Campbell Clark, writing in the Globe and Mail, reviews the week just past and concludes, as many other have, that the Trudeau Liberals have done themselves more harm than good, again, by voting down an opposition proposal to ask Jody Wilson-Raybould for some more details about the SNC-Lavalin affair and, especially, the aftermath, when and after she was demoted to Minister of Veterans Affairs.
He says that, “It was pretty reasonable for a lot of people to have decided by Wednesday that they’d heard enough, and they knew more or less what happened … [but] … then Liberal MPs engaged in some pointless procedural obstructionism that revives suspicions about one aspect of the story: What happened after Ms. Wilson-Raybould was shuffled out of the post as justice minister and attorney-general on Jan. 14, and before she quit the cabinet a month later? … [and] … That is what opposition MPs want to ask … [and it may be what a lot of Canadians want to ask, too, but] … In her first appearance, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said she could not talk about things that happened in that period. She wrote a letter to the justice committee complaining she was not able to speak about “conversations I may or may not have had with the Prime Minister.” Those things, she said, were covered by cabinet confidence, and not included in the waiver Mr. Trudeau had issued … [but, that, in turn, begs the question] … Did the Prime Minister say something to Ms. Wilson-Raybould that he does not want the public to hear? Does Ms. Wilson-Raybould have other information about why she had been shuffled out of the attorney-general’s job? Or about the SNC-Lavalin case?“
Far from making the issue die down, as Team Trudeau must want, so that a good news budget (and a snap, spring election?) will, finally, change the channel, this may prolong the agony.
Did the Prime Minister say something to Ms. Wilson-Raybould that he does not want the public to hear?
That, it seems to me is the key question.
It hangs over Justin Trudeau like the Sword of Damocles; it hints that he has something more to hide, something corrupt or even worse, something criminal. Mr Clark says that “Maybe there’s nothing important in the answers, but if so, why don’t the Liberals want Ms. Wilson-Raybould to come before the committee, fast, and get it over with? Why won’t they rip the Band-Aid off? … [and, he adds, in fairness, that] … It’s worth pointing out that the Liberal MPs did not vote to block Ms. Wilson-Raybould from ever appearing. They turned down an opposition motion to call her as a witness, but there is still another justice committee meeting next Tuesday where the agenda for future meetings can be set. The Liberals say they prefer to discuss such things behind closed doors … [but] … in this case, that’s a crock. This was a simple motion in the most closely watched parliamentary hearings in the country. It was a simple yes or no question. The Liberal MPs voted to adjourn the committee meeting without having it go anywhere. At best, that’s stalling. At worst, it’s obstructionism.“
There is some speculation that Justin Trudeau might call a snap election for May based on a good news budget and public fatigue with the SNC-Lavalin issue. The advantages are that it makes things like the Justice Committee go away and the trial of VAdm Norman, which is scheduled for the fall, will not interfere, as it might in October, with even more questions about the PMO and ethics and so on. The drawback is that the Philpott/Wilson-Raybould/SNC-Lavalin issue, with the attendant suspicions of a coverup of possible criminal activity, will still be too fresh in too many minds.
What should he say?
The simplest thing, it seems for me, for Justin Trudeau to do is to appear, himself, at his own request, in front of the Justice Committee and admit, straight up that he:
- Put pressure, arguably too much pressure, on Jody Wilson-Raybould to cut a remediation deal with SNC-Lavalin, but, he should say, he only did so because he honestly felt that those jobs in Québec mattered more than the Shawcross Doctrine, which, he might say, also, he only dimly understood at the time, and he also felt that the Attorney General should never be able to close her mind to any possible legal solution until the jury cam back with a verdict;
- Moved Ms Wilson-Raybould to Veterans Affairs because he was convinced that she could not be allowed, as Gerald Butts claimed she wanted to do, to decide in which portfolio she would or would not serve in … he agreed, after Mr Butts explained it to him, that Indigenous Services was not, after all, a good match for her but, having told her she was moving, he needed to follow through with that; and
- Decided to promote his good friend Seamus O’Regan to Indigenous Services, hoping that First Nations leaders would see that as an indication of his (Trudeau’s) continuing commitment to reconciliation and he then moved Jody Wilson-Raybould to Veterans Affairs in order to create the least possible turbulence. As she said, he should say, he does not consider that to be demotion.
That may not be the truth, but it might just be enough to make most of this go away for just enough voters … it doesn’t have to be a real apology; Trudeau’s are never wrong, after all, are they? So there is no need to apologize just because someone else experienced things differently, is there?