Some Liberals still haven't learned

It’s been two months since the SNC-Lavalin affair went public through an article in the Globe & Mail.

At the time, you had to wonder how long the story would be in the forefront for the public. After all, political scandals usually have a shelf life. They’ll become public, they’ll draw the ire of the people and then they’ll fade as other stories, good and bad, gain prominence.

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Every once in a while, the story will be thrust back into the public’s attention, as some new detail comes to light. Perhaps the story leads to a trial.

There are lots of stories to cover on Parliament Hill. Since we first learned of the alleged efforts by high-ranking members of the Justin Trudeau government to interfere in the SNC-Lavalin investigation, we have encountered such stories as the Convoy to Ottawa, the federal budget with its large deficit, and the imposition of the carbon tax on four provinces, including Saskatchewan.

But this story has had staying power, and it seems like there is a new detail coming forward on an almost daily basis.

We saw Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former attorney general and justice minister, deliver her testimony before the Commons justice committee in a must-watch event. A lot of words could be used to describe it, but the best would be credible.

The Liberals later blocked her ability to appear before that committee for a second time.

Jane Philpot eventually resigned her cabinet seat due to this controversy.

We found out that Wilson-Raybould secretly recorded one of her conversations with outgoing privy council clerk Michael Wernick, because of her concerns that something inappropriate might be said.

And now the next piece: Wilson-Raybould and Philpot have been booted from the Liberal caucus because they did what they thought was the right thing. The Liberals have said they don’t want these two high-profile, influential individuals in their caucus. For now, they’re independents.

Hopefully they’ll remain independents. They’ll run in their respective constituencies in the next election, win those constituencies, and remain strong voices for the people in their ridings. In what could be a minority government, they might be the swing votes.

Along the way, the Liberals have committed numerous blunders that have allowed this controversy to maintain momentum. Giving Wilson-Raybould and Philpot the heave-ho might be the biggest error yet.

It’s always tough when politicians encounter a scandal. It’s even more difficult when that scandal erupts shortly after it happens; most of them usually don’t become public until years after the fact, when some financial information finally becomes available, or an investigative reporter obtains information that had been concealed previously.  

When that scandal breaks, the challenge becomes how much information should you release. The rule of thumb should be to say a lot, without saying too much. In this instance, the Liberals likely tried too hard to control the message early on, and they’ve been putting out fires ever since.

Trudeau blames former treasury board president Scott Brison for this mess; after all, if Brison hadn’t stepped down, this whole affair wouldn’t have come to light.

Reality is all Trudeau had to do is replace Brison. If he hadn’t demoted Wilson-Raybould from attorney general-justice minister, it’s unlikely that anyone would have known about the alleged pressure placed on Wilson-Raybould by people in the Liberal Party.

The next federal election is only six months away. And as each new detail regarding the SNC-Lavalin affair becomes public, it becomes less likely that this controversy will have faded from our minds when we go to the polls in the fall.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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