The Gift

A Conservative friend refers to it as “the gift that keeps on giving.” A political scandal that should never have been.

As someone with an intense interest in politics, as a sometime practitioner of the art, I cannot believe that Canadians are still talking about the SNC-Lavalin scandal more than two months after it first came to life. It is a shocking display of political ineptitude.

The federal election is now only six months away, and it appears unlikely the governing Liberals are going to be able to sweep this one under the rug and pretend nothing has happened. What stumps me is how incompetent the government has been at damage control. What should have been a non-scandal now threatens their re-election prospects.

Last week Canada’s Prime Minister kicked two former cabinet ministers out of the Liberal Party, something he had implied a couple of weeks ago he wouldn’t do. From a party perspective it was probably the right move, but it made him look even sillier than he usually does. But that was was just the preamble.

Now the Prime Minister is threatening a lawsuit against the Leader of the Opposition. claiming Andrew Scheer slandered him. Talk about a political gift to his opponents!

(Fully disclosure here, Andrew’s late mother was a friend of mine.)

Scheer’s comments were arguably a little over the top, beyond normal, polite political discourse. That seems to be the way Opposition politicians talk these days. A proper political response would have been to belittle his comments and say he had lost perspective.

A lawsuit will ensure the scandal remains in the news spotlight. You would think that would be something the Liberals would prefer to avoid. Especially as the defence in slander cases is limited: to be successful you have to be able to prove that what you said was true.

In order to do that I see a parade of witnesses the Liberals would rather not hear from, including those two former cabinet ministers who have no reason to pull any punches now that they have been expelled from the party.

The Liberals can’t win this one. The Prime Minister may not be guilty of lying or improper conduct. It seems likely though that witnesses in the court case will suggest that he is. If those witnesses are halfway credible (for example two highly respected former cabinet ministers), it will hurt the party at the polls.

The man who built his brand on being a new type of politician is increasingly being shown to be very old-style.

I expect this lawsuit threat will not go any farther, that the threat will be reconsidered and there will be no courtroom action. That is of course assuming Liberal strategists are able to look at the situation dispassionately.

If they can’t, get used to hearing about Prime Minister Scheer once the ballots are counted in October.

One comment

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