Sleeping cots set up in the House of Commons, MPs wearing sweatshirts in the House, interviews with Maclean’s magazine, twitter wars, moves to sit as an Independent, a looming federal election: Justin Trudeau must wake up most mornings wishing SNC-Lavalin would just vanish in a puff of smoke.
Such does not seem to be likely, as the opposition parties appear determined to keep this story front and centre in the minds of voters as we head towards an October election.
This creates a bit of an ethical dilemma for those of us who do not want to see an Andrew Scheer Conservative government. We are well aware of the shortcomings of Trudeau’s Liberal government but, especially for those of us who live in Doug Ford’s Ontario, we are also well aware of how much worse things can get. With the federal NDP at a low point in terms of leadership and popularity with voters in many parts of the country, there are not a lot of realistic options available to many of us.
This struggle – whether to support the “not great but it could be worse” Liberals to prevent the “hard to imagine how it could be worse” Conservatives from gaining power; to vote with our principles, whether that means supporting an unlikely-to-win New Democrat or Green candidate; to register a non-vote or to not vote at all – is not a new one.
What to do, what to do? I have the feeling that more than a few of us are going to flip flop on this between now and October 21st.
“Fierce, smart and unapologetic”
Celina Caesar-Chavannes tweeted these words in February to describe Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was being maligned by anonymous members of the Liberal caucus, but they could be used equally well to describe both Jane Philpott and Caesar-Chavannes herself in recent days.
Caesar-Chavannes has consistently spoken out about difficult issues and, most recently, has been clear in her support for JWR and Philpott, noting:
“When women speak up and out, they are always going to be labelled. Go ahead. Label away. We are not going anywhere.”
Sadly, though, she has gone somewhere. After deciding recently not to seek re-election, last week, following some difficult exchanges with her leader, she left the Liberal caucus to sit as an Independent for the rest of her term, saying, in part:
“it’s important to understand that while I support the values and principles of the Liberal party, that it might be good . . .that I sit as an Independent for the rest of the term that I’m here.”
“There’s much more to the story”
In Jane Philpott’s recent interview with Maclean’s magazine, she talked about the fear that members of the Liberal caucus have about the impact on the election outcome of what she, JWR and other critics have said with respect to the SNC-Lavalin matter.
She also noted that politicians owe it to Canadians “to ensure they have the truth,” and that she could not remain silent about something this important, regardless of what the fallout might be. As she said in the interview, it is a mistake when politicians assume the best interests of Canadians and their own future political success are synonymous.
She firmly believes that the Liberals are the best choice to lead Canada, but that “the Liberal Party needs to be the best version of the Liberal Party.”
In other words, it is not enough just to be not as bad as the other guy. Perhaps a somewhat cynical starting point, but nonetheless an honest one.
Meanwhile, Canada’s sunny Prime Minister seems determined to ignore reality. When commenting on Philpott’s intelligent and nuanced interview, he noted:
“We recognize that a diversity of perspectives, experiences, opinions, is extraordinarily important if we’re going to fully reflect the extraordinary diversity of Canadians. We are pleased to have a diversity of voices in the Liberal party.”
Perhaps with fewer exclamations about extraordinariness and diversity, he would be able to hear what these fierce, smart and unapologetic women are really saying. That would be good for all of us.