By Jim Scott
There are a lot of Canadians gleeful over the present travails of Prime Minister Trudeau with the expectation he will soon be gone. However, there’s a lot of money at stake here and the history of modern politics would caution there’s a lot more manoeuvring to be done before anybody changes residence.
The money of which I speak is not simply in the coffers of Quebec-based engineering giant SNC Lavalin. I won’t belabour the story here. To sum up: the corporation either did or did not lobby the Liberal government to obtain special treatment against being prosecuted for alleged bribery of the Libyan officials, and the PM either did or did not pressure his then Attorney General to apply this special treatment to the case. That Attorney General, the Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould went from that office to Veterans Affairs to backbench MP speaks volumes but does not, as they say on Parliament Hill, constitute prima facie evidence of a crime.
Neither has anything been established in the bizarre case of VAdm Mark Norman.
Accused of leaking Cabinet-level information in a town where even the leaks have leaks, he and his defence team are faced with a prosecution which is also the complainant. Since former Treasury Board Minister, the Hon. Scott Brison, has absconded town we are left with two explosive cases of alleged malfeasance leading directly back to the PMO but no high placed witnesses to testify. The Prime Minister repeats his talking points ad nauseum and seems to dig deeper holes while doing so.
It has been pointed out that the Rt. Hon Stephen Harper had his share of legal difficulties while in office, as if that absolves the incumbent from his alleged misdeeds now. I’m not aware that PM Harper ever vacationed at a multi-million-dollar private residence of a friend, (who has dealings with the Canadian government), but he did have the inimitable Senator Mike Duffy. You will recall Sen. Duffy got into hot water over residing in Ottawa while claiming expenses for a place in Prince Edward Island which he nominally represented. The PMO kicker was that Harper’s Chief of Staff Nigel Wright, apparently tried to make good with the Canadian taxpayer by re-paying the funds. It blew up in their faces and Nigel did the honourable thing. On February 18, Trudeau’s chief Gerald Butts walked the plank, but it’s not clear if it was for bad talking points or a string of bad ideas.
So, while connected people in politics and business continue to cut deals with each other for the supposed benefit of the Canadian taxpayer, (i.e. “protect jobs!”), observers are left to wonder how much damage can be done to a politician’s reputation with an election looming. Which headline will the voting public recall as the polls open?
Generally speaking, for three and a half years, most Canadians don’t give a crap about politics. Then, as the feeding frenzy mounts, 60 or 70% of them actually cast a ballot. Of those, as few as 40% decide who the PM is to be for another four years. Since one third of the seats are in the MTV region, (not the music station; Montreal-Toronto-Vancouver), Canada’s gets its own version of the Electoral College in reverse. The US system is in place to keep two or three populous states from deciding the election. In Canada, our seat distribution and riding boundaries are still subject to shameless gerrymandering and our “fly-over” country now encompasses the rest of us outside those three cities. Someone promised to change this, but he benefited from it once, and electoral reform went back on the dung heap.
As a result, smart money knows it can blast out an emotional message at a key time and place and swing enough seats to change, or keep, a government. That becomes especially spooky given a report from Canada Decides, a group that claimed $6 million in foreign money influenced the 2015 election. One wonders where this money will appear this time and who will cash in.