Justin Trudeau: Is he coated in Teflon and laughing at the Conservatives? (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Is the SNC-Lavalin Affair really the Trudeau crusher Andrew Scheer and his strategic team obviously think it is?

No sooner had former justice minister Jody Wilson-Reybould completed her startling testimony last Wednesday before the House of Commons Justice Committee – replete with detailed allegations of political interference in the justice system by Justin Trudeau and other senior Liberals – than the Conservatives were going full-throttle after the prime minister.

Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould (Photo: Erich Saide, Wikimedia Commons).

He must resign, Mr. Scheer insisted, a sentiment immediately echoed by his caucus and their many friends in media.

This was, of course, predictable and overwrought. Reasonable people – at least those not in the throes of fanatical Trudeau hatred typical of Mr. Scheer’s retreaded Rebel Media strategic brain trust – are likely to see this demand as too much, too soon.

Instead of pulling the fire alarm, newly elected NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh urged a public inquiry. “Jagmeet and his advisers were smart because they’ve now got a vehicle in which they can keep dropping evidence to argue for a public inquiry step by step,” NDP strategist turned high-zoot lobbyist Robin Sears told the Toronto Star.

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer (Photo: Andrew Scheer Flickr Account, Wikimedia Commons).

What are the Conservatives going to ask for now that they’ve demanded the PM step down in a fit of hysteria, Mr. Sears wondered. “Jump off a cliff?”

At least the NDP strategy – let’s wait and see, and ratchet up the pressure as we move along – is likely to resonate with voters who actually think about the real implications for the rule of law in a country that continually and sanctimoniously advises the world that’s what matters most around here.

That, of course, does not describe every voter. But what if sufficient numbers of Mr. Trudeau’s supporters just don’t care?

This may be a reality the Canadian Conservatives enthusiastically helped to create and now are forced to confront.

To a greater extent than at any point in recent history, voters in Canada, and other Western democracies, live in silos. If they pay any attention at all to what people they disagree with are saying, it’s only to trade angry memes on social media, dismiss unfavourable reports as “fake news,” and shout abuse.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Do potential Trudeau voters even care if he interfered with the Canadian justice system? I’m not talking about his core supporters, but the larger universe of voters needed to tilt an election. How many voters think pushing Ms. Wilson-Reybould to protect Canadian jobs was the right thing to do regardless of the murky rules? How many thought, “So what?” We don’t know the answers to these questions.

Naturally, whatever Mr. Trudeau did, and we don’t really have a clear picture yet, drives the Conservative base crazy. But, remember, these are people who simply hate Mr. Trudeau. This is a group, indeed, that was almost driven over the edge by the fact Mr. Trudeau used to be a drama teacher!

Never mind there’s a range of possible credible interpretations of Mr. Trudeau’s actions, from prudent leadership all the way to outright corruption. Is it possible sufficient numbers of Canadian voters think what the PM did was reasonable, and don’t really give a hoot about the implications, if any? I’d say yes.

Lobbyist and former NDP strategist Robin Sears (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Consider Donald Trump, president of the United States, pilloried daily by the New York Times and the Washington Post. Yes, his popularity is down to about where you might expect it to be in a U.S. president’s first term, but the Republican base and the party’s legislators are unshaken in their determination to stand by their man. His approval rate is higher today than Ronald Reagan’s was at this point in his first term.

No need to go south of the border to observe this phenomenon. How much did Canadian voters care about the sins of Stephen Harper, the man who pulls Mr. Scheer’s strings? No very much, if his electoral record is anything to go by.

Found in contempt of Parliament? Didn’t matter. Prorogued Parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote? Didn’t matter.

Former Conservative MP and cabinet minister Tony Clement (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Deliberately falsifying documents? Misleading Parliament? Giving ministerial staffers immunity from testifying before Parliamentary committees? Turning Question Period into a Vaudeville show? Defaming the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court when she wouldn’t do what he wanted? Tolerating corrupt cronies? Requiring public employees to swear loyalty oaths? Using federal civil servants as stooges for partisan purposes? Destroying science libraries and burning their books? Borrowing money without Parliament’s permission? Ignoring their own fixed-election-date law when it was inconvenient? Using G8 security funds to build gazebos for Tony Clement’s riding? Exceeding election spending limits in the in-and-out scandal?

There’s much more, but readers get the picture. None of these things harmed the Conservatives’ re-election chances during Mr. Harper’s decade in power.

Paying off Mike Duffy, sending non-Con voters to the wrong polling station with robo-call dirty tricks, and using Revenue Canada to attack charities that opposed his energy policies might have hurt a little. Then again, Canadians may have tired of Mr. Harper for completely different reasons – too long in the tooth, didn’t wear colourful socks, hated his haircut, whatever.

None of this bothered his core supporters, and didn’t bother a lot of other voters very much either.

Mr. Trump appears to be coated in Teflon. For a long time Mr. Harper was too. Why not Mr. Trudeau?

Seriously, what makes anyone think voters will react to Mr. Trudeau’s alleged transgressions much differently that they did to Mr. Harper’s?

It’s not as if they who are without sin are casting the first stones! Many voters, in fact, will take the record of Mr. Scheer’s party into account when they cast their ballots.

Perhaps this is to Mr. Singh’s advantage, if he can turn around his recent image as a bumbler. Perhaps it will work out to Mr. Scheer’s, his party’s horrible record notwithstanding.

But no one should assume on the basis of Postmedia’s coverage of the SNC-Lavalin Affair that Mr. Trudeau and his Liberal Government are done for, any more than anyone should reach the conclusion Mr. Trump is finished just because of something they read in the New York Times of the Washington Post.

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  1. It’s becoming very cult like Conservatives here in Canada seem to be suffering from Trudeau derangement syndrome, similar to Trump derangement syndrome south of the border.
    Let’s not forget these bribes were paid to officials of a government Harper supported the destruction of. I wonder what happened to the 160 million? It would be interesting to trace who’s hands it ultimately ended up it, surely it wasn’t all spent prior to Obama and Clinton’s adventures.

  2. The SNC Lavalin thing reminds me a bit of Elbowgate, the much overwrought incident earlier in Trudeau’s term that many pundits and partisans were hyperventalating about at the time. I think ordinary people got that Trudeau made a mistake, but it wasn’t a big deal because really it had so little relevance in their own lives. In the same way all the recent pundit talk about the Sharcross Doctrine that nobody has heard of before and even the civil servants in the Privy Council didn’t seem to pay much attention to is just more inside the beltway politics. It has nothing to do with the price of canola in New Sarepta.

    Yes, there are troubling aspects of this situation
    particularily for some Liberal supporters, but it would be a mistake to think they are now going to embrace Scheer and the Conservatives. Less partisan, less engaged voters are even less likely to care about the arcane arguments and issues involved here. In fact, they may see Trudeau as standing up to preserve jobs as not such a bad thing, just as American voters did not necesarily see America first or Trump’s tarriff threats as a bad thing, even though economists, pundits and elite expert hyperventalated about that.

    On the pipeline issue Conservatives have criticized Trudeau for quite a while now for not interfering with the rule of law, arguing economic concerns should trump legal process. Now in SNC Lavalin they seem to be arguing the opposite. They may think the voters have missed the hypocricy in this, but I suspect some have caught it, especially in Quebec. I think it may come across there as western jobs very important to the Conservatives, Quebec ones not so much. Of course every party better represents those that vote for it, more than those that do not.

    However, while we may be disappointed Mr. Trudeau is not perfect, I don’t think Mr. Scheer has or will convince many voters that he and his party are the second incarnation of Mother Teresa. The past Conservative record was not so great and they don’t seem to have learned or forgot much since then. As an election nears they seem to be veering back towards the overly partisan sniping and excessive attacks that voters found a somewhat offputting in the Harper years.

  3. Harper’s “scandals” were torqued up non events by an establishment that hated his very existence.
    This Trudeau scandal is legitimate and catastrophic. Unlike the groper thing this matters.

    1. Jeff: don’t be so ungrateful. Trudeau actually bought you a pipeline and it only cost one year’s worth of prairie wheat and barley exports. Notley is even buying locomotives and oil cars to help out. And now little Kenney is promising to lower corporate taxes from tiny to microscopic. How much welfare can the oil sector take?

    2. When you say ‘Harper’s “scandals” [that] were torqued up non events,” surely you’re referring to charges of breaking election campaign-funding laws that were laid against the Conservative party, aren’t you?

      And when you call the court of law in which the Crown prosecuted the party for these offences “an establishment that hated his very existence,” you’re probably referring to the existence of evidence which proved the offence had been committed, not to Harper himself, and perhaps overstating just a tad the court’s disapproval of anyone breaking the law as hatred.

      I know a lot of people really hated how it cost tax dollars to prosecute the party in court. Can’t really call these “non events” seeing how the defendant was convicted (Harper preferred to call it a “disagreement”) and fined—I can’t remember right now if it was the fine was six-figures or the court costs for the defence that was seven-figures, or vise versa, but the total public cost could have been eight-figures.

      So, JT’s scandal “is legitimate,” is it? I also have to disagree it’s a catastrophe.

  4. “He must resign, Mr. Scheer insisted, a sentiment immediately echoed by his caucus and their many friends in media.”

    With Postmedia columnists it is very much a case of crying wolf. I barely even look at the National Post section of The Journal that my wife’s mother passes on to us. For years it has been a relentless series of negative headlines. I thik if Justin Trudeau discovered a cure for cancer the PM headline would be “Justin Trudeau Works to Produce Doctor Unemployment”.

  5. This brings back to mind the Tommy Douglas poltical fable, “Mouseland,” which “expresses the CCF’s view that the Canadian political system was flawed in offering the voters a false dichotomy: the choice of two parties, neither of which represented their interests.” Perhaps, not much has changed, i.e.the Liberals and the Conservatives, the white cats and the black cats, all cats, not good for us mice because either one is still a bunch of cats.
    Agreed, Singh’s NDP has come across with a much more reasoned approach to the SNC-Lavalin Scandal than the Conservatives. Unfortunately for Scheer, he doesn’t seem to be up to snuff. It would be galling though to think that the arrogant Trudeau would win again, but, hopefully not with a majority. It has been heartwarming, indeed, to watch him be outmaneuvered brilliantly by Jody Wilson-Raybould.
    These recent majority governments, both Tory and Grit, have sure revealed their true scandal-ridden colours. I will do my part and not vote for either of them.
    These scandals, also bring to mind, again, having a form of proportional representation with our elections. It is a more fair reflection of the actual vote and it could provide better checks and balances with regard to this bad, entitled, scandal-ridden majority government behavior, with impunity. It has gotten so bad, it begs the question re: the Liberals and the Conservatives, “Who the hell do they think they are?”

  6. Yes, in a democracy, like ours, the real question should be, “How will voters react?”
    But in the here and now, the question actually is how will the media react? The MSM, a corporatist group not notably different that say, CAPP, except perhaps for their literacy, are spitting all over themselves in an attempt to spin an extremely difficult legal and political decision making process. It certainly doesn’t help that an honest-to-gawd FN princess is having fainting spells and emotional outrage while participating in these highest level discussions. It’s all very good copy – for a gossip rag!
    As for serious news and journalism again, I think you are in the vanguard David with this piece.

  7. Justin was always a lightweight, and this affair makes him look inept, at best. I’d much sooner see Chrysta Freeland at the helm. However, I don’t think much of any of the opposition parties or their leaders. Justin’s big problem this fall may be an “enthusiasm gap” like the one that afflicted Hilary.

    There’s a saying in Canadian politics that “Oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose elections.” That should worry those of us who really don’t want Scheer as PM. But a minority government of centre-left parties might be a tolerable outcome.

    1. Freeland at the helm you say? Wasn’t her grand daddy a Nazi newspaper editor cheering on the Ukrainian extermination of the Jews? But let’s not visit the accomplishments of the grandfathers on the grand daughters. She is certainly showing those commies in Venezuela that have hidden all that American oil under their jungles who’s boss – ya sir! If she is center-left, then I’m named “almond tree” and I don’t have to follow the rules.

    2. I agree. It will take more than 4 years to forget the Harper era, especially since Andrew Scheer seems hell bent to follow in his mentor’s footsteps.

  8. I have to ask what a “high-zoot lobbyist” is. The image this evokes is extremely flashy. Is this someone wearing a coat with a killer shape and reet pleats? And what of his watch chain?

  9. Hmmm funny how things change in 24 hrs. Now that Jane Philpot has resigned I would say things look a little more bleak for Justin Trudeau, his teflon is wearing a little thin lol! You can certainly count me as a person with a strong dislike of Justin Trudeau but I disagree with Andrew Scheer about getting him to resign. I happen to think the Liberal’s will be easier to beat with him as the leader. He continues to prove ethics are not his strong point. On with the show. Enjoy your day.

    1. Yes, but you never did vote Liberal, did you? Not voting for JT isn’t going to make much difference to him or you.

      I don’t blame you for disagreeing with Scheer: after endorsing the neo-nazi-infested truckers’ rally almost nothing he can say could be so dumb—but ramping-up the rhetoric over Jody-and-JT to level ten (when there is no level eleven to go to) could almost qualify: he now has to do the Chicken Little for the next eight months or ‘walk it back,’ as they say—‘cept it’ll look more like Andrew falling on his ass.

      True, though: Scheer really does need something to make JT easier to beat, although it doesn’t look like he has anything like that handy himself—which is why he seized so rashly upon what most Canadians see as a politcal misdemeanour, at worst.

      If it’s a battle of ethics, Scheer’s gonna have a hard time trying to compare favourably with any of the other leaders.

      As for Philpot’s resignation, I suspect she’s trying to pre-empt something she knows will inevitably out: that she egged Jody on when the stressed Justice Minister sought her consolence —and that, in the fullness of inquiry, will become apparent. She may end up being blamed for leading the rookie minster astray. Her move definitely looks distractive, the only question being of what. At present we do know the two were fairly tight and, this episode having taken a few months to unfold during which time Jody claims to have been increasingly beset by PMO bullies, it seems likely she would have confided in her friend and cabinet colleague. Everybody wants to know—because there are still so many unanswered questions—what else is not being divulged. I’ll bet Philpot and Jody know.

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