I cannot see this one dying down quickly. There is chum in the water, and no media outlet - including CBC and the Toronto Star - can afford to be left out of the feeding frenzy at this point.
The layout of the front page of today's Globe and Mail was quite interesting.
John Ivison: Just another day at the office for a government that looks increasingly grubby
It is incontrovertible that Trudeau gave Wilson-Raybould the hook after she refused to do his bidding. Instead of doing politics differently, he has proven to be as vindictive
Published on: February 12, 2019
In the words of parody news anchor Ron Burgundy: “Boy, that escalated quickly.”
Jody Wilson-Raybould’s letter resigning from cabinet Tuesday - in which she thanked all Canadians but, conspicuously, not Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - has left the impression that we have a caricature of a government, as buffoonish and clueless as Burgundy and his news team.
Trudeau, a self-proclaimed feminist, appears to have been mansplaining when he said Wilson-Raybould’s presence in cabinet “should speak for itself.” A matter of hours later, the former justice minister tendered her resignation, which really does speak for itself. She obviously did not agree with Trudeau’s characterization of events Monday, when he said Wilson-Raybould had confirmed to him that in their conversation about SNC-Lavalin in the fall, the prime minister had told her any decision involving the director of public prosecutions was hers alone. Did Trudeau let Wilson-Raybould in on how he was going to characterize that conversation? Apparently not.
Events are rapidly spinning out of control and Trudeau looks like a prime minister who acts impetuously and fails to think through the consequences of his actions.
The Liberals clearly felt they had contained the fallout from the allegations, first reported Thursday by the Globe and Mail, that the Prime Minister’s Office pressured Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
David Lametti, Wilson-Raybould’s successor as attorney general and justice minister, told the Canadian Bar Association Monday that, while he sits at a certain distance from his cabinet colleagues, he does not sit in isolation. “But there is a line that cannot be crossed. Telling the Attorney-General what a decision ought to be: that would be interference.”
Lametti believes the government in which he sits was on the right side of that line.
Prior to Wilson-Raybould’s bombshell resignation, it was a safe bet no one would be able to prove anyone in the PMO crossed the line Lametti described.
There must have been high hopes that Wilson-Raybould would stick to the script.
After all, she had accepted another cabinet post, even while apparently being demoted for not doing her boss’s bidding on SNC.
But in her resignation letter she said she has retained retired Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell as counsel, seeking guidance on what she can say publicly. This affair might have been starved of oxygen without fresh information but not now.
You don’t resign from cabinet, with its $82,000 salary top-up and chauffeur-driven car, unless you are seriously aggrieved.
Wilson-Raybould's departure is a calamity for Trudeau's Liberals – The Globe and Mail
Published on February 12, 2019
“Government by cabinet is back,” Justin Trudeau promised on his sunny first day as Prime Minister in November, 2015. But Mr. Trudeau broke that promise. Instead, he allowed a close circle of unelected advisers to direct, control and even bully cabinet ministers and MPs alike. On Tuesday, the government paid the price.
Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation is a calamity for the Liberals. For one thing, she has made Mr. Trudeau look like a fool. Less than 24 hours earlier, he had expressed full confidence in the minister, saying “her presence in cabinet should actually speak for itself.” Her resignation hours later spoke louder.
For another, her departure is politically damaging. Past governments have been crippled by cabinet ministers who resigned in protest. Pierre Trudeau lost the next election after his finance minister, John Turner, quit over personal and policy disagreements. Brian Mulroney’s government was crippled by the defection of Lucien Bouchard after the collapse of the Meech Lake Accord.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s resignation could be just as damaging. For one thing, her decision appears to confirm that officials in the Prime Minister’s Office put pressure on her to cut a deal with SNC-Lavalin, which faces corruption charges, and then removed her from the Justice portfolio when she refused. This from a government that trumpets its scrupulous observance of the rule of law.
The fact that she stood up to the Prime Minister’s advisers, and was punished for it, undermines Liberal claims that women are equal and respected within the government. The resignation of the first Indigenous person to serve as justice minister also tarnishes the government’s record on Indigenous issues.
And perhaps the saddest thing of all: The next Minister of Veterans Affairs will be the fourth appointed by this government, underscoring the low value placed on the portfolio, and on the needs of veterans.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould would certainly have been effective, had she remained in her new job. As justice minister, she implemented two of this government’s most important achievements: assisted-dying legislation, and the legalization of marijuana. (While important to some, those are hardly important in real terms so, really, not much has been achieved at all - Loachman)
We are only at the beginning of this affair. The reason for Ms. Raybould-Wilson’s resignation will crowd every other item off the political agenda for who-knows-how-long. The standing committee on Justice simply must take up the issue when it meets on Wednesday. If it doesn’t, if the Liberal MPs on the committee obstruct an investigation, that will only reinforce the impression that they are under the thumb of the PMO.
We are so far from Mr. Trudeau’s promise to reverse decades of ever-greater concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s Office. “Actually, it can be traced as far back as my father, who kicked it off in the first place,” Mr. Trudeau told the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge during the election campaign. “I actually quite like the symmetry of me being the one who ends that.”
“As you can imagine, I took a strong interest in that commitment,” said Donald Savoie, a political scientist at University of Moncton who has written extensively on the concentration of power within government. “If anything he has strengthened governing from the Centre,” he said in an e-mail exchange.
From the start, Mr. Trudeau’s advisers, especially his principal secretary and close personal friend, Gerald Butts, exercised tight control over a cabinet filled with rookies, including Ms. Wilson-Raybould. Few ministers were willing to stand up to the directives that routinely came their way from the PMO.
But Ms. Wilson-Raybould earned a reputation for pushing back. She is strong-willed, accustomed to getting her way and impossible to bully. Her unwillingness to defer in the SNC-Lavalin affair may have led to her demotion from Justice to Veterans Affairs and ultimately to her resignation.
The damage already done by Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation
By Star Editorial Board Tues., Feb. 12, 2019
When the history of our political times is written, the decision last month to take the prestigious justice ministry from Jody Wilson-Raybould may go down as the Trudeau government’s most calamitous mistake.
This self-inflicted bungle undermines the government’s professed principles and values all along the line. There is undoubtedly more to come in this affair, but consider the damage that has already been inflicted:
- Trudeau’s image as a feminist leader is shaken. Allowing unidentified Liberals to undermine Wilson-Raybould’s credibility by talking trash about her was bound to be seen as sexist — even among other Liberals. Not a good look for this famously female-friendly prime minister.
- The government’s claim to make Indigenous issues a top priority has also taken a huge hit. Sidelining an Indigenous woman was hugely symbolic. Her father, a hereditary First Nations chief in British Columbia, says she was “kicked in the teeth” when she was ousted from justice. Other First Nations leaders there denounce the language used about her as “racist and sexist.” That hurts.
- Trudeau’s promise back in 2015 to junk the old politics of backroom dealing is looking decidedly faded. Could there be anything more old-style than a big, well-connected Quebec company angling behind the scenes for favourable treatment in a messy legal affair? Yet that’s exactly what SNC-Lavalin was by all accounts busy doing last year while Wilson-Raybould was justice minister and attorney general.
- Likewise, the Liberals’ promise to run a more open government and break the grip of the Prime Minister’s Office hasn’t aged at all well. The central allegation in this affair is that Wilson-Raybould came under undue pressure from the PMO to give SNC-Lavalin a break and suffered the political consequences when she proved insufficiently flexible.
- Worst of all, the suspicion of political interference, or even a botched attempt at political interference, in an important legal matter raises questions about the government’s claim to uphold the rule of law.
Likewise, the prime minister should be prepared to answer questions and should authorize his senior officials to do the same before a parliamentary committee. On Tuesday he proclaimed that the government “did its job” and followed the rules in the SNC-Lavalin affair. If the government truly believes it did nothing wrong, it should welcome a chance to clear the air. And with the clock ticking down to an election, better to get to it as soon as possible.
Some Liberals boost Jody Wilson-Raybould after she resigned from cabinet
By Jesse Ferreras
February 13, 2019 12:28 am
Some Liberal MPs are showing support and even praising ex-justice and veterans affairs minister Jody Wilson-Raybould after she announced her resignation from cabinet on Tuesday.
Treasury Board President Jane Philpott tweeted praise for Wilson-Raybould on Tuesday night, saying that she “taught me so much - particularly about Indigenous history, rights and justice.”
Philpott said she was “proud of the laws that we worked on together.”
John McCallum, a former Liberal cabinet minister whom Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired as ambassador to China in January, sent along his own praise for both Wilson-Raybould and Philpott.
Whitby MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, meanwhile, has shown clear support for Wilson-Raybould.
She supported her when The Globe and Mail reported that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) asked Wilson-Raybould to cut a deal and help Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin avoid a trial on corruption and fraud charges.
Trudeau said the allegations in that story were false.
"As someone on the inside, who knows @Puglaas, I can tell you that she is fierce, smart and unapologetic. When women speak up and out, they are always going to be labelled. Go ahead. Label away. We are not going anywhere. #IAmWithHer #StandUp #ISeeYou https://t.co/BQWeiitn9R"
- MP Celina
(@MPCelina) February 11, 2019
The SNC-Lavalin affair offers the bingo of betrayed Liberal commitments: Robyn Urback
It has shown the government to be as cynical, partisan and calculating as its predecessors
Robyn Urback CBC News Posted: Feb 13, 2019 4:00 AM ET
The destructive power of the SNC-Lavalin scandal - of which we appear to still be in the early stages - lies in its sheer comprehensiveness. It is not simply an indictment of the Liberals' professed commitment to transparency. Or of the illusion of a shift away from Harper-era "self-serving" partisanship. Or of the Trudeau government's prophetic waxing about the principles of feminism, goodness and positivity.
It is, rather, all of those things: A bingo of betrayed commitments, wrapped in a package of a classic Liberal scandal.The Prime Minister's Office is alleged to have pressured the attorney general to drop the criminal prosecution of a Quebec engineering company steeped in scandal and facing fraud and corruption charges. Hello, old friend. Haven't seen you in a while.
But the SNC-Lavalin affair, convoluted and esoteric as it may be, cuts to the core of the Liberals' central promise from back in 2015: That this government would be different in specific, measurable ways. It just takes one clumsy scandal to demonstrate the extent to which that has not happened.
Here's what we know, up until this point: The government used a shady tactic it swore it wouldn't use to pass a legislative change at the behest of an influential Quebec corporation - a corporation, it should be noted, that previously broke the law in order to funnel money disproportionately to the Liberal Party.
In any case, Trudeau backed the Liberal machine over Wilson-Raybould himself on Tuesday, suggesting that if she felt pressure over conversations about SNC-Lavalin, she should have approached him herself. This is obviously another go at misdirection: The issue is not why she didn't report the pressure, but why she was subjected to it in the first place.
A solid effort, and one that fits well with a government that has proven itself to be just as cynical, partisan and calculating as its predecessors. One that works in the interests of a tainted global corporation, buries a legislative change in a once-maligned tool, locks down communication to control the message, and tolerates - even participates in - the railroading of a former cabinet member's reputation.
This is a scandal at its most comprehensive. The Liberals promised to be different; SNC-Lavalin is all the reasons they are not.
Commons justice committee to probe SNC-Lavalin affair - but Liberals limit witness list
The Liberals, who hold the majority on the Commons committee, want to draft a witness list in private
John Paul Tasker CBC News Posted: Feb 13, 2019 7:57 AM ET
Liberal members of the Commons justice committee have agreed to study the SNC-Lavalin affair that has Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government under a cloud — clearing the way for a parliamentary probe into whether his office exerted influence over plans for a criminal prosecution of the Quebec-based engineering firm.
While Liberal MPs backed an investigation, they disagreed with opposition MPs on the committee over how wide-reaching such an inquiry should be, and who should be asked to appear.
Conservative and NDP members banded together to demand that Trudeau's most senior adviser, Gerald Butts, and Jody Wilson-Raybould - the former Justice minister at the heart of this affair - be added to the committee's proposed witness list. The Liberal members voted in a bloc against a motion from NDP MP Nathan Cullen to do just that.
That doesn't mean those two people will be spared parliamentary scrutiny - but it now falls to the Liberal majority on the committee to decide whether they will ever be called to give their side of the SNC-Lavalin story.
The Liberal MPs on the justice committee insisted today they were acting independently of the Prime Minister's Office in agreeing to a study but limiting its scope. Opposition members weren't buying it.
"It's a cover-up and it's becoming clearer by the day," Conservative MP Michael Cooper said, calling his Liberal colleagues on the committee "nothing more than agents of the PMO."
Liberal members, meanwhile, said partisan grandstanding by the opposition MPs was a stunt designed to embarrass the prime minister.
Liberal MP Iqra Khalid went after a Conservative social media campaign aimed at getting members of the public to pressure Liberal MPs on the committee to study the matter, calling it "bullying." Khalid said the opposition was making "a lot of hay out of ... nothing substantiated."
Cullen and Conservative MP Lisa Raitt said the severity of the allegations detailed in the initial Globe and Mail report, and Wilson-Raybould's subsequent resignation from cabinet, demand a thorough view by Parliament.
"If you want to alleviate the suspicions of Canadians ... allow Ms. Wilson-Raybould to come forward, allow the principal secretary to come forward, allow Mathieu Bouchard, who met 50 times with SNC-Lavalin, to come forward," Cullen said. Bouchard is Trudeau's Quebec adviser.
"It baffles me that my Liberal colleagues have seen what has transpired over the last six days and they say, 'Nothing untoward here.' Clearly, Ms. Wilson-Raybould should be called to appear before this committee."