“It’s clear something inappropriate happened,” NWT MP Michael McLeod told Yellowknifer on Friday when asked to comment on the growing scandal engulfing his chosen Liberals.
McLeod, a former cabinet minister in the non-party affiliated territorial government, rode the Liberal wave in 2015 that swept out the bad old Conservatives and replaced it with a supposedly fresh, hip, totally inclusive government, led by party scion and progressive pied piper Justin Trudeau.
Alas, his party’s electoral hopes for re-election this fall have been high-centred on the perilous shoals of hubris and hypocrisy now that it appears likely the supposedly feminist Trudeau dumped a strong, Indigenous woman, Jody Wilson-Raybould, from her position as attorney general of Canada for refusing to defer prosecution of Quebec-based, Liberal-friendly engineering firm SNC-Lavalin on fraud and bribery charges.
New developments in the crisis have been ramping up almost daily. On Monday, Treasury Board President Jane Philpott joined Wilson-Raybould in quitting cabinet, saying it would be “untenable” for her to remain.
So, how does all this relate to Northerners?
The Trudeau government is losing strong Indigenous and female voices and the handling of the SNC Lavalin affair seriously undermines all members of the Liberal Party heading into October’s general election, including McLeod.
He points out that losing another Indigenous person in cabinet following Hunter Tootoo’s departure in 2016 is not a positive for the Liberal brand, but insists accusations that his party is unfit to govern are not justified.
McLeod might be just be a back-bench MP trying to deliver the goods for his constituents but he, at minimum, should be demanding Indigenous and Northern representation on cabinet and, if he really wants to clear the air, demand a full inquiry into the prime minister and his office on these allegations.
Trudeau proudly called himself a feminist and promised reconciliation with Indigenous people
but the Liberals’ Indigenous and feminist allies are quickly losing faith in the prime minister and his party. Even Canada’s senators weighed in on the situation. Eight Indigenous senators wrote a joint letter of support for Wilson-Raybould, six of whom were appointed by Trudeau himself.
Considering how the NDP and Conservatives, the only other parties to have ever won the NWT seat aside from the Liberals, have been slow to identify potential candidates to face off against McLeod this fall, the rookie MP’s prospects for re-election still look pretty good.
But we will remind the MP that the wave that carried him to victory in 2015 grew from his leader’s promise to do politics differently. On that score, at least, he has failed badly.
McLeod may very well have to battle a wave heading in the opposite direction this time around.