OTTAWA – Staff confide Bill Morneau avoids the obligatory MP glad-handing in his Toronto riding.
Maybe it’s understandable. This extremely wealthy businessman didn’t enter politics to deliver small talk in church basement dinners.
But the Finance Minister’s apathetic attention to his Toronto Centre turf is noticeable enough for inside whispers to suggest he might not seek re-election two years from now.
After all, the last riding meet-and-greet event by Morneau was a barbeque 13 months ago and his Liberal association’s Facebook page hasn’t posted anything new since December 2015.
But I digress.
The more compelling evidence that Morneau might be a one-term political wonder is his weary, unconvincing, evasive, monotone performance in the House of Commons.
His taxation reforms have faced pointed attacks more than 170 times from Conservative MPs in the first nine question periods of the fall sitting.
By contrast, only about 40 Official Opposition questions have been asked about all other topics combined.
And the tone and substance of the taxing questions are getting increasingly personal as Conservative sharks circle the tax advantages afforded him when he sold his lucrative stake in the 4,300-employee Morneau Shepell human resources corporation.
For a private guy who needs not work another day in his life, this close-to-home inquisition has become torture worse than a daily root canal. His eyes reflect a silent scream for release from political purgatory.
The driver behind the backlash could be Conservative misinformation. They almost laughably fear-monger the economic devastation the tax plan would deliver.
But it’s also lousy communications from Liberals in general and Morneau in particular who fail to articulate which wealthy Canadians they aim to hit and the number of targets in their sights.
Combine both elements of the blame game and you have the perfect political storm which has more staying power than anyone, including the Conservatives, imagined.
No lesser authority than Paul Boothe, who boasts senior provincial and federal experience in finance departments, took one look at a Liberal MP’s recent town hall filled with furious small business owners and concluded a white flag should be waved over the red tent.
He says this selectively-targeted plan should be yanked from the agenda and replaced by comprehensive tax reform in the next Liberal mandate.
That’s smart advice.
Bill Morneau would be wise to engage in second thoughts - even if he’s not around for the second mandate.
That’s the Last Word