Conservatives give Justin Trudeau a shot at redemption
Federal Liberal leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau talks with reporters after addressing students at Citadel High School in Halifax on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)
Published Friday, November 30, 2012 4:56PM EST
Forgive them. The Conservatives know not what they've done.
They should've let Justin Trudeau twist in the political wind for his boneheaded anti-Alberta comments, which likely killed chances of a Liberal upset in the Calgary Centre by-election this week.
But they've taken the unprecedented step of ordering the Liberal leadership frontrunner to appear before a parliamentary committee to explain his two-year-old, off-the-cuff musings.
From a nightmare start to the week where those comments helped reclaim a seat for the Conservatives, Trudeau has been given the gift of clarifying them on a tall podium from the Conservatives.
Consider the likely scenario:
When he appears, it's a given Trudeau will attract a media frenzy.
He'll be asked to justify attacking Alberta and he'll respond he misspoke and he was merely sounding the alarm against an Albertan named Stephen Harper.
He'll be obliged to explain why he considers this prime minister is a social policy evildoer in great detail, even as the cameras capture every word.
The bonus is that because it's the Natural Resources Committee who summoned him, Liberals can lob him puffball questions to promote his support for the oilsands and his belief in the Nexen Inc. takeover.
If he plays it right, Justin Trudeau has the potential to enjoy himself immensely during his appearance.
But the unsettling part of this move is simply that these committees were never set up to be inquisitions where partisans try to draw blood from dredged-up MP drivel.
If that was the purpose, the Liberals would have set up a special committee dedicated to everything maverick MP Rob Anders has ever said.
These meetings are where serious legislation is debated and fine-tuned before it becomes law.
Conservatives seeking to turn the committees into microscopic examinations of controversial MP quips had best be careful.
They're demanding Justin Trudeau explain why he said in 2010 that Alberta prime ministers are policy disasters.
If that's fair, then Stephen Harper can legitimately be asked to explain his 1997 quote that successive Quebec Prime Ministers have failed to defeat the separatist movement.
No MP in any party is immune to unfortunate verbal gaffes. And talking to a committee will do little to extract the foot from their mouth.