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My latest: what #LavScam now means for Scheer, JWR, PMO, the RCMP and the media

Joseph Nye Welch: remember that name.

He was an American lawyer, and chief counsel to the US Army. He died long ago. But even from the grave, even after so many years have gone by, Welch has something to important to say about the sordid, seamy scandal known as LavScam.

The Ethics Commissioner had something to say, too, as it turned out. And this week, he said it: “The authority of the Prime Minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. [Jody] Wilson-Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer.”

That sentence – and the commissioner’s finding that Justin Trudeau and his thugs did, indeed, conspire to stop the criminal prosecution of a Québec-based donor to his party, SNC-Lavalin – has myriad implications for many people. Here are just a few.

Andrew Scheer: When the LavScam story broke in the Globe and Mail, the Conservative Party leader was criticized by some in his own party for demanding Justin Trudeau’s resignation. It is clear, now, he was right to do so. It’s also equally clear that Scheer need not worry himself about Trudeau’s puerile threat to sue him for defamation. Truth, after all, is an absolute defence to a libel claim.

Jody Wilson-Raybould: Everything that the former Attorney-General said – and Trudeau petulantly refused to let her say all she had to say – was also true. All of it. She was, in fact, pressured by Trudeau and ten of his minions (including his Minister of Finance) to cut a sweetheart deal for SNC-Lavalin on 22 separate occasions over a four-month period. She spoke the truth. And, in so doing, Wilson-Raybould revealed more integrity and courage than Trudeau could ever hope to possess in ten lifetimes.

Trudeau’s Office: His most-powerful aide, Gerald Butts, resigned at the height of the LavScam scandal. At the time, it was unclear why. Not now. Butts should tender his resignation again – as should Katie Telford, Ben Chin, Mathieu Bouchard, Elder Marques and others in PMO. Bouchard and Marques, both lawyers, additionally deserve the scrutiny of the relevant law societies for their role in LavScam.

The Mounties: It is known that the RCMP seized Butts’ government-issue laptop and cell phone when he first resigned. It is also known that Butts, Telford and the others “lawyered up,” and retained counsel for an anticipated criminal probe. And then…nothing. While Scheer and others demanded a criminal investigation, the RCMP gave every indication they were having an extended, collective nap. The Ethics Commissioner’s extraordinary report will force them awake. Or should.

The Media: For various sycophantic media voices – most notably the Toronto Star’s Susan Delacourt and HuffPo’s Althing Raj – the SNC-Lavalin affair has been a trifling matter, and Wilson-Raybould deserved to be exiled by Trudeau and his lackeys. The damning Ethic Commissioner’s report should oblige Delacourt, Raj and other Trudeau-flatterers to radically revise that assessment.

But what, one might ask, of Joseph Nye Welch? How is LavScam relevant to him, and vice-versa?

Watching Justin Trudeau simultaneously accept the Ethics Commissioner’s report – and then condemn it, all dewy-eyed sincerity – Welch might have said what he famously said to Joseph McCarthy, during the Democratic Senator’s hunt for communists and subversives.

“Until this moment, I think I have never really gauged your recklessness,” Welch might’ve said to Trudeau. “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Justin Trudeau, at long last, does not.


#LavScam: RCMP confirm probe underway into Trudeau and PMO

Finally.

After seizing Gerald Butts’ government-issue laptop and cell phone – after all of the senior PMO staff lawyered up – one would’ve thought the criminal probe was already underway.

At least they have now confirmed that it is.

How helpful is it that your party and your leader are the target of a major criminal investigation during an election? Not very.

Could they lose the election because of this? They could.

Do they deserve to lose because of LavScam?

Oh yes. Yes, yes, yes.

Here’s the official statement from the Mounties:

The RCMP is examining this matter carefully with all available information and will take appropriate actions as required.”

I just did a Sun hit on this very issue. I’ll post it as soon as it is available.


#LavScam shocker: Trudeau broke conflict law

That’s a ⁦Toronto Star⁩ headline, folks. Unless I’m missing something, Justin Trudeau just lost the federal election.

He personally broke the law.



My latest: Trudeau is likelier to win

Dief’s jowls jiggled. His brows bristled.

“I’ve always been fond of dogs,” the Conservative leader declared, and the assembled media throng — the ones who had just informed him that Gallup had him losing, badly, to the Liberals — leaned ever closer.

“And they are the one animal that knows the proper treatment to give to poles.”

The ink-stained wretches burst out laughing, and scribbled away in their notebooks. Dief the Chief had conjured a political quote for the ages.

He was sort-of right, too, about the polls (and poles). Diefenbaker would go on to win, big time, shocking the pollsters and the pundits alike. And 1957 would become one of the biggest upsets in Canadian political history, with the Tories ending nearly a quarter-century of Grit rule.

In the intervening years, plenty of politicos have repeated Dief’s quotable quote, or offered up a variation on it: “The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day.”

And both bromides are true: some pollsters get it wrong. Often. Nowadays, with voters getting harder and harder to reach — because many of them use only cellphones, and cellphone numbers aren’t readily found in directories, like landlines used to be — pollsters are making mistakes. Sometimes big ones.

Remember that 2012 National Post headline, declaring: “PQ headed to comfortable majority,” based on Forum’s numbers? The one just before voting day? It was wrong.

Remember BC in 2013, when pollsters said the NDP was nearly ten points ahead of the BC Liberals? Well, they weren’t. On election night, the BC Liberals were five points ahead of their rivals — and won.

How about the time the Angus Reid Group issued a news release flatly stating the fledgling Wildrose Party would form a majority government in 2014? Remember that? Well, they didn’t. The Alberta PCs did. Handily.

And so on, and so on. Brexit: no one really saw it coming. Trump: ditto. Prime Minister Tom Mulcair, what happened?

The definition of insanity, goes the cliche, is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. And here we all go again, with the commentariat eyeballing the polling entrails, and declaring that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives are in a so-called dead heat, with Scheer slightly ahead. No party is likely to form a majority in 2019, sayeth the punditocracy.

But are they really in a dead heat? And is a majority truly out of reach?

This writer is not so sure. As much as it pains me to say so, a Trudeau win — minority and maybe even majority — presently seems likely. Here’s why: it’s math.

Even though Trudeau may be behind Scheer by a few points — and even though he’s far less popular than he was in 2015, and he has both the Greens and the NDP working busily to steal away votes — Trudeau remains relatively popular where it counts most: seat-rich Central Canada.

Aggregates of several recent polls indicate Trudeau is comfortably in the lead in Ontario and Québec. Based upon those two provinces alone, the Grits may claim as many as 120 seats. Add in Atlantic Canada, where Trudeau has been dominant for months, and the Grit seat count could easily grow to 145 seats.

Could Trudeau win 10 seats in British Columbia? He certainly could. That gets him to 155. Throw in a few territorial and prairie seats — say, eight — and he’s at 163 seats. That’s short of the 170 he’d need to form a majority, true.

But with Green Party leader Elizabeth May openly admitting that she’d be willing to prop up a second Trudeau government, the Liberals may well get all that they need. At that point, all of Andrew Scheer’s dominance in the West won’t matter — because the places where Scheer dominates simply have fewer seats.

If John Diefenbaker was still here, he’d likely admit that polls do, in fact, sometimes matter. But campaigns matter way more.

In ’57, Dief simply campaigned better in those final days. And that’s why he won big.

Polls or no poles.


My latest: Star, CBC no longer lead the way

How the media mighty have fallen.

Way, way back, when this writer was a special assistant to opposition leader Jean Chretien, getting ready for the daily Question Period ritual was simple.

Chretien’s staff, and select Liberal MPs, would gather in the panelled boardroom in room 409-S in Centre Block on Parliament Hill. There, early every weekday morning, we would determine what questions to ask of the government of prime minister Brian Mulroney — and, very briefly, that of prime minister Kim Campbell.

As noted, it wasn’t hard. One of the staffers would read out what the lineup of stories had been on CBC’s The National the night before. Then we would eyeball the front page of the Toronto Star.

Presto! We’d have our lineup for Question Period, as determined by the CBC and the Star.

Like Mulroney, like Campbell, those days are no more. The CBC and the Toronto Star no longer have the political impact they once did.

The numbers tell the story, and it’s not a happy one (for them). At the Star, “revenue (has) continued to decline sharply year-over-year — especially in terms of sales of print advertising space to national accounts.” The source? None other than the Star itself.

Just this week, the once-mighty Star reported a whopping $17.4 million loss in the second quarter of 2019, as its revenues plummeted. That’s even after closing up operations in Hamilton, and slashing jobs.

At the National Newspaper Awards ceremony in May, the Star captured one award. The Globe and Mail, to cite just one example, won 10.

The Star’s national bureau in Ottawa, meanwhile, is led by Susan Delacourt, and it hasn’t had a big scoop in a long, long time. That’s astonishing, when you consider that the Liberal Party holds power. In Ottawa, everyone knows that the likes of the Globe’s Bob Fife breaks the big stories like LavScam and Norman-gate – and the likes of Postmedia’s Andrew Coyne and John Ivison are the ones who dominate federal politics opinion-making. Delacourt’s bureau just doesn’t factor on either front.

The CBC, meanwhile, has plenty of problems, too.

Just before election day in 2019, CBC’s then-president whinged that the public broadcaster was at risk of “extinction,” quote unquote. Justin Trudeau got the message. Once installed in power, Trudeau forked over $115 million to CBC. For good measure, it threw in another $35 million.

But despite that, CBC’s national impact continues to shrink. Its flagship news program — the one that used to literally determine what topics were covered in Question Period — is failing. In the past two years alone, its viewership has nose-dived a mammoth 24%.

A few weeks ago, even the CBC’s editor-in-chief Jennifer McGuire was forced to admit that The National isn’t all what it once was: “Are we pleased with the overall state of The National? I think the answer is no.”

She shouldn’t be pleased with the overall state of CBC’s relevance to the federal political scene, either. Despite being the recipient of millions in tax dollars — and despite being allowed to use that unfair advantage to compete in major markets with private-sector media competitors — the CBC simply isn’t breaking big national stories like it used to.

At the most recent Canada’s Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) awards, Global won a dozen awards for excellence. CTV, which regularly clobbers The National in the ratings game, picked up the RTDNA’s best national newscast award. CBC radio and its regional stations won some RTDNA awards, but none were for national political stories.

What does it all mean? Maybe nothing.

But to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, facing a hotly contested election in just over 90 days, it isn’t good. In the past, the Star and CBC could always be counted on to light the way for Grits, and help secure wins.

Those days — like the national political impact of CBC and the Star — are long, long gone.