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The Prime Minister’s threatened libel lawsuit against Andrew Scheer enhances the Opposition leader’s stature, and diminishes his own.
Scheer’s response — to allegations that he defamed the PM concerning the SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. scandal — was pitch perfect. At a Sunday afternoon press conference, he was passionate but unemotional. He looked Prime Ministerial, was lauded by all commentators and parties, and overnight became First Among Opposition Leaders.
The Prime Minister’s justification for legal action was to make Scheer “accountable” for alleged misleading statements, ironic coming from a leader who has been hardly a paragon of accountability during the entire, shabby SNC scandal.
It was Trumpian. Small. Unbecoming.
And ineffective. “I have to ask who is doing the damage control in the Prime Minister’s Office because this (SNC affair) has been like a relentless dumpster fire that they keep pouring gasoline on,” said New Democratic Party MP Charlie Angus.
Frankly, even if the lawsuit is more than just a threat and lands a punch, no one will be the wiser. Such actions take months or years and bore voters to tears.
Clearly, this has been Trudeau’s “annus horribilis,” a year of multiple resignations, two eyebrow-raising expulsions from the Liberal caucus, policy flops and sagging polls.
In January, he dismissed as “false” a news story about the former Liberal Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould getting pushed around to overturn a decision to prosecute SNC-Lavalin on corruption charges. Turns out, it wasn’t false.
Then, he kicked Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, another former cabinet minister, out of caucus for publicly criticizing him. Philpott alleges this contravenes the Parliament of Canada Act. He dismissed this, but opposition parties and experts disagree.
Last week, the Liberals also announced they were handing out $12 million to highly profitable Loblaws stores to buy emissions-free freezer cases. The money comes out of a $450-million federal fund designed to help businesses, not-for-profit groups and lower-tier governments cut their emissions levels.
This led Maxime Bernier, leader of the fledgling People’s Party, to pile on too, slamming “corporate parasites” that prefer to “lobby politicians” rather than offer better products or services. An NDP critic noted that since Loblaw bought its fridges from China the giveaway is essentially a subsidy to a foreign country that doesn’t even treat us very well.
That same day, Alberta’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley accused the feds of policy hypocrisy that helps corporate interests in Eastern Canada at the expense of Western Canada.
She cited the federal crude tanker ban on the west coast which represents a major obstacle to pipelines that will ship Alberta oil to the Pacific for export. But, she said, there is no crude tanker ban on Canada’s east coast, which supports Quebec and Maritimes corporations.
For example, the offshore Hibernia operation in Newfoundland and Labrador produces and ships hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil in tankers each year; the Irving refinery in New Brunswick does the same; and tankers carry foreign oil down the St. Lawrence Seaway to deliver product to refineries in Quebec.
Then there’s Bill C-69 which will be a death knell to resource development with its built-in consultative gridlock preventing project approvals. This boondoggle will make the 130,000 oil jobs lost in Alberta look pale by comparison over the next five years.
And yet, Canadians cannot use the courts to impose accountability on this Prime Minister as he has chosen to unleash against Scheer. Why can’t someone launch a class action lawsuit for impeding resource development? For handing out fridges, or get out of jail passes, to favoured corporations? For misleading statements about lower deficits and taxes?
Politically speaking, the October election cannot come quickly enough.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019