Sunny Daze: Trudeau has Trashed His Carefully Cultivated Good Guy Image

The slow release of facts surrounding Jody Wilson-Raybould has dominated the attention of pundits and columnists for three weeks. A common theme has been a series of remarks by Prime Minister Trudeau that have been at best deceptive and at worst untrue.

We are now in a position to piece together the sequence of events.

  • SNC-Lavalin, an engineering and construction giant deemed strategically important by the government of Quebec, has been under investigation for fraud and corruption in Libya.
    On September 4th, the company was advised that, in spite of heavy lobbying by SNC, they would not be offered a settlement that avoided criminal prosecution. If convicted, the company would be ineligible for federal contracts for ten years.
  • Subsequently, then-Minister Wilson-Raybould says she “experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion… Within these conversations there were… veiled threats.”
  • The resignation of Scott Brison triggered a cabinet shuffle on January 14th, the major consequence of which was the demotion of Wilson-Raybould from Justice to Veterans Affairs.
    In February, Trudeau claimed that if Brison had not stepped down from cabinet, “Jody Wilson-Raybould would still be minister of justice and attorney general.”
    There were dozens of other ways of responding to Brison’s departure that would not involve her. This looks like the fulfillment of the veiled threats.
  • On February 7th, the Globe and Mail reported that Wilson-Raybould had been pressed to intervene in the SNC affair. The prime minister’s response transparently avoided the question, saying “The allegations reported in the story are false. At no time did I or my office direct the current or previous attorney-general to make any particular decision in this matter.” He repeatedly refused to answer whether his office had tried to influence her.
    New Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti echoed the remarks by Trudeau, adding that there had been no “pressure,” which is what The Globe and Mail alleged.
    The Globe’s story was correct. Lametti’s statement is patently false.
  • Trudeau met with her on February 11th, in an effort to calm the waters. Afterward he suggested things were fine, saying “Her presence in cabinet should actually speak for itself.”
    Hours later, Wilson-Raybould told him she was resigning. Trudeau said he was “surprised and disappointed.”
    It is usually a mistake to speak for other people, and particularly so in this case. He can’t have been paying attention.
  • On February 13th, Trudeau blamed her: “Which is why when Jody Wilson-Raybould asked me if I was directing her…to take a particular decision, and I of course said, ‘No,’ that it was her decision to make… I had full confidence in her role.”
    It is impossible to reconcile this with her testimony that she was “hounded” by various officials through phone calls, meetings and text messages. Nor with the fact that her deputy was told to prepare a briefing on SNC for incoming Minister Lametti.
  • Various Liberal sources provided off-the-record comments to the media saying that she was difficult and not a team player. It looked like a coordinated effort. Trudeau took a full six days before denouncing it, and apologized to her for being late.
  • She asked to speak to cabinet on the issue. She was allowed to do so after having to wait two hours while cabinet debated whether they should hear her.
  • Leading up to her testimony on February 27th, Trudeau suggested that she was being given free rein to tell her story: “It is important that people get an opportunity to testify or share their point of view with the committee.”
    Except that she didn’t get the right to explain the circumstances surrounding her resignation.

Trudeau’s life would have been somewhat simpler if he had acknowledged, in response to the original Globe and Mail story, that there had been pressure on her in the fall. But he still would not be able to escape the conclusion that she was relegated to Veterans Affairs because she would not agree to political interference in the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.

Trudeau and other Liberals have repeatedly said things that were either transparently false, or otherwise misleading. She has been constrained on what she can say in reply, a condition that Trudeau has still not fully lifted.

Jody Wilson-Raybould has been a conscientious and principled minister. He has failed to treat her with the respect she deserves.


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