The Liberals Need to End the Suffering of Bill Morneau

For the good of the Liberal party, I mean. If he stays it actually works out pretty good for those of us who earn a living trash-talking the government.

Nov 30 2017, 3:58pm

Source images: Wikipedia Commons | Art by Noel Ransome 

I can’t believe the government that legalized euthanasia as a compassionate end to a life of misery and pain continues to let Finance Minister Bill Morneau get brutalized out there amid his stock sell-off scandal. The man is blistered, burned, whipped, crucified and ruthlessly wedgied every day for months—often by his very own hand—and the Liberals are just shrugging it off.

It was one thing when the guy was picking a fight with the doctors’ lobby or tragically rediscovering his undisclosed mansions in France. But letting the guy get dunked on by Pierre “residential school survivors need to work harder” Poilievre because he is unable to deny whether he used his cabinet post to game his personal stock portfolio is cruel and inhuman. Morneau’s condition—affluenza, being too rich to understand how the world works—is clearly terminal, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refuses to put him out of his misery.

There is little dignity in a resignation under opposition pressure amidst an ethics investigation, but there is less in watching the finance minister build and light his own brass bull. This is the first Liberal government re-elected since the Gomery Inquiry into the sponsorship scandal wrapped up, and the last thing they need is a corruption scandal halfway through their first term. Especially if that corruption scandal also undercuts whatever credibility they had as the voice of the allegedly voiceless Canadian Middle Class, And Those Working Hard To Join It™.

It’s not like they’d be losing out on some kind of preternaturally talented fiscal wizard. Morneau is very clearly good at managing his own money, but I think we have enough examples—both at home and abroad—to finally conclude that being good at getting rich does not necessarily translate into being good at politics.

And that’s OK! Like the old PSA used to remind us: nobody’s good at everything, but everybody’s good at something, and Morneau would probably be the first to admit that he’s better at lounging in a courtyard along the French Riviera than he is at facing down a federal firing squad every weekday afternoon in Ottawa. The Trudeau government too, God forbid, might even get its agenda back on track once it drops the dead weight from its highest-profile cabinet portfolio.

But there are other reasons why giving Morneau his walking papers may not be so easy. Chief among them is that Justin Trudeau has spent so much of this fall defending his increasingly indefensible right-hand man. (One suspects the prime minister may also suffer from Morneau’s debilitating condition of “being too rich to connect with the plebs.”)

There is little to be gained from Trudeau clinging to Morneau as he courts being put through a second, substantially more serious, ethics investigation is as many months. The costs of doing so, however, could be quite high. The idea that the Laurentian bourgeois in the Liberal party were going to descend from the stratosphere and guide the middle class to prosperity was always a hard sell at best, but this could cost them the plot for good. And good luck disciplining your caucus while you let Daddy Warbucks take the party for a ride! The boys at the Financial Post might let it slide but your backbenchers from the sticks might be a little less forgiving.

A successful career in politics can be boiled down to knowing which hill to die on. “Finance Minister Bill Morneau” is—emphatically—not it. Consider it like chess, my dude: the king doesn’t take a bullet for the bishop, especially if he’s cruising around the board taking out your own pawns.

Or the prime minister could also just keep him around. The spectacular collapse of William Morneau is a truly fruitful vein of content and we are all happy to continue mining it forever.

Either option works for me, if not necessarily for Canada or Team Trudeau.

Follow Drew Brown on Twitter.