And here I go, already breaking my self-imposed moratorium on political musings.
I’ve been trying to figure out why the Prime Minister has brought David Johnston back for a limited engagement — two weeks total, which is practically an afterthought, as far as contracts go, although it will be interesting to see whether his per diem is the same for this stint as special advisor — in order to “finalize” his recommendations on what the mandate should be for the Mulroney/Schreiber inquiry. You know, the one that Brian Mulroney initially demanded, as the best way for him to clear his name, but then became distinctly unenchanted with the prospect after his performance before the Ethics committee failed to sway public opinion, and produced more questions than answers.
The Conservatives, too, seem far less enthusiastic about the idea of giving a Gomery-like figure free rein to probe the swirl of confusing and contradictory claims surrounding the hundreds of thousands of dollars that the former Prime Minister received, in cash, from the serenely amoral defence lobbyist turned accused fraud artist. As the Ethics committee prepares its final report, the government members – led by the solemn Russ Hiebert – have made it clear that, as far as they’re concerned, no new evidence has come forward that would justify the expense of a full public inquiry – at least, not without Dr. Johnston’s blessing. So, is that what he’s expected to do over the course of the next two weeks? Craft an unassailable argument against going forward with the promised independent investigation?
Or – to get truly Machiavallian, just for a moment – was Thursday’s announcement really meant to be a not-so-subtle message to the opposition — especially the Liberals, who have, until now, been the lone holdouts as far as bringing down the government — that the fate of the inquiry depends on not sending the country to the polls in the foreseeable future?
After all, it’s doubtful that such a highly charged public inquiry would be able to operate during an election. That is, if the current Prime Minister even had time to appoint a lead investigator — who, for the record, better not be Dr. David “Well-tilled ground” Johnston, if the Tories know what’s politically good for them — before the writ hits the ground.
“If you nosy kids really want your blasted inquiry,” the PM’s announcement could be understood to say, “Ixnay on the ection-elay for at least the next month or two.”
Of course, that will hardly fill the hearts of Team Mulroney with thoughts of love towards the Harper government, nor will it do much to win over the former Progressive Conservative faction within the party. (Then again, neither will throwing Michael Wilson to the wolves over the NAFTA leak Imbrodie-glio, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped PMO from doing so.) What it does make me wonder, however, is whether those so-called ‘nervous nellies’ within the Liberal caucus may not be the only ones experiencing electionphobia these days.