With the return of Gerald Butts to the Liberal fold, many wondered how long until his influence was noticed.
Turns out, not long at all.
As the Trudeau PMO faces accusations of trying to muzzle former diplomats David Mulroney and Guy Saint-Jacques to stop them from speaking out about policy towards China, their response has sounded quite familiar.
Trudeau is now saying that the PMO didn’t “direct” anyone in the government to try and silence the diplomats.
Note that careful use of the word “direct.”
It’s the exact same word Trudeau used to try and evade responsibility in the SNC-Lavalin PMO Scandal.
By saying the PMO didn’t “direct” anyone, he of course leaves the door open to the calls being “encouraged,” or “supported,” or “discussed,” while holding onto the thin defence that if nobody in the PMO actually used the word “direct,” then he can get away with saying they had nothing to do with it.
Obviously, in the real world, that is a bullsh*t explanation, but in Justin Trudeau & Gerald Butts’ Ottawa, that’s the playbook.
What Trudeau and Butts are doing is attempting to thread the needle between outright lying, and muddying the waters enough to make it look like nothing really bad is going on.
It didn’t work so well in the SNC-Lavalin Scandal, but that was in large part because Jody Wilson-Raybould was such a compelling counterweight to the propaganda emanating from the PMO.
But with the Liberals desperate to hold onto power, and with their poll numbers having somewhat recovered since the SNC-Lavalin Scandal first took hold, they clearly believe that they can run the SNC-Lavalin playbook again with more success this time. David Mulroney and Guy Saint-Jacques won’t get as much media attention as Jody Wilson-Raybould did.
However, the big risk here for the Liberals is that people tie all of these things together into a larger narrative. The combination of the lingering stench of the SNC-Lavalin Scandal, our humiliation and continued disrespect at the hands of Communist China, the attempt to silence diplomats speaking out about the obviously-failing approach of the Liberals towards China, the return of an advisor who had seemingly fled in disgrace, and the legalistic, evasive, and “corrupt politician-style” talking points being used by the Liberals, could all further erode the already rock-bottom trust levels of this government with Canadians.
A tactic can work in each individual instance, yet be part of a failing strategy. The Liberals may get away with yet another scandal in the short-term, but they could pay the real price on election day.