What an amazing day yesterday! A brutal day for the Liberal Party and especially staff in the PMO.
Jody Wilson-Raybould’s testimony was devastating and no matter how the Liberals now attempt to discredit her testimony and no matter how many attack dogs they send out to dispute what the former Attorney General stated- they can no longer win that argument.
This doesn’t leave the Liberals with too many choices.
Can the Liberals leave an obviously upset MP, who has been widely quoted (with very damaging content) in caucus where she might inspire others to speak out as well? Probably not and a first step would be to remove her from caucus.
Today Trudeau was out there pretending that he still had to watch all of her testimony while at the same time stating that he completely disagreed with everything she said. A bit of a contradiction there. But, this opens the door for him to delay a few days until the break week starts.
She could then be removed by stating that they reviewed her testimony and asked her to reaffirm publicly her confidence in the PM and the Finance minister etc and if she doesn’t, then out the door. Do it over the next two weeks when the MPs are off in their ridings. There will be an outcry of support for the former AG, but with a two week break ahead it will be muted.
The bigger issue going forward is what do the Liberals do leading up to the October election? They are boxed in with very few options, none of which are good ones.
The clamor for the former AG to be allowed to speak fully and with no restrictions will build. Denying her that right makes the Liberals and the PM look guilty. That will play out over many weeks. The same is true with demands for a full public inquiry.
The committee will be demanding to see many more witnesses implicated in her testimony. A smart opposition can drag those requests out for weeks, even months- just look back at Shawinagate and the Sponsorship Scandal.
The only option other than tossing present and former staff to the wolves is for the Liberals to repeatedly use their majority on the committee to prevent this from happening. Very bad optics for the Liberals. The Liberals will be pounded daily in the media on corruption and scandals leading up to the October election- they can’t afford to have that happen.
Even if Trudeau cleans house in PMO, fires the Clerk and any staff named by the former AG, it won’t help them. The last thing they need is bitter ex-staff deciding that they are willing to testify if only to get even with their former boss. Besides, at that point everyone is more interested in saving their own necks and reputations.
Whether or not the RCMP will get involved is another issue as for that matter is the Ethics Commissioner. Even without their final report or charges being laid, day by day voters will be reminded that investigations are underway. Most likely neither of those will be finalized by election day, leaving voters concerned and giving the opposition lots of fodder to attack and speculate about corruption in the PMO and government and the PM’s role in it.
The other shoe that is still to drop is the Norman trial. A lot of this will be out in the open in the weeks leading up to the October vote. We have already seen some of the games being played there with disclosure of documents and emails. It is another no win for the Liberals.
If they allow all of that to happen, in my opinion the Liberals won’t be able to weather the storm.
How do they go forward then? There is the ultimate channel changer available to them.
Call a snap election and change the channel to a fight over policy issues and try to bury this scandal and get out ahead of further revelations in the Norman trial as best as possible.
This will shut down the committee, the former AG will be replaced as the Liberal candidate and become a sideline player, perhaps an independent candidate, who will spend her time trying to win her own seat.
They have the opportunity with the budget on March 19th. First offer new funding to all sorts of special interest groups to buy their public support. Next, talk up the economic success they have had.
Then put a poison pill in the budget that will give them an excuse to say there is a crisis and they need a new mandate. For example, put a nation- wide compulsory carbon tax in the budget with an implementation date of July 1stor sooner. When there is the expected outcry from the provinces that are opposed to it- state that you have a crisis, call the election and take your chances.
Run on climate change. Remember the line in Gerry Butts, Trudeau’s former top advisor’s resignation letter- “Our kids and grandkids will judge us on one issue above all others. That issue is climate change. I hope the response to it becomes the collective, non-partisan, urgent effort that science clearly says is required. I hope that happens soon.”
Try to make the election about saving the environment and a strong economy (as would have been outlined in their budget document).
They can frame it as the doom and gloom anti-immigrant, no vision, extreme right-wing Conservatives versus a Liberal party with a green vision of the future and a vision of making Canada a better place for our children.
They can try to attract enough Green and NDP supporters to support a Liberal “Green Climate” push and once again try to get young voters out to support the Liberals on an issue that younger voters support, perhaps even a few older ones as well. At the same time, they promote a stark choice to those voters- vote Liberal or you get the Conservatives.
The opposition will cry foul, but what would the Liberals care about that. After a few days hit in the media, the interest will shift to the day by day match up as parties release their platforms. Jody Wilson-Raybould will be part of the campaign mutterings by the opposition, but a lot will get buried in the campaign.
Does it guarantee them a happy ending? Not at all, but what choice do the Liberals have? Hang in to October and get buried day after day with negative media coverage or go now and roll the dice.
It will be interesting to see what they do.