Politics: Al Capone’s version of a team sport

I do not like Jody Wilson-Raybould.

But contrary to popular opinion on social media, this is not because I’m a blind Liberal partisan. In fact, I’ve thought JWR was a hypocritical, self-righteous narcissist since long before she became the Trudeau-hater-in-Chief.

Why do I feel this way? Especially about someone who outwardly appears like she should be exactly the sort of candidate/MP/Minister over whom I would fawn – an accomplished Indigenous woman?

Let me count the ways.

First and foremost, while politics has no shortage of narcissists, it is inherently a team sport.

Has to be. Doesn’t work any other way. And JWR is not a team player.

There’s this great scene in Brian de Palma’s mobster masterpiece “The Untouchables” where Al Capone (played by Robert DeNiro) is walking around a large, round table of fellow gangsters.

Al is waxing poetic about “that which gives (him) joy”: baseball!

“A man stands alone at the plate. This is the time for what? For individual achievement. There he stands alone. But in the field, what? Part of a team. Teamwork…. Looks, throws, catches, hustles – part of one big team. Bats himself the live-long day, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and so on. If his team don’t field… what is he? You follow me? No one! Sunny day, the stands are full of fans. What does he have to say? “I’m goin’ out there for myself. But… I get nowhere unless the team wins.”

— Al Capone, The Untouchables

There’s violent agreement among the assembled hoods and Capone then proceeds to beat one of them to death with the baseball bat he’s been holding. He had not played for the team.

Yeah, yeah: it’s violent fiction and we should aspire to better in our politics. Sure.

But the fact is, politics is a blood sport. And sorry, but it should be. You’re playing for all the marbles – choosing who gets to run one of the best countries in the world shouldn’t be trivial.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that politics is, ya know, political.

SNC Lavalin is a major Canadian employer. It is also a core member of “Quebec Inc.” – the group of Quebec-based companies that dominate that province’s economy. It had also been a significant part of Canada’s international corporate brand but that has certainly be tarnished by the issues at the core of what would become this political controversy.

No government of any political stripe could or would ignore a serious plea from a company like SNC. The electoral consequence – in Quebec especially – would be significant, potentially catastrophic.

And if you don’t understand and accept that basic fact, you have no business being around politics, let alone a cabinet minister. Period.

So yeah, of course the PMO was going to be interested. Of course the PCO was going to be interested. And of course no Attorney General was going to be allowed to make decisions on a file like that without hearing from her colleagues and her boss!

Cabinet government is known as collective decision-making. It is based on collective responsibility among ministers. And the Prime Minister is simply prima inter pares – first among equals. He gets to pick who’s at the table and set the agenda but after that he’s one vote out (at this point) 37.

Cabinet debates have been – and should be! – pretty vigorous. They are supposed to be some of our best citizens arguing the merits and consequences of decisions that impact the lives of millions of their fellow Canadians.

But – and it’s a big but – here’s the kicker: even St. Jody agrees no one ever told her what to do:

OLM contributor Jamie Carroll has a particular view of Jody Wilson-Raybould but OLM managing edition Dan Donovan has a completely different take. Click here to read his article The Deep State: the Trudeau government, lobbyists and the legalization of corruption in Canada.