The problem with the idea of conventional wisdom is for a person to employ it they must first have wisdom and second, it must follow convention.
Given this, the idea that the lens we must use to suggest Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau will be out the door for his failings in the WE Scandal may be premature.
Regardless of what you think of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his puppeteer Gerald Butts they do not lack the wisdom. The latter however, from the view of most senior political analysts in Canada, is anything but, well, conventional.
For a look inside the mind of the Liberal brain trust one needs to examine how they earned their stripes. For that, one needs to look at the Dalton McGuinty Government of Ontario from 2003 to 2012.
One of the claims to fame of the McGuinty government is how McGuinty never had a minister forced to resign in disgrace. Liberal staffers, and McGuinty himself I’m sure, loved to point this out along with the fact their federal counterparts in Ottawa in the Stephen Harper government could not say the same.
However, compared to the WE Scandal former Conservative Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda’s $16 orange juice doesn’t seem all that bad.
Regardless, McGuinty and his minions were right, they never had a minister resign in disgrace. The reason, not because they shouldn’t have, but rather because the Liberals, many of which now reside in Ottawa, know how to circle the wagons.
The only member of Mr. McGuinty’s cabinet to ever kind of take a dive was George Smitherman and even “Furious George” was allowed to resign on his own.
The former mayoral runner up to now Premier Doug Ford’s younger brother not only left cabinet, he left provincial politics altogether – on his own terms or so it would seem.
The fact is Mr. Smitherman fresh off holding the bag for the Billion Dollar Boondoogle E-Health scandal quickly plunged Ontario into an even dodgier scheme.
Smitherman was the Liberal front-man for the deal with Samsung to turn Ontario energy a slight shade of green. The deal, which has lead to the highest energy prices in North America, and the abundance of bird killing wind turbines all over south-western Ontario, many close to the world’s largest bird sanctuary – Jack Miner’s in Kingsville.
The details of the deal were not only kept secret from the McGuinty cabinet, the Liberal caucus had no idea of what was going on.
Then a rarity of all rarities, someone in the McGuinty Liberal caucus talked. Information was leaked to Robert Benzie of the Toronto Star and he broke the story about how upon learning of Smitherman’s dealings, the minister was all but “gang-tackled” said a Liberal source in the caucus meeting.
Smitherman started to walk the plank seemingly on his own terms, and even more ugly stories started to break.
Former Star writer Jim Coyle wrote November 9, 2009 about the man we all came to know as “Furious George” and comments from Liberal insiders saying.
“… Smitherman is now all but out the door.”
“And there will be few tears.
“As one Liberal said, “take away the gay and he’s a centre-right guy who likes to throw his weight around.”
As Dalton McGuinty liked to say “the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour,” so the Smitherman situation should be very informative.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau may have a serious problem with forgetfulness – that villa in France he forgot he owns and the WE Charity paid for vacation being the two best examples.
Mr. Morneau may be at the tiller for the greatest expansion of debt and deficit in Canadian history – well on its way before COVID-19 hit.
The finance minister may be the one all the pundits are saying will get tossed under the bus. But given all that, has there been one single bad word from Liberal members of their “truth” peddlers to the media or even the casual chattering classes?
Until there is it’s hard to believe Mr. Morneau is going anywhere. And even if they do decide to “Kill Bill” – from cabinet of course – my guess is, it will be far away from this scandal.
The ethics investigation will no doubt give a strong rebuke to both the Mr. Morneau and his boss, but unless the recommendation is removal from his position the issue will go no further.
Much like Dalton McGuinty, Jean Chretien, Stephen Harper and now Doug Ford, the prime minister and the governing party have an ace in their pockets.
No matter how bad any of them were, the other side of the aisle was actually that much worse. In a world where many – if not all – of us vote for the lesser of two evils that kind of matters
Right now Mr. Trudeau is looking at Canadian Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer and is thinking “after all I did wrong he still couldn’t beat me?”
He is also looking at a party that chose to keep Mr. Scheer in place and run a leadership race during a pandemic and thinking “tone-deaf” – or at least that’s the sentiment of Liberal insiders I know.
In order for Mr. Morneau to be slid or pushed under the bus there needs to be pressure. Right now the only heat is from the normally Liberal friendly media and that is no real pressure at all.
So as I’m writing this Mr. Morneau is still the head tax man for the Government of Canada. He could get canned before I press send on the email to my editor, but more likely he’ll be reading the budget come April.
Kelly Harris is Principal of Harris Public Affairs and former Membership Chair of the Public Affairs Association of Canada (Ontario Chapter). He is a regular commentator on Global News Radio 640. He has spent the last decade working with Canada’s credit unions and served as Director on the Board of the Canadian Credit Union Association. An internationally published journalist, he has held senior positions in the Gordon Campbell government in British Columbia and Tim Hudak’s opposition at Queen’s Park. An avid traveller, cyclist and father to Busher, an orange tabby, named after Toronto Maple Leaf Great Harvey “Busher” Jackson.