The Current

Opposition parties close in with SNC-Lavalin affair, but Liberals 'haven't lost the election' yet: expert

Jody Wilson-Raybould's testimony has been reverberating through the House of Commons, and across the country, since her appearance before the justice committee on Wednesday. We speak to two experts about how the controversy could affect the Liberals, and what the other parties stand to gain from it.

Governments defeat themselves, said David Moscrop

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government needs to do 'damage control' and 'change the channel come spring,' said David Moscrop. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
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The shock waves from the SNC-Lavalin affair represent a challenge for the Liberal government ahead of the fall election, and an opportunity for their rivals, according to an expert in communications.

"[The Liberals] haven't lost this election yet, not by a long shot," said David Moscrop, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of communication at the University of Ottawa.

"If I were them, I would try to get everything out, from everyone right away," he told The Current's guest host Duncan McCue.

"Hold folks accountable — which will mean no doubt resignations — get the team together and try to change the channel come spring."

Their election prospects could rest on how they handle the controversy, he pointed out.

"Governments defeat themselves, we like to say in Canada, and that's pretty true."

"I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the gov't to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion..." 1:08

Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould testified before the Commons justice committee Wednesday, saying she faced intense political pressure and veiled threats to intervene in the case of SNC-Lavalin. The Quebec engineering company is facing allegations of fraud and corruption in Libya, but has pleaded not guilty.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refuted her testimony, saying "I completely disagree with the characterization of the former attorney general about these events."

He also dismissed a call for his resignation from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

There were calls for a public inquiry at an emergency debate in the House of Commons Thursday night, and the prime minister reshuffled his cabinet Friday.

Trudeau's former principal secretary Gerald Butts will testify before the justice committee next week. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

'Drip, drip, drip' of controversy

On Thursday, Trudeau's former principal secretary Gerald Butts asked to testify before the justice committee to give his side of the story. The committee agreed and will invite him to appear next Wednesday.

Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute, warned that having Butts testify "only continues the drip, drip, drip" of the controversy.

"It only keeps a cloud over this government and this prime minister's head — what they need is a reset," she said, arguing that the Liberals should use the upcoming budget to "focus on substance."

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speech to reporters after Jody Wilson Raybould's testimony 0:48

The party needs to "really strip away any pretense now that Justin Trudeau is somehow a different politician or a new politician or a politician who would do politics differently," she said.

While Moscrop thinks there is an opportunity for the Conservatives to offer an alternative to Canadians, he said "it'll be a little bit difficult … they're still on their timeout after folks got tired of Stephen Harper."

The NDP, meanwhile, "is going to have to find a way to sort of capture not just the left, but the centre, which is always a challenge for them," he said.

He added, however, that the Greens and Elizabeth May could capitalize on the moment.

"They can play the high-horse card, I think, because they don't have the baggage that other parties have. I wouldn't be surprised to see their numbers go up in the next election," he said.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Ines Colabrese, Jessica Linzey and Anne Penman.

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