It’s a little bit off the official Liberal script.
But it feels like a telling comment.
Here’s St. John’s East Liberal MP Nick Whalen, talking about the continuing fallout from the SNC-Lavalin case, and most recently, the removal of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus: “It’s just so tragic. It’s almost like a Shakespearean tragedy. Just like in a Shakespearean tragedy, everyone at the end is dead.”
And just like Shakespearean tragedy, no one involved seems to have a clue about the obvious errors they’re making, to the point that you just want to reach onto the stage and give them all a good shake.
The fact is, you probably couldn’t have a more ham-handed handling of the whole situation if you tried. Two months in, not only has the situation shown no signs of abating, it seems to expand a little bit more each day.
The problem is, at the core of the case is a crucial point: no matter how many jobs are at stake, no matter what kind of impact there might be on a political party’s future, should the Prime Minister’s Office bring pressure to bear on how a criminal case should be handled by the judicial side of government?
Clearly, the issue resonates across the country; whether the pressure put on then-justice minister Wilson-Raybould was appropriate or inappropriate, it’s clear now that there was plenty of pressure. And it’s not hard for voters to feel that a corporation was getting a special deal.
Two months in, not only has the situation shown no signs of abating, it seems to expand a little bit more each day.
Instead of addressing that issue from the outset — perhaps even being upfront and admitting a mistake might have been made, promising to learn from it and committing not to have it happen again — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the political operatives at the top of the Liberal government have turned the situation into a daily routine of revelations, counter-revelations, not-so-cunningly-designed information leaks and partisan gamesmanship.
The problem with that slow and sloppy immolation of reputations?
Well, the federal government has a lot of irons in the fire right now.
China, angry with the arrest of a Chinese executive, keeps coming up with reasons to halt canola shipments.
U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs continue to bite into Canadian business.
Automakers are closing or downsizing operations at crucial Canadian plants.
In other words, there are plenty of major issues to deal with, and it’s hard not to wonder if there’s a risk that the Liberals could at any time lapse into the same kind of boneheaded behaviour on number of other important files.
To put it as simply as possible: if the Liberals can’t handle something as simple as a fire in their own backyard without fanning it into an inferno, how hard is it to trust that they are ready to deal with an even bigger blaze?