Don Martin: Surprise! Trudeau, even more than Harper, is the master of parliamentary manipulation
OTTAWA -- There was always a faint ray of hope that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would actually live up to his promise to do politics differently after the soul-wearying years under control freak Stephen Harper.
Cross-party co-operation, transparency, respect for Parliament, MP empowerment and merit-based, non-partisan appointments all headlined the Trudeau kumbaya playbook.
But it’s been five years of looking the other way, bad faith attempts or non-deliveries on every single count.
This week the last ray of hope went out over the Hill, extinguished by the prime minister’s Machiavellian attempt to force an election over a contrived question of confidence that, had the NDP not folded like a cheap suit, would’ve forced an election.
An election over an opposition-demanded COMMITTEE??!! To probe the almost-forgotten WE controversy and assorted other mini-scandals??!! This on the first anniversary of the LAST election??!! During a pandemic on a throttle-up contagion path??!!!
The only rationale for Trudeau to bait the election hook was a strong Liberal showing in the polls and a series of provincial elections where the incumbents in New Brunswick and mostly likely in Saskatchewan and British Columbia proved that majority government victories are possible even when early votes are held while wearing masks and social distancing.
As a needlessly provocative power grab, it was absurd, galling, petty, shameless, throw-the-remote-at-the-TV infuriating . . . sorry, getting carried away.
But as a political calculation, if a win is all that matters, well, it’s not totally stupid because a majority win was possible if not probable.
This much is for sure: Somewhere Stephen Harper is probably admiring a rival he wrote off as a political lightweight who has now eagerly leapt into the mudwrestling pit with killer instincts in his eyes.
After all, it was one thing to lift a snap prorogation from the Harper playbook to shut down committee investigations into the WE scandal and then to unleash cabinet-auditioning seals to thwart the probe when Parliament reconvened. Both were vintage Harper tactics.
But to declare a mere motion forming a committee as worthy of sending Canadians to the polls during a COVID-19 crisis? Now that takes the dark art of political chicanery to a whole new level.
And it might’ve worked if Trudeau didn’t have the hapless NDP pinned to an electoral waterboard with basement polling support, no money, feeble organization or no clear platform to engage in a fair fight for the centre-left vote.
They had no choice but to roll over, try to sell their actions as an altruistic sacrifice to save Canada from an unwanted election and hope they’re not mistaken for Liberals during the next campaign.
In the end, this proves Justin Trudeau has enough political guts wrapped in foolish bravery to force an election where merely having a pandemic vote would’ve been the ballot box question.
If this was an issue worthy of sinking a government, you could understand the Liberal coverup and their rush to voter judgement before evidence reaches the court of public opinion.
But this was a nothingburger more than a double helping of Kielburger, a two-star scandal ignored at the water cooler as voters with bigger problems struggled to recall any details about WE or its founders.
It should’ve been allowed to be investigated by a nobody’s-watching committee and, as long as the hyper-sensitive prime minister is correct in saying he has nothing to hide, slowly fade away.
But more than investigating the WE scandal, Trudeau’s move uncovers something even more revealing.
We now have a prime minister who will plunge pandemic-savaged Canada into an election on the flimsiest of pretexts.
He is operating without fear, electoral logic or parliamentary principle.
For those who thought Stephen Harper was the dark lord of all-controlling, win-at-any-cost political strategy, think again.
Justin Trudeau is worse.
That's the bottom line.