The next few weeks are pivotal to the future of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his government and the Liberal Party of Canada.
In that period, we will get a better sense of whether the damage caused by former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould’s devastating testimony before the Commons justice committee on Wednesday is, in fact, mortal. The Prime Minister will have to decide whether in staying in his position, he will be leading his party, and its candidates, off a cliff in next fall’s general election. (He is.)
There surely must be conversations already taking place within Liberal ranks about this. If there’s not, there should be. There are also undoubtedly some deep and grievous divisions that have been created within Liberal ranks by the SNC-Lavalin affair in general and the treatment of Ms. Wilson-Raybould more specifically.
There is certainly a faction within the party today who believe that it is someone of Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s integrity and moral standing, if not the woman herself, who should be leading the Liberals into the next election and not Mr. Trudeau.
And let’s not forget the quandary this scandal has created for the Canadian public, particularly those voters of a progressive bent. Many of them supported the Liberal agenda. They liked the fact Mr. Trudeau appeared to take the ominous risk of climate change seriously and was prepared to do something about it.
But by turning their back on the Prime Minister and his party over the SNC-Lavalin matter, they are paving the way for the return to power of a party that apparently does not take the threat of climate change seriously. What a maddening and infuriating dilemma, and for what? Simply for the Liberals to score political points by extending a hand to a Quebec corporation that has serious corruption charges hanging over its head?
The Liberals are now officially dead in the West, if they weren’t already. I’m not sure how Mr. Trudeau could show his face in Alberta, for instance. If you believe Ms. Wilson-Raybould, and I certainly do, then we can believe the extent to which the Prime Minister was prepared to go to help SNC-Lavalin in a bid to pander to Quebec. Imagine how that went over at the local Tim Hortons in Fort Mac.
The Liberals’ tiny bastion of hope west of Ontario resided in some ridings in and around Vancouver. But that hope began to fade precipitously as soon as Ms. Wilson-Raybould began talking. Now she is being hailed as a national hero and a future leader. Voters in Vancouver will not take kindly to the way our so-called feminist Prime Minister and mostly male actors implicated in this mess conducted themselves.
And the scary thing is, this story is likely worse than we know.
Beyond what she did divulge, Ms. Wilson-Raybould alluded to conversations with the Prime Minister and others that relate to this matter, and which she believes are pertinent and in the public interest. But for now they remain secret under the aegis of cabinet confidentiality. Mr. Trudeau could lift that provision if he wanted to. But under no circumstances will he now.
He may live to regret his decision to allow Ms. Wilson-Raybould to speak to the extent that she did. It was the right thing to do, perhaps the only right thing the Prime Minister has done yet in this entire affair. But it has come at a steep political cost. It may yet come at the ultimate political cost.
At this point, Mr. Trudeau seems determined to fight on, to persevere and endure the storm that will go on for some time yet. He has handed his political opponents a gift they could scarcely have dreamed of receiving this close to an election. He has given Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer a stick with which he can bludgeon the Prime Minister for months.
Before Ms. Wilson-Raybould began speaking, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel stood in the Commons during Question Period to ask the Prime Minister about a report out of Montreal alleging that SNC-Lavalin paid tens of thousands of dollars for the services of prostitutes and naked dancers to entertain the son of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi during a tour of Canada.
Now, the Prime Minister might lose his job over his alleged attempts to defy his attorney-general and help cut this same company a break. Unbelievable.