Global News reports that “Michael Wernick, one of the central figures in the SNC-Lavalin affair, has announced he will retire ahead of schedule because he no longer feels he can serve as clerk of the Privy Council as the country heads into what is set to be a contentious election season … [because, I suppose] … Wernick is one of the individuals accused by former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould of pressuring her to intervene in the court case of SNC-Lavalin in order to help the company avoid a criminal trial and conviction that could bar it from bidding for government contracts … [but, the reports says] … his fiercely-worded defence of both his own behaviour in the controversy as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before the House of Commons justice committee last month prompted accusations of partisanship, with critics arguing he should be fired … [and he says, now, that] … “Recent events have led me to conclude that I cannot serve as Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to Cabinet during the upcoming election campaign,” Wernick wrote in a letter to Trudeau announcing his decision to retire early on Monday … [and, he concluded] … “Therefore, I will be taking steps to retire from the public service well before the writ of election is issued.”“
I am astounded at his mention of the election campaign. The Clerk is, must always be and must always be seen to be, apolitical, loyal to the government he serves, but, always, ready, willing and able to serve the next one, of whatever political stripe. The Clerk, by virtue of being ‘above politics’ is critical in the period after an election is called because (s)he, being responsible for the machinery of government, has a duty to see that the civil service (and the armed services, too) keeps doing its work despite having, de facto, no real political direction.Mr Wernick’s statement seems, to me, to suggest that he has some partisan, political role, some stake in the election campaign … now the clerk (no matter who (s)he is) is always known to be the most politically sensitive person in Ottawa even as (s)he is, simultaneously, apolitical. The statement hints that he saw himself as part of Team Trudeau’s campaign for re-election … if that was, ever, the case then his resignation is long overdue.
A simple resignation, without any reason at all being given, would have served Prime Minister Trudeau better … this letter almost screams for media analysis and a prolongation of the Philpott/SNC-Lavalin/Wilson-Raybould agony.
The Global News report also says that “Trudeau issued a press release minutes later saying he intends to name Ian Shugart, the deputy minister of foreign affairs, to the role in the coming weeks.” Mr Shugart has about 40 years of experience in and around government, in a wide range of departments. Like Mr Wernick, and Prime Minister Trudeau, he is not a lawyer.