THIS IS A MOVIE we’ve seen before.
The Prime Minister’s Office is tainted by questionable dealings with a very large Quebec-based company.
SNC-Lavalin is too big to fail, says Justin Trudeau, because thousands of jobs are at risk in Quebec.
Thousands. And according to the Liberal government of Canada this is in the national interest to protect.
If you’re in Alberta, did I hear you just say WTF! ?
You also might be interested in knowing those thousands of jobs are in Justin Trudeau’s riding in Montreal.
That over a 100,000 jobs in The West and the petroleum industry somehow is not in the national interest of Prime Minister Trudeau is the doing of his buddy Gerald Butts (I’ll explain how so at the end of the post).
Questions are being raised about political interference by the federal government in the dodgy affairs of SNC-Lavalin. The Liberals bundled a sneaky rider with an omnibus bill; a change of law, last fall, designed to give the engineering & construction firm a pass on a criminal corruption rap if its executive leadership promise to be better corporate citizens in the future.
ENTER THE (former) JUSTICE MINISTER
What can you say about Jody Wilson-Raybould if you’re a federal Liberal?
She’s female. She’s indigenous. A brilliant, legally-trained minister from British Columbia. And in the gender-balanced & radically diverse cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau—the former justice minister is mum on what-the-hell-happened regarding the SNC-Lavalin file.
It’s been speculated by political pundits and an investigative journalist at the Globe & Mail that the former justice minister got the bullet and a demotion to Veterans Affairs because she didn’t dance to the PMO’s beat.
We’ll never know until she comes clean.
THE HEAT IS ON
I don’t know Wilson-Raybould personally, and don’t pretend to speak for her. But I certainly have a sense for how she might feel at the moment, especially since she’s been castigated by some wonks as not a team player.
Like the former federal justice minister, I am legally trained and have the deepest respect for The Rule of Law. And I imagine the former justice minister does as well.
When I questioned political decisions in Alberta as a Progressive Conservative in the provincial cabinet of Premier Alison Redford, five years ago this month, the cabinet drama (at the time) reads much like Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s political theatre of the moment.
The first thing I did was carefully choose my words.
I deliberately laid out a written path to signal the reasons for withdrawing from the PC cabinet and caucus, to sit as an independent. And I made sure there wasn’t a whiff of victimhood or personality differences (male politicians can wade into those waters; women can’t).
Thinking like a lawyer, Ms. Wilson-Raybould is hard-wired to understand the power of words. What she put on-the-record after being bumped as justice minister & attorney general warrants scrutiny:
“…it is a pillar of our democracy that our system of justice be free from even the perception of political interference”
[as attorney-general, she must be] “always willing to speak truth to power.”
What surprised me in 2014—and more recently in January 2019 with Wilson-Raybould’s message—is how people responded to these statements. People made assumptions & fed conjecture about personalities and team-players, but very few people asked fact-based questions.
The political rot that triggered my decision to leave the Redford cabinet arose when the Premier’s Office demanded Treasury Board approve the transfer of three billion dollars from the Heritage Savings Trust Fund to special funds the premier could direct.
As a member of Treasury Board, I was at the time obligated to maintain these facts in confidence — which was easy to do — no one really pushed for an explanation.
As the former Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould is bound by solicitor-client privilege and isn’t answering questions. However — and this is key — did anyone ask her for details, last month?
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
My timing of departure from the Redford cabinet & caucus was intentional.
There’s a whole bunch of stuff — details, details, details — I could pile on, but let’s just say I was just as gobsmacked as you probably were when Ms. Redford resigned as premier two days after my decision to sit as an independent. I’ve been told this was the trigger that finally led the premier off the ledge.
Jody Wilson-Raybould’s timing is intriguing. It’s a federal election year. It’s also a sensitive time when Canada’s reputation as a “rule of law” nation matters (consider the China debacle of late).
People have asked why she didn’t withdraw from Cabinet in January when she lost confidence in the Prime Minister (or earlier if it was clear that the PMO was interfering with justice). People are also asking why she doesn’t completely withdraw from Cabinet now.
And there’s the related question: Does she withdraw from cabinet but not the Liberal caucus, or does she withdraw from both? In my experience, once you have lost confidence in a leader, it’s impossible to remain in cabinet and exceedingly difficult to remain in caucus.
While Jody Wilson-Rayboult may or may not have influenced the timing of the leak to the media, she had zero control over the timing of the January cabinet shuffle.
Her time to credibly withdraw from Trudeau’s cabinet (and caucus) is a moving target.
With all the media and public attention on this sorry affair, she negates political capital to apply pressure if she walks out of the building — right now.
Remaining at Trudeau’s cabinet table as this unfolds —whether an ethics commission is launched, the Justice Committee orchestrates a bloodletting, or the RCMP is mobilized—keeps her in the political game. And Jody Wilson-Raybould, in my view, can continue to speak truth to power by standing firm.
What do I imagine she should say?
Just try to remove me, Gerald Butts. I dare you!
FOOTNOTE: Gerald Butts is the senior political advisor and principal secretary to Justin Trudeau, and the most powerful unelected person in the Prime Minister’s Office. He has had a profound influence on shaping federal policy. And as a former executive director of WWF-Canada, Mr. Butts made it plain (before joining his close friend Justin in their crusade for Canada and the earth) that he and his fellow travellers have no love for the petroleum industry.