The resignation of Treasury Secretary Jane Philpott has put Justin Trudeau’s government on the ropes. It has shortened his political life expectancy to days, if not hours.
When you appoint a half-female cabinet “because it’s 2015,” you serve at that cabinet’s pleasure. Losing Jody Wilson-Raybould and Philpott amounts to being fired.
It’s ironic that the Liberals were gradually forced to go from claiming no pressure on Wilson-Raybould over SNC-Lavalin to admitting reasonable pressure and then effectively maintaining “that’s politics.” Now her testimonyto the justice committee last week, plus Philpott’s resignation have shown Trudeau, the Prime Minister’s Office and the remaining cabinet what real pressure is — the kind that triggers nuclear detonations.
The Liberal caucus, and especially the cabinet, must now consider their individual and collective survival. Is it worth hanging in for the hope of re-election in October as part of a Liberal rump returned to third-party status? Or is this the time to bail out and pull the ripcord?
The old pros like Ralph Goodale must be livid. They kept the faith during the Harper years. Trudeau had pulled them back from the brink of oblivion and given them a third act. Now he was dragging them back to the brink, just for conducting Liberal business as usual.
And what about the consciously diverse cabinet, Sikhs like Harjit Sajjan and Navdeep Bains, Somali immigrant Ahmed Hassan and Afghan-Iranian Maryam Monsef? They must feel they’ve been led down the garden path.
And so must the other women in cabinet: serious heavy hitters like Chrystia Freeland, Carolyn Bennett and Catherine McKenna must wonder why they’re still in cabinet. They can foresee everything they’ve worked for not only stalled but reversed if the Conservatives take power next fall.
The people on the backbenches must be frightened and furious. Terry Beech, the Liberal MP for Burnaby North-Seymour, won in 2015 as a cautious opponent of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that would put his riding at risk. Trudeau overrode him, and he took his lumps. Now he’s got to run for re-election with not one but two millstones around his neck — the pipeline and his boss.
If the Liberals’ core values mean as much to them as they evidently do to Wilson-Raybould and Philpott, they must also think about how to save their party. Trudeau and his PMO do not seem to be part of the rescue operation.