If you have any interest at all in politics, this past week would not have been a boring one for you. There is lots going on in Ottawa of course. I want to get to that and some of my views may surprise you. But let’s start here in Parry-Sound Muskoka, where my bet is things are going to start to heat up shortly.
A few weeks ago I wrote a column urging Tony Clement, our current Member of Parliament, to make a decision as to his intentions related to the Federal Election this Fall. I can tell you he was less than happy with me and told me he would make up his mind in his own good time and to basically butt out. I am really not very good at butting out however, and my sense is that the time for an announcement is coming soon. Perhaps not this week, but soon.
My guess and my hope is that Tony Clement will announce that he is ending his career as a politician, following what in many ways has been a distinguished career that cannot simply be erased because of his recent serious mistakes, although many will take great joy in trying to do so.
Tony is without question a pragmatist and a Conservative. If he cannot run under the Tory banner, or if he can run, but concludes he may not win, he will not do anything to hurt the Party he has served for so long and so well, until recently. He will not, in my view, run as an Independent and he will not support the alt-right Party of Maxime Bernier. He also knows how important it is for a new candidate to find their own feet and make their own impression on the electorate. My guess is that as hard as it will be for him, he will do the right thing, and will not be a candidate when the October election takes place.
Huntsville’s Mayor, Scott Aitchison, has already been public with his interest in seeking the Conservative nomination if Tony Clement does not. He will not decide until that decision is announced. While it would not be a slam dunk, Scott would be a formidable candidate. He is well known throughout the riding, especially in Muskoka and East Parry Sound. He is personable and articulate and will speak well to the issues. He has a real sense of history, which I believe to be important in an elected official. He also knows how to get things done. He may well have competition for the nomination as Parry Sound may think it is their turn for a member of Parliament and there are likely others out there with Federal ambitions.
If Scott does seek and win the Conservative nomination, he will take a leave of absence as mayor and if he wins the election, Huntsville will have to find a new Head of Council. I have my view on this as well (and for the record, it is not me) but that is a story for another time.
Whoever wins the Conservative nomination in Parry Sound – Muskoka will have a tough row to hoe. Matt Richter will do well again for the Green Party, but it is Trish Cowie for the Liberals, one will have to watch. She too ran in the last election. She performed well and significantly closed the margin between the Liberals and Conservatives in this Riding. She is a lawyer with an indigenous background. She plays the feminist ticket and there is nothing shy and retiring about her.
Trish Cowie does have one big problem though. She is the standard bearer for the Liberal Party in this Riding and over the last several weeks we have not heard a peep, not a single peep from her, about the current scandal her Party is enduring in Ottawa. She needs to tell us where she stands. Does she believe that SNC Lavalin should escape criminal prosecution? Does she believe it is right for the Government to intervene to make sure it does? Having listened to the tape, does she believe that the Attorney General was pressured to intervene in a matter where she believed and had been advised, that it was contrary to the rule of Law, to do so? Does she respect the fact that Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from Cabinet on principle and gave her reasons for doing so? Does she think she and Jane Philpott should be turfed out of Caucus? And finally, does she believe Jody Wilson-Raybould when she made it plain in her discussion with Michael Wernick that she was trying to save Justin Trudeau from himself? Some answers would be insightful.
So that does take me to Ottawa and the shenanigans there. There are just a few of them on which I want to give my own point of view. For one thing, and this is where the surprise may come, I find it quite believable that Michael Wernick did not brief the Prime Minister on his conversation with Wilson-Rabould. I have been in those halls at the Provincial level. I’ve seen it when the boss wants something done and he doesn’t necessarily want details. He just wants it to happen. And then the back-room boys and girls get to work and damn the torpedoes. It’s a blood sport and they are often good at it. They sometimes believe they are protecting their boss by preventing him (or her) from interfering in their own affairs. Sometimes it works. Often it backfires. I’ve seen that happen more than once.
As for the recording made by Wilson-Rabould, I think it was exactly the right thing to do under the circumstances. She was alone in her condo when the call came. She knew who it was from and she knew from previous discussions what it was about. She did not have an aide in the room to take notes for her as would normally be the case. It was David and Goliath and she had no sling shot. She did not say it was inappropriate to record the call, as some are saying. She said were it not for the circumstances she found herself in, when the call came, it would otherwise have been inappropriate. There is a significant difference here.
I do think that from a practical perspective, Wilson-Rabould and Philpott need to leave the Liberal Caucus. However proper and principled their decision to resign from Cabinet was, they have separated themselves on a major issue from the Government. The Liberals will be weaker without them, but they can no longer be an effective part of that team. Hopefully, they will look elsewhere.
Finally, it would not surprise me if the Prime Minister calls a snap election. The release of the Wilson-Rabould tape gives the SNC/Government scandal more shelf life and the Government’s crisis management has been just awful all the way through this. Justin Trudeau may want to try to short circuit that by putting all his campaign goodies on the table for people to think about. As well, Andrew Scheer, while he has performed well as the leader of the Opposition, has work to do to show people who he is as a person, what makes him tick, what his passions are, other than wanting to get rid of Trudeau. I don’t think people have seen that part of him yet and they want to. He needs to get on with it, and soon.
Well folks, I have given you plenty of red meat here, so let’s start gnawing but please do it respectfully. Use a napkin!
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