“This is pure partisan politics,” Liberal House leader Pablo Rodriguez said on Friday, referring to a Conservative motion that would have the House of Commons establish an “anti-corruption committee.”
It shouldn’t surprise Rodriguez — an MP with more than a decade of experience in Ottawa — to find partisan politics going on around him. As gambling is to a casino, partisanship is to Parliament — it’s the reason people are there.
And as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently observed (speaking of his inclination to continue with byelections in Toronto), Canadians need to know that their democratic institutions are durable and flexible enough to continue functioning even through a public health emergency.
So the operative question isn’t who is doing politics here. It’s who will end up doing the politics better — or at least less badly. And in this case, the politics comes with the tantalizing possibility of a snap election.
Right now, Liberal MPs are filibustering two House committees over disputes about how to proceed with inquiries into the government’s affairs. As a result, the Conservatives now might ask the House on Tuesday to establish the aforementioned “anti-corruption committee.”
This committee would pursue several questions the Conservatives have about the government’s handling of pandemic-related programs, including the WE Charity affair and allegations that the husband of Trudeau’s chief of staff lobbied the government about one program. It also would demand disclosure of any internal government correspondence about the government’s decision to prorogue Parliament.
One of the other demands for documents in the Conservative motion — covering 12 years of records from the private agency that handled public speaking appearances by Trudeau, his wife, mother and brother — mirrors an order that was passed by a House committee this summer.
But that previous order expired when Trudeau had Parliament prorogued. There’s also an active dispute over whether government officials went too far in redacting information from some documents that have been turned over already.
If the Liberals had a majority in the House, the new Conservative motion would be doomed. They don’t, of course — and if the Conservatives are joined by the Bloc Quebecois and NDP in voting in favour, the motion will pass and the creatively named committee will be established.
Previous hearings on the ill-fated Canada Student Service Grant did not find any actual corruption before things came to a sudden halt with prorogation in August. The Liberals could claim now that the opposition parties are merely trying to embark on a grand fishing expedition. Even if no outright corruption is ever…