau be fired, long before the results were in. While it is always fun to call for a minister to resign or be fired- timing is everything and this time it has backfired on Scheer. That early resignation call for Morneau speaks to inexperience or a lack of judgement in the OLO.
None of this stuff is a mortal wound for Scheer. The fact that he is so hard working and dedicated means he can turn these negative moments into a positive learning experience. Scheer, his advisers and his communications team, still have plenty of time to get their game up to the top level before 2019. Plus there is still plenty of time for more screw ups on the Liberal side. Don’t count Scheer out and never think the Trudeau team will get an automatic win. Remember all those comments about Harper being too dull and how he could never beat Paul Martin. Remember all those reports about how the Liberals would wipe the Conservatives out (and win 265 seats) when Martin and Harper went head to head in an election? Never give the other side an automatic win; it is the voters who have the final say.