My latest: David Johnston’s shame

David Johnston’s astonishing decision – to conclude that Canada does not need an inquiry into Chinese interference in our democracy – will be remembered for what it doesn’t do, not what it does.

Here are the five things it doesn’t do.

One, it won’t enhance David Johnston’s reputation. At all. Before Tuesday, the former Governor-General enjoyed a pretty stellar reputation. Honorary degrees, Order of Canada, decades of public service.

And then, on Tuesday, Johnston shredded all of that with a decision that validates everyone who questioned whether Johnston was the right person for the job – because of conflicts of interest, because of his position with the Trudeau Foundation, because of his long friendship with the very Liberal leader whose conduct needs to be examined. Johnston will now forever be known not for the good things he did in his life – but for this appalling, shocking decision at the end of it.

Two: Johnston’s abdication of responsibility won’t stop the torrent of leaks about China’s willingness to maul our democratic institutions. In fact, it’ll do the reverse: it’ll lead to even more leaks.

The CSIS agents – and others – who have been providing the media with details about the Chinese regime’s crimes haven’t been doing so for their health. They’ve been doing so at great risk – to their careers and to their liberty. And they’ve obviously done so to prod the Canadian government into taking action to counter the Chinese threat.

Johnston’s ghastly report will give the Trudeau Liberals the pretext they wanted to continue to cover up this scandal. But it won’t stop the bleeding. The leaks will continue to happen, and they will get worse. Johnston will have made things immeasurably worse for the government he clearly set out to protect.

Three, it won’t improve public opinion. It’ll make Canadians angrier, and more willing to lash out at the Trudeau regime.

Months ago, polls showed self-identifying Liberals wanted the same thing Conservative partisans did: a public inquiry. China’s belligerence and thuggery had done something that very rarely happens: united the public.

In these divided and disputations times, it is harder and harder to find consensus on any public policy issue. China’s interference in our democracy is the exception. David Johnson had an opportunity to take advantage of that unprecedented degree of consensus. And he blew it.

Four, Johnston’s terrible, horrible decision will not deter the news media from pursuing the story. That is particularly the case now that Johnson has adopted the Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump approach, and labeled those of us in the media as purveyors of “false news.”

That tactic did not work for Justin Trudeau in the SNC Lavalin or WE charity scandals, and it has not worked for Donald Trump – ever. Calling the media liars, as David Johnston effectively has done, will simply force the media to work even harder to prove that he is wrong.

Fifth and finally: Johnston’s decision will not satisfy our allies, who have become increasingly unhappy with the way Canada is dealing with a real and manifest threat to Western interests. And, most of all, it will not make the story go away. It just won’t.

An unhappy intelligence establishment. An unhappy voting public. An unhappy media. All will combine to ensure that this story continues to fill the front pages of newspapers, until someone in power does the right thing.

Whatever the opposition parties do now – and one of those things must be shutting down Parliament until an inquiry happens – is almost secondary. This issue is not going away. It is not disappearing.

But David Johnston should.

For good.

Hero to zero