Last week, Conservative MP Blaine Calkins proposed that the standing committee on natural resources “conduct hearings on the economic benefits that flow from Alberta’s energy sector across Canada.” That much was rather innocuous, but Calkins attached a suggestion to it: “that members of Parliament David McGuinty and Justin Trudeau be invited as witnesses to explain their comments.”
Here, apparently, was an attempt to put McGuinty and Trudeau on trial for their recent newsworthy remarks about elected Albertans. (McGuinty told Alberta Tories to “go home,” while comments from Trudeau in 2010 surfaced in which he complained, “Albertans control our community.”) With Trudeau the frontrunner to win the Liberal leadership race, the idea must seem particularly tempting. But while the motion passed and Trudeau’s spokeswoman says he will testify—sitting MPs can’t be forced to appear—the Conservatives might be about to give Trudeau an opening to turn their attacks around. “I bet Justin Trudeau can’t believe his good fortune,” Keith Beardsley, a former strategist in the Prime Minister’s Office, wrote on his blog. “Do the Conservatives believe voters won’t see them as being vindictive and petty? Do they actually think they will win the media war when Trudeau testifies?”
If or when Trudeau testifies—no date has been set—it will be a closely watched spectacle. But as much as Conservative committee members will have an opportunity to condemn and perhaps corner him with difficult questions, Trudeau will get to respond in kind or claim the high road and possibly, in the process, prove himself capable of duking it out. The last time Conservatives were eager to see Trudeau embarrassed on a public stage, Senator Patrick Brazeau ended up with a bloody nose and the discounted Liberal landed a TKO victory.