Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, Our Ladies of Lavalin, have now written the coda to their long-running personal psychodrama, which, single-handedly, is strangling this government.
Expelled by the Liberals, they revealed their political future Monday with a touch of theatre. They held separate news conferences in their ridings, where they both wore white. As it happens, that’s the colour of the smoke sent up the chimney of the Vatican when the College of Cardinals announces a new pope.
No papal coronation here, just veneration of Saint Jody and Saint Jane. They will run for re-election as independents, and with that, they will sanctify and save our politics.
The two were courted by the Greens and considered joining them. Had they aligned themselves with Elizabeth May, they would have immediately doubled her small caucus and given the party two star candidates in the fall election.
But they rejected the Greens and the New Democrats, too. So Philpott and Wilson-Raybould will not be wearing green, orange or red this year. Just white, which they say is the colour of independents — and purists, too.
As Wilson-Raybould says, affiliation is not for her. “I know who I am,” she says. “I am not a party person.”
No, she isn’t. Not much interest here in brokering interests or forging consensus, which is what parties do. When things did not go her way as minister of justice, she sulked, simmered, walked and then talked. She proclaims herself a truth-teller, as if her truth were the only one.
With a towering self-confidence, she vows to continue to tell her truth as an independent. Curiously, she was willing to withhold it as long as she was minister of justice. She resigned only when she was demoted, demonstrating that her truth was tied to her ambition.
Another way of putting it: Jody Wilson-Raybould is a narcissist, supremely confident of her instincts, assured of her judgment and persuasive enough to bring along a sympathetic Philpott.
It mattered to neither the impact of their resignations, which were over “a scandal” without money and criminality but an unfortunate difference of opinion and a misreading of temperament. When Wilson-Raybould could not win the argument, she decamped, making a moral case out of a managerial one.
That you can’t always get what you want, it seemed, never stopped her. The Rolling Stones know better, as do people in every walk of life who make compromises every day because they have a larger view of things.
Wilson-Raybould’s departure was cheered in the legal community, which saw her as a weak minister with a thin résumé. She is no loss to cabinet.
Philpott, her soulmate, is. She brought talent to her portfolios. Yet, she too, did not always play well with her colleagues in cabinet, whom she dismissed and disdained and still does.
Whatever their complaint, though, it pales beside the survival of one of the western world’s last remaining progressive governments, whatever its flaws and failures. In calling into question the future of this government — in elevating their lament to a single point of principle — they moved their own private motion of non-confidence in the government and tried to bring it down. Which is why the Liberals expelled them.
If the Conservatives are elected, they will care little about Indigenous issues, gender parity, a pollution tax, public broadcasting, pharmacare and much else championed by both Philpott and Wilson-Raybould as members of the government.
No one will remember SNC Lavalin in a year or two, nor this pair of voices of conscience. Both are less likely to win their seats than split the vote and hand them to the Conservatives. Well done, sisters.
If, however, they do return to Parliament, there they will sit in the corner, far from the action, without party, platform or power. There they will blow their plywood trumpets and watch Andrew Scheer dismantle — see Jason Kenney’s “summer of repeal” — their legacy, piece by piece.
It will be an exquisite agony, entirely self-inflicted, as our two saints march briskly from here to obscurity.
Andrew Cohen is a journalist, professor and author of Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours That Made History .
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019