It’s like déjà vu all over again.
1981, meet 2019. Western alienation has reached fever pitch, a guy named Trudeau is Prime Minister of Canada, and Queen’s “Under Pressure” is on endless loop in my brain, thanks to the media frenzy surrounding ex-Justice Minister Judy Wilson-Raybould (henceforth, JWR):
Pushing down on me
Pressing down on you... no man ask for
The Globe and Mail pried the lid off the flatulent SNC-Lavalin scandal in early February. Ever since then an impenetrable smog of explanations, deflections, excuses and denials has wafted forth from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his heavies. And they have made, in sum, about as much sense as the mumbo-jumbo preamble to Queen’s iconic hit:
"Mmm num ba de
Dum bum ba be
Doo buh dum ba beh beh"
The capper to this malodourous drivel came via Trudeau’s press conference last Wednesday evening in response to JWR’s explosive Justice committee appearance. Her testimony blew like a nuclear warhead through the glass house of Liberal pretensions, blasting away the obfuscatory fog to expose the PM as a self-interested charlatan ensconsed in a nest of law-bending yes-men. And yes, the ring-leaders are all men: Butts, Wernick, Morneau, Trudeau - outed as the four musketeers of misogyny.
Trudeau opened his hastily-convened presser by reminding us of his government’s signature accomplishments - legislation to help us die and get us high. That assurance of governmental competence aside, he averred that he sees the SNC controversy differently than his ex-Justice Minister: “I completely disagree with the characterization of the former attorney general about these events.”
It’s the sort of tack with which he has some practice: remember the Kokanee Grope affair, wherein he was credibly alleged to have “handled” 28-year-old reporter Rose Knight at a music festival in Creston, B.C. He didn’t recall any “negative interactions”, he babbled, before suggesting as flimsy defence that “people experience things differently.”
JWR properly smeared as a bald-faced liar, he moved on to a full-throated declaration of his prime ministerial duty to “stand up for the jobs of Canadians.” He wasn’t, obviously, referring to the 150,000 job-loss catastrophe that has befallen Alberta and the oil patch. He’s not standing up for those jobs, jobs rooted in the hard work, industry and ingenuity of bed-rock Canadian energy firms, firms that have never been accused of corruption or criminal wrong-doing, firms that have never asked for any special favours except to be left alone to conduct their business. He couldn’t be bothered, even, to stand up and take a short stroll outside a couple of weeks ago to offer perfunctory support to the large convoy of truckers that had traveled in the dead of winter all the way to Ottawa from Alberta (and Saskatchewan) to voice their desperate concern for their industry and their livelihoods.
What Trudeau meant, of course, was SNC-Lavalin jobs, employment derived from the Quebec-based Liberal-party-funding construction behemoth that paid bribes to secure a contract to build jails for Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and then rewarded Gaddafi’s willingness to play ball by securing a bevy of Canadian prostitutes to service his playboy son. This is the sort of company that Trudeau and Co. have climbed eagerly into bed with. Not a good look, one might say.
He capped off his press conference with the obligatory jab at “the party of Harper”, as if the spectre of Stephen Harper should send sensible Canadians skittering away in horror, banishing immediately any ill thoughts that may have begun to coalesce in our minds regarding the great and benevolent Liberal Party of Canada. Canadians have a choice in the upcoming election, he said, a choice between his party and “the party that is still very much the party of Stephen Harper that continues to attack, to divide, to play politics with big issues and to consider that the best way to create economic growth is still to give advantages to the wealthiest.” Yup. He said that. Straight-facedly. Without a flicker of shame. His drama credentials are blue-chip.
The great irony here is that despite the enormous and repeated pressure brought to bear on JWR to “get real” and issue a get-out-of-jail-free card to SNC-Lavalin, it wasn’t she who cracked. Resolute, unbowed and unsullied, she stood tall, holding firm to her principles and to the rule of law.
What cracked instead was the Liberal façade of feminism, tolerance, inclusivity, and transparency. The Trudeau brand, the entire edifice, has been exposed as a sham construct supported by pillars of naked self-interest, greed and cronyism. It has all come crashing down thanks to the prime minister’s shameful assault on the character, dignity and honour of a principled, whip-smart Indigenous woman.
It’s not surprising that this has happened. It’s a truism, almost, that one had best be wary of those who present themselves as models of morality. Because they are often the worst – akin to self-righteous evangelists preaching virtue from the pulpit each Sunday while fornicating like bunnies every day in between.
What is surprising, perhaps, is that it has taken almost the full length of Trudeau’s mandate for his brand to be fully exposed as the fraud that it is. There have been plenty of self-inflicted cuts and numerous examples of ridiculosity (consider, as tiny sampler, the election "reform" mess, the infamous India trip, the summer jobs fiasco, and the loathe-some twaddle about negative “gender impacts” of male construction workers). But the SNC-Lavalin scandal isn't a mere cut: it's a slash to the aorta, and it has drained whatever life-blood of legitimacy remained in this administration.
The foundation of Justin’s brand was shaky from the outset, his climb to the prime minister’s seat launched as it was with the aid of his book “Common Ground” and its nonsensical premise that he shared the every-day challenges of Canadian people. He torqued his personal narrative in pursuit of the brass ring of power, cloaking himself in a “feminist” persona and employing ruthless identity politics to get there. He had, in fact, absolutely nothing in common with the rest of us; he was a rich, entitled, trust-fund kid endowed with a famous name who matured into an adult with an odd admiration for Chinese dictatorship and a deep fondness for Fidel Castro, his grasp of economics summed up by nonsensical tripe like “budgets balance themselves” and “growing the economy from the heart outwards.”
Neither he nor his equally silver-spooned Finance Minister Bill Morneau have the foggiest idea what the average Canadian goes through each day to make ends meet and to provide for their families. His brand was a fraud, until now a triumph of drama, an act designed to draw in Canadians in while he grasped power for himself and his rich and connected friends.
That this is a glittering opportunity for the Conservative Party is undeniable. Andrew Scheer and his colleagues are rubbing their hands together in glee in anticipation of turfing the Liberals from office in November. Anyone familiar with the churn of politics knows that governments usually defeat themselves, in the end, and the Liberals have taken a mighty run at doing just that.
But Scheer would do well to remember that no matter how disgusted Canadians are with Trudeau and his minions, they still need someone to vote for. And therein lies the rub: the gist of conversations around Canadian water coolers, at least the ones to which I go to slake my political thirst, continues to be a plaintive “But who am I going to going to vote for??”, attended by an exaggerated eye roll in response to the name of Andrew Scheer.
It’s a bit rich that Scheer is loading his political hay-wagon on the back of Justin Trudeau’s current predicament. All Canadian politicians are acutely aware of Quebeckers’ love for their flagship industries; billions of dollars have been shoveled their way by obsequious politicians of all stripes intent on maintaining power (Bombardier alone has gobbled up billions upon billions of taxpayers’ dollars). And Scheer became leader of the Conservative Party thanks to the mighty Quebec dairy cartel, which protected its interests by taking out temporary party memberships to support him, pushing Scheer past supply-management-hating Maxime Bernier.
I’m not the only Canadian unable to erase the image of Andrew Scheer at the National Press Gallery dinner in June of 2017. “There’s some suggestion out there that I’m beholden to a certain group within the Conservative family,” he quipped, before drinking deeply from a milk carton. Funny stuff, at the time. But not so funny now. Canadians are tired of this kind of nonsense, of being played for fools, and rightly so.
What we would prefer instead, for a change, is honesty, integrity, clarity, conviction, strength, inspiration. You know, the kind of qualities that JWR has put on full display for our country.
The Liberals may yet muddle through this with Trudeau at the helm. Suffice it to say that the coverage of the SNC-Lavalin scandal has been rather less negative in Quebec. Trudeau is standing up for their interests, after all. If he hoovers up most of Quebec’s seats and takes enough of Ontario’s vote to push him over the top, the rest of Canada can go stuff itself.
But it's unlikely he'll survive. The sudden resignation today of Treasury Board Jane Philpott from cabinet, triggered by her disgust over the SNC-Lavalin mess, has deepened the blood-letting into full-on exsanguination.
There is a possible way out for the Libs, but only if Justin, like his father before him, sees the writing on the wall, takes a walk in the snow and resigns (and takes Bill Morneau with him). Then, with the “brain-trust” gone and the house swept clean, Liberals can rally around JWR, elect her as leader, and presto: Prime Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. Rarely has a public figure in Canada enjoyed the depth of popular support and unbridled admiration that Canadians feel for JWR at this moment. As Rex Murphy put it, "There is more steel in that woman than ever came out of Hamilton". She would win in November in a landslide.
It's not likely to happen, mind you. Trudeau isn't going to leave willingly. I wrote in an earlier version of this piece that politicians don't sacrifice their egos for the good of the country. That's not always true, as Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott have refreshingly demonstrated. But Trudeau will not be inspired by their integrity to do the right thing and resign. Pigs will sooner fly.
Regardless of how it all shakes out in the end, one thing is certain: after being saturated for months in political stories about "pressure" I’m gonna need a 12-step program to erase that silly song by Queen from my brain.