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The politics of personal destruction

Dan McCaffery's picture
Tue, 10/31/2017 - 14:15 -- Dan McCaffery

Ontario’s opposition leader has fallen into a Liberal trap that could have easily been avoided.

Patrick Brown misspoke a few months back when he suggested Premier Kathleen Wynn was on trial for corruption.

Wynn was about to testify at a trail of a pair of Grits at the centre of an alleged Elections Act bribery scheme. Although this was clearly an embarrassing episode for the Liberals, the premier herself was not on trial. She was, in fact, a willing witness who was co-operating with the Crown.

But Brown, when speaking to the media, expressed the hope that the premier would answer questions about the affair “maybe when she stands trial.” He added she was a “sitting premier, sitting in trial.”

Wynn threatened a law suit.

At that stage Brown should simply have apologized. He could have clarified that he didn’t mean it was her, personally, on trial, but two other Liberals associated with the party she leads.

His apology would have been news for a day or so, then disappeared. And he would have looked like a guy who wasn’t afraid to admit a mistake.

Wynn might even have come across as a bully who forced Brown to issue a retraction. Some voters might have seen her as someone who thinks the best way to win political debates is by threatening law suits.

But instead he refused to say ‘sorry’ and now it appears the suit will go ahead. Which means his comments, which were clearly inaccurate, will be in the news for a very long time. If he loses the suit, things will be even worse for him politically.

All of this is good news for the government. Prolonged stories that make the opposition leader look like a mean-spirited man who twists things out of proportion will not do the Tories any good.

Canadians as a whole don’t like the kind of vulgar behaviour you so often see from politicians south of the border. They simply don’t approve of what’s been labelled ‘the politics of personal destruction.’

The fact is that the Conservatives have the Liberals on the run. Wynn is doing a terrible job and most voters seem to realize that. Her poll numbers are a disaster.

So a law suit will be a welcome distraction for the Liberals. It’ll be a lot better for her if the media is concentrating on a libel suit in which she has the upper hand, instead of taking a closer look at her overall performance.

Brown should get out of this mess now by admitting he was wrong. The longer this rather unimportant story drags on, the better it will be for the premier.

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