Erin O’Toole is going down swinging—at his own party

Politics Insider for Dec 7, 2021: Justin Trudeau’s uncertain future; Erin O’Toole’s hail mary; and the ambassador to China’s resignation
Erin O’Toole
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, December 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

Après Justin, qui? In Maclean’s, Paul Wells observes a new subject in Liberal Ottawa—people are suddenly discussing a future after the current Prime Minister is no longer in the job.

This sort of talk is new. In a party whose unity of purpose Trudeau did much to restore, it’s long been considered poor form, or wasted energy, for Liberals to contemplate the prospect of life without the leader who brought them back from the brink of irrelevance. This fall, that taboo lifted. It’s as though a screw that had secured some plate in the Liberals’ psyche for nearly a decade had been loosened by one full counterclockwise turn. Suddenly Liberals are granting themselves licence to speculate. And so the biggest question in Canadian politics in 2022 is whether Justin Trudeau will still be Prime Minister when the year is done.

Wells notes that one potential candidate for the job, Chrystia Freeland, stands apart.

Right now her occasional detractors are far outnumbered by those who think she’d represent a substantial improvement over Trudeau in intellectual capacity, worldliness and the possession of a closet blessedly empty of skeletons. Almost alone among reputed pretenders to the throne, she has a network within the government of loyal staffers who could form the basis for a solid campaign organization.

Double double: Wells also has a piece on the odd fact that there are now two cabinet committees on Economy, Inclusion and Climate, which he thinks is unworkable.

Fighting O’Toole: A day after the Star reported that Erin O’Toole doesn’t plan to go down without a fight, the Globe reports that he has asked the House of Commons to investigate Shannon Stubbs, who has criticized him from inside the CPC caucus. Stubbs is alleged to be responsible for verbal abuse and workplace harassment, which she denies, characterizing the allegations as reprisal for speaking out. Part of the story involves a bedroom painting job.

One of the former aides, who took sick leave in 2018, said she and another employee felt compelled to paint the Alberta MP’s bedroom in late 2016. The aide said Ms. Stubbs did not directly order them to paint the room in her Vegreville house, but that their work environment would have become unpleasant if they did not do so. Ms. Stubbs acknowledged that staff painted her bedroom, but she said she considered it a gift, and that she was surprised to return home to the freshly painted room. “The painting of the house was a wonderful surprise that I didn’t know about. It was a wonderful gift of kindness from staff members,” Ms. Stubbs said. “I never asked or directed staff to paint my bedroom.”

Absent Tories: Erin O’Toole declined to say Monday why four CPC MPs have been absent from the House since it passed a vaccination mandate, CP reportsTed Falk, Cathay Wagantall, Dean Allison and Colin Carrie haven’t been seen in the Commons since the new rules came in.

Barton out: Justin Trudeau announced Monday that Dominic Barton has resigned as ambassador to China after two tense years “in which he was praised for helping secure the release of two Canadians from Chinese custody, and criticized for strongly pushing closer trade ties with Beijing.” CP reports. The announcement comes three months after the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

Good news: Writing in the PostJohn Ivison, who thinks the Liberals have had a weak China policy, welcomes the news that Barton is leaving and predicts a harder line is coming from Ottawa.

Boycott sought: Erin O’Toole urged the federal government Monday to join allies in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, Global reports.  The White House announced Monday the American government “will not send any diplomatic or official representation” to the Olympic Games next February in reaction to Chinese human rights abuses.

CSE hacks back: The Communications Security Establishment acknowledged Monday for the first time it has conducted cyber operations against foreign hackers to “impose a cost” for the growing levels of cybercrime, Global reports.

“Although we cannot comment on our use of foreign cyber operations (active and defensive cyber operations) or provide operational statistics, we can confirm we have the tools we need to impose a cost on the people behind these kinds of incidents,” wrote CSE spokesperson Evan Koronewski in a statement to Global News. “We can also confirm we are using these tools for such purposes, and working together with Canadian law enforcement where appropriate against cybercrime.”

No charges: Two sexual assault complainants say the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal closed their cases against senior military officers without laying charges because the men accused of raping them declined to be interviewed, CBC reports.

In one of the cases, the complainant — a now-retired member of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) — said she was told that while investigators wanted to lay sexual assault charges, military prosecutors who reviewed the case recommended no charges because the complainant’s testimony was the only evidence. The second complainant — a still-serving CAF member — recently reported the closure of her case to the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC), a civilian oversight body.

“The [sergeant] stated that the case ‘hinged on hearing from him that something happened,’ indicating that because they did not compel the perpetrator to an interview that the case was not viable,” her complaint reads. “This does not make any sense to me whatsoever. I was sexually assaulted and now I am being told they can’t lay charges because they haven’t spoken to the perpetrator?”

Both cases were closed on the day that Defence Minister Anita Anand announced that all ongoing military sexual misconduct cases would be transferred to civilian police.

Nasty fight: In the Calgary Herald, Don Braid has a column on what he sees as an American-style fight over election funding changes the UCP is passing over the objection of both the NDP and some of its own members.

When a party in power changes election rules to juice up for the next election, we’re getting close to naked American-style efforts to block the other side from any chance of winning. A province can’t be changing its core democratic standards every four years. There must be values that endure beyond voting cycles. Without trust, losers will soon be calling elections crooked. We know where that goes.

— Stephen Maher