Editorial: Wilson-Raybould and Philpott could defeat the principles they advocate

The announcement by two former federal Liberal cabinet ministers, Jodi Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, that they will be seeking re-election as independents, refocuses attention on the damage they have done to the Liberal brand.

The Liberals have made mistakes but they are far preferable to the Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer. By refusing to join the Green Party, led by their friend Elizabeth May or the NDP, which is sagging in the polls, the JWR-Philpott tag team hopes to be re-elected as independents, signaling they might rejoin the Liberals if Justin Trudeau is replaced. Significantly, both said at their press conferences they would not want to see Scheer become the next prime minister, but they are ironically contributing to the Conservatives’ rise in popularity.

Scheer, with his right-wing policies and views, must be prevented from taking power. His election will unleash measures detrimental to progress on a variety of issues, especially the environment, foreign policy, moving ahead on national pharmacare, and strengthening our essential public broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

In fact, the system, that Wilson-Raybould railed against, worked: SNC Lavalin was formally charged last month with bribery and fraud committed by former executives in a bid to obtain lucrative contracts in Libya. The less punitive alternative could still be invoked, but the case is moving toward a trial.

The negative publicity hurt the governing party and Trudeau, who has lost significant public support as a direct result. At the very least, Wilson-Raybould and Philpott showed they are not team players, displayed poor judgment, lacked  flexibility, and were prepared to inflict political damage on their party in the interest of enhancing their personal standing as beacons of righteousness.

The Liberals may still win the election, but end up leading a minority government. The damage inflicted has given impetus to Scheer’s bid to win the top political job in Canada, and therein lies the danger. At a time when populist and right-wing governments are on the rise with repressive policies in particular with regard to refugees and immigration, Wilson-Raybould and Philpott might get exactly what they don’t want, and end up with a government and policies they abhor.

On the environment, Trudeau is on track with measures he has promoted to move away from fossil fuels, the burning of which create greenhouse gases that are warming the environment to dangerous degrees. The Liberal’s carbon tax is the right way to go. Ottawa has created a national standard and left it up to the provinces to decide how to meet it. It started at $10 a tonne last year and will increase $10 a year to hit $50 by 2022. A $10 tax on a tonne of carbon boils down to a tax on gasoline of 2 cents alitre. A $50 a tonne price means a gas tax of 11 cents a litre.

Scheer’s allies, the newly elected Conservative governments in Ontario and Alberta, have declared war on the tax that is broadly supported in Quebec and B.C. Scheer has spoken at anti-tax rallies, but refuses to divulge his plan to replace it. We suspect he will lean toward the anti-tax
position advocated by premiers Jason Kenney in Albert and Doug Ford in Ontario.

Scheer has promised to mimic the U.S. in not only recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but moving our embassy there from Tel Aviv. This controversial move by the U.S. has added another impediment in efforts to resolve the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a two-state solution, where the status of Jerusalem, which Israel has declared as its capital, remains a serious area of contention, awaiting a final solution in a negotiated peace agreement.

Scheer’s announcement is less nuanced than that taken by Australia, for example, which
announced in December that it recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and will move its Tel Aviv embassy there – but only after a peace settlement is reached. So far, Guatemala is the only country to follow the U.S. embassy move.

Scheer has lashed out at CBC’s excellent foreign coverage on radio and television saying its news service should focus exclusively on Canada. What an insular and silly position! Is he really suggesting that we should rely on privately owned CTV, which is cutting back on coverage locally, for our foreign news? CBC correspondents reflect a much-needed Canadian perspective that others cannot provide. We are lucky to have such seasoned and perceptive reporters as Nahlah Ayed in Europe, senior correspondent Susan Ormiston, Washington correspondents Paul Hunter and Lyndsay Duncombe, to illuminate major developments, in keeping with a long tradition of journalistic excellence and balanced reporting.  And where is Scheer’s respect for the arms-length relationship that our government is supposed to maintain with the public broadcaster? What Scheer is starting to say about policy is a sure sign that his becoming prime minister would be a threat to the direction we want our governments to follow. We must do what we can to ensure that the Trudeau Liberals form the next government.

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