On SNC, Trudeau needs to admit to wrong to set our constitution right

Anonymous sources strike again. A CBC report again quotes unnamed sources, almost certainly PMO staff, leaking their spin on a confidential meeting between former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

This is the latest in a series of one-sided takes on confidential discussions involving Wilson-Raybould that have been turned into anonymous smears — one of which even Trudeau had to admit was racist and sexist in tone. Another anonymous attempt to smear broke confidence on discussions about the appointment of a Supreme Court justice. That drive-by attack resulted in a Supreme Court applicant feeling he needed to reveal the health status of his wife in order to explain his withdrawal from what he was promised was a confidential process.

The selective morality of Liberals MPs who remain silent about smears, breaking confidences, pressuring the Attorney General, interfering with prosecutions — and the litany of other unethical and improper acts to assist SNC-Lavalin, a company with a history of corruption in Canada and around the world — is disturbing.

Like diversity, it seems ethics only works when it benefits Justin Trudeau. That’s such disappointing behavior. Especially from the lawyers in the Liberal caucus.

It’s unclear how much of the story was even true. The reporter later rewrote it after another journalist interviewed Wilson-Raybould — something one might have thought wise to do in the first instance — in which the former AG said she “would never” interfere in the prosecution.

Some straw-graspers has have tried to argue there’s some meaningful difference between “never would” interfere and “didn’t” interfere — as if there’s some place in the time continuum not included by never. It’s an embarrassingly bad argument.

But even if there is a small shred of truth to the original story, notice that what Wilson-Raybould wanted weren’t political demands – she asked for nothing for herself. She didn’t ask for a promotion or more money or even a return to the AG position.

She asked Trudeau to protect our constitutional rights. She again showed him the way  out of the crisis he created when he refused to take her sound legal advice from the start.

Canadians value, deserve and expect a legal system free of political interference. It’s a constitutional convention of our country stretching back decades and decades.

And a request that the Prime Minister acknowledge the mistake of pressuring the AG  and attempting prosecutorial interference is needed in order to salvage our rights.

The evidence is that Wilson-Raybould repeatedly warned Trudeau and others to not break the constitutional convention of non-interference in prosecutions. She said it to Trudeau in their September 17 meeting. She says she told his staff. And we’ve seen the very clear letter she wrote to Trudeau on December 14.

Yet the PM wouldn’t take the legal advice from her, his own top legal advisor. He didn’t respect her profession opinion or the opinion of her department — and was hellbent to stop the trial of SNC-Lavalin on corruption and bribery charges. Why? It’s a real mystery.

Wilson-Raybould was the last line of resistance to SNC getting what it wants — their  corruption trial cancelled. And her last line of defense was constitutional conventions against pressuring the AG and interfering in prosecutions. They did the first and still seem committed to carry out the second.

From some quarters comes the nonsense that “the law allows for” interference in the prosecution, a claim only true in the most narrow way, by focusing only on the Director of Public Prosecutions Act while conveniently disregarding Canada’s constitution.

The convention of non-interference is operative and not replaced by the ability, under the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, to override the director of prosecution’s decision.

Wilson-Raybould wouldn’t submit to pressure and interfere in the prosecution — especially for reasons she testified were “unlawful,” the jobs argument, a factor the law says must not be considered in determining whether a deferred prosecution agreement is appropriate. And Trudeau removed her, removing the barrier to his desired interference.

Gerald Butts told us a story about Wilson-Raybould’s removal as AG. He testified it was required to fill the gap they’d made at Indigenous Services. But in her testimony, Wilson-Raybould not only said that long ago she made it clear she could never be Indigenous Services minister, but also that Butts demonstrated his understanding of this. If we accept Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, Butts’ story is a concoction and the PM’s offer in bad faith.

Significantly, in the additional materials Butts submitted since Wilson-Raybould’s recording and brief became public, he made no attempt to refute her assertion. Her testimony stands. Butts’ story does not.

There is, therefore, no adequate explanation of why Wilson-Raybould was removed as AG. We are left with the compelling logic that she was taken off the field to let SNC get in the end-zone — taking over the prosecution and stopping their corruption trial.

As awful a story as this is, it is worse. Trudeau’s acts have not just infringed on the constitutional convention that trials be free from political interference. Uncorrected, it’s a precedent for more of the same by Trudeau — and all who succeed him.

The rules about not pressuring the AG and not interfering in a prosecution is a constitutional convention. A constitutional convention evolves with practice. If a practice is not condemned as error, convention bends toward an acceptance of that practice. It becomes precedent. In this case, political pressure on the AG to interfere in the prosecution becomes normalized.

That is just unacceptable.

If the PM doesn’t acknowledge the error made, the error would be the latest evolution of the practice, bending the convention in favour of pressure and interference. If the PM acknowledges the error made the convention is whole again. Future infringements would be clearly outside the convention.

This crisis started as a legal mistake by Trudeau himself. His refusal to fix it has turned it into a legal and political crisis. Instead of respecting the legal advice of his top legal advisor, it’s been anonymous leaks and smears to discredit Wilson-Raybould.

There are reasons many of us just can’t get over this scandal and move on to other things. What’s been done must be undone. And that requires either a Prime Minister or a House of Commons that acknowledges the error and restores the convention.

Without that, corporations and the rich will be able to lobby their way to prosecutorial interference. And the convention will say that it’s okay. That cannot be made ok.

On SNC, Trudeau acknowledging his wrong is necessary to make our constitution right

Anonymous sources strike again. A CBC report again quotes unnamed sources, almost certainly PMO staff, leaking their spin on a confidential meeting between former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

This is the latest in a series of one-sided takes on confidential discussions involving Wilson-Raybould that have been turned into anonymous smears — one of which even Trudeau had to admit was racist and sexist in tone. Other anonymous attempts to smear broke confidence on discussions about the appointment of a Supreme Court justice. That drive-by attack required an applicant for that position to reveal the health status of his wife.

The selective morality of Liberals MPs who remain silent about smears, breaking confidences, pressuring the Attorney General, interfering with prosecutions — and the litany of other unethical and improper acts to assist SNC-Lavalin, a company with a history of corruption in Canada and around the world — is disturbing.

Like diversity, it seems ethics only works when it benefits Justin Trudeau. That’s such disappointing behavior. Especially from the lawyers in the Liberal caucus.

It’s unclear how much of the story was even true. The reporter later rewrote it after another journalist interviewed Wilson-Raybould — something one might have thought wise to do in the first instance — in which the former AG said she “would never” interfere in the prosecution.

Some straw-graspers has have tried to argue there’s some meaningful difference between “never would” interfere and “didn’t” interfere — as if there’s some place in the time continuum not included by never. It’s an embarrassingly bad argument.

But even if there is a small shred of truth to the original story, notice that what Wilson-Raybould wanted weren’t political demands – she asked for nothing for herself. She didn’t ask for a promotion or more money or even a return to the AG position.

She asked Trudeau to protect our constitutional rights. She again showed him the way  out of the crisis he created when he refused to take her sound legal advice from the start.

Canadians value, deserve and expect a legal system free of political interference. It’s a constitutional convention of our country stretching back decades and decades.

And a request that the Prime Minister acknowledge the mistake of pressuring the AG  and attempting prosecutorial interference is needed in order to salvage our rights.

The evidence is that Wilson-Raybould repeatedly warned Trudeau and others to not break the constitutional convention of non-interference in prosecutions. She said it to Trudeau in their September 17 meeting. She says she told his staff. And we’ve seen the very clear letter she wrote to Trudeau on December 14.

Yet the PM wouldn’t take the legal advice from her, his own top legal advisor. He didn’t respect her profession opinion or the opinion of her department — and was hellbent to stop the trial of SNC-Lavalin on corruption and bribery charges. Why? It’s a real mystery.

Wilson-Raybould was the last line of resistance to SNC getting what it wants — their  corruption trial cancelled. And Wilson-Raybould was the last line of defense in the protection of the constitutional convention of non-interference in prosecutions.

From some quarters comes the nonsense that “the law allows for” interference in the prosecution, a claim only true in the most narrow way, by focusing only on the Director of Public Prosecutions Act  while conveniently disregarding Canada’s constitution.

The convention of non-interference is operative and not replaced by the ability, under the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, to override the director of prosecution’s decision.

Wilson-Raybould wouldn’t submit to pressure and override the prosecution for reasons she testified were “unlawful” – the jobs argument, a factor the law says must not be considered in determining whether a deferred prosecution agreement is appropriate. And Trudeau removed her, removing the barrier to his desired interference.

Gerald Butts told us a story about Wilson-Raybould’s removal as AG. He testified it was required to fill the gap they’d made at Indigenous Services. But in her testimony, Wilson-Raybould not only said that long ago she made it clear she could never be Indigenous Services minister, but also that Butts demonstrated his understanding of this. If we accept Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, Butts’ story is a concoction and the PM’s offer in bad faith.

Significantly, in the additional materials Butts submitted since Wilson-Raybould’s recording and brief became public, he made no attempt to refute her assertion. Her testimony stands. Butts’ story does not.

There is, therefore, no adequate explanation of why Wilson-Raybould was removed as AG. We are left with the compelling logic that she was taken off the field to let SNC get in the end-zone — taking over the prosecution and stopping their corruption trial.

As awful a story as this is, it is worse. Trudeau’s acts have not just infringed on the constitutional convention that trials be free from political interference. It’s a precedent for more of the same by Trudeau — and all who succeed him.

The rules about not pressuring the AG and not interfering in a prosecution is a constitutional convention. A constitutional convention evolves with practice. If a practice is not condemned as error, convention bends toward an acceptance of that practice. It becomes precedent. In this case, political pressure on the AG to interfere in the prosecution becomes normalized.

That is just unacceptable.

If the PM doesn’t acknowledge the error made, the error would be the latest evolution of the practice, bending the convention in favour of pressure and interference. If the PM acknowledges the error made the convention is whole again. Future infringements would be clearly outside the convention.

This crisis started as a legal mistake by Trudeau himself. His refusal to fix it has turned it into a legal and political crisis. Instead of respecting the legal advice of his top legal advisor, it’s been anonymous leaks and smears to discredit Wilson-Raybould.

There are reasons many of us just can’t get over this scandal and move on to other things. What’s been done must be undone. And that requires either a Prime Minister or a House of Commons that acknowledges the error and restores the convention.

Without that, corporations and the rich will be able to lobby their way to prosecutorial interference. And the convention will say that it’s okay.

Wilson-Raybould asked for nothing for herself — only to protect our constitutional rights

Once again the anonymous sources are at it. A CBC report again quotes unnamed sources, almost certainly PMO staff, leaking their spin on a confidential meeting between Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

This is the latest is a serious of anonymous smears using one-sided takes on confidential discussions fired at Wilson-Raybould — one of which even Trudeau had to admit were racist and sexist in tone. Other anonymous smear attempt broke confidence on discussions about the appointment of a Supreme Court justice. That drive-by attack required an applicant for that position to reveal the health status of his wife.

The selective morality of Liberals MPs who remain silent about smears, breaking confidences, pressuring the Attorney General, interfering with prosecutions — and the litany of other unethical and improper acts to assist SNC-Lavalin, a company with a history of corruption in Canada and around the world — is disturbing.

Like diversity, it seems ethics only works when it benefits Justin Trudeau.

It’s unclear how much of the story was even true. The reporter later rewrote the story after another journalist interviewed Wilson-Raybould about it — something one might have thought wise to do in the first instance — in which she said she “would never” interfere in the prosecution.

Some straw-graspers has have tried to argue a difference between “never would” interfere and “didn’t” interfere — as if there’s some place inside the time continuum not included by never. It’s an embarrassingly bad argument.

But even if there is a small shred of truth to the original story, notice that what Wilson-Raybould wanted were not political demands – she asked for nothing for herself. She didn’t ask for a promotion or more money or even a return to the AG position.

She wanted to protect our constitutional rights and show the PM a way out of the crisis he created when he refused to take her sound legal advice from the start.

Canadians value, deserve and expect a legal system free of political interference. It’s a constitutional convention of our country stretching back decades and decades.

And a request that the Prime Minister acknowledge the mistake of AG pressure and attempted prosecutor interference would make perfect sense in order to salvage our rights after Trudeau’s pressuring.

The evidence is that Wilson-Raybould repeatedly warned Trudeau and others to not break the constitutional convention of non-interference in prosecutions. She said it to Trudeau in their September 17 meeting. She says she told his staff. And we’ve seen the very clear letter she wrote to Trudeau on December 14.

Yet the PM wouldn’t take the legal advice from her, his own top legal advisor. He didn’t respect her profession opinion or the opinion of her department — and was hellbent to stop the trial of SNC-Lavalin on corruption and bribery charges. Why? Unclear.

Wilson-Raybould was the last line of defense in the protection of the constitutional convention of non-interference in prosecutions. This convention is operative and not replaced by the ability, under the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, to override the director of prosecution‘s decision. The nonsense from some quarters that “the law allows for it” is only true in the most narrow way — that the DPP Act allows it — while conveniently disregarding Canada’s constitution.

After Wilson-Raybould wouldn’t submit to pressure and override the prosecution for reasons she testified were “unlawful” – the jobs argument, a factor the law says must not be considered in determining whether a deferred prosecution agreement is appropriate – Trudeau removed her to clear the way for his interference.

Gerald Butts told us a fanciful story about her removal as AG being required in order to fill the gap they made at Indigenous Services. But in her testimony, Wilson-Raybould not only said that long ago she made it clear she could never be IS minister, but also that Butts demonstrated his understanding of it. If Wilson-Raybould‘s testimony is true, Butts’ story was a concoction and the PM’s offer in bad faith. Significantly, in the additional materials Butts submitted since Wilson-Raybould‘s recording and brief came public, he made no attempt to refute her assertion. It’s true.

There is, therefore, no adequate explanation of why Wilson-Raybould was removed as AG. The logic remains compelling that she was moved because she was the last line of defence against SNC scoring the touchdowninterference in the prosecution to stop their corruption trial.

And here’s the problem for our rights. Not pressuring the AG and not interfering in a prosecution is a constitutional convention. A constitutional convention evolves with practice. If a practice is not condemned as error, convention bends toward an acceptance of that practice. It becomes precedent. In this case, political pressure on the AG to interfere in the prosecution becomes normalized.

That is just unacceptable.

If the PM doesn’t acknowledge the error made, the error would be the latest evolution of the practice, bending the convention in favour of pressure and interference.

If the PM acknowledges the error made the convention is whole again. Her appeal – what the anonymous PMO sources characterized as “demands” – was not for herself, but to fix the constitutional mistake Trudeau made, one which will erode our constitutional rights left unfixed.

This crisis started as a legal mistake by Trudeau himself. His refusal to fix it has turned it into a legal and political crisis. Instead of respecting the legal advice of his top legal advisor, it’s been anonymous leaks and smears to discredit Wilson-Raybould. It’s telling young women that diversity is only valuable when it benefits the Prime Minister. It’s telling Indigenous protesters they’re not part of his high-donor club.

The result is plunging polls and – literally – young feminist women turning their backs on Trudeau. Canadians value our rights and are watching this story closely.

 

Liberal MPs covering up the SNC-Lavalin cover-up a disgraceful act against Canadians

Five Liberal MPs have signed a disgraceful joint letter that shows their priority is protecting Liberal staffers and corporate insiders, not representing Canadians.

And of course there’s a good chance the letter was written by one of the PMO staff named by Jody Wilson-Raybould for attempting to cancel the corruption trial of SNC-Lavalin. Perhaps someone who broke rules — maybe laws — and deserves to be fired, not protected. Certainly not empowered to write letters for MPs to sign.

The letter, sent to Justice Committee chair Anthony Housefather, says the Liberal MPs will block any opposition motion attempting to gather more testimony about the campaign from the PM, PMO and PCO to pressure the former Attorney-General to override the director of public prosecutions and stop the corruption trial of SNC-Lavalin.

With their letter, the five Liberal MPs — and whoever is co-ordinating them — are moving to cover up their cover-up. SNC-Lavalin paid millions in bribes in Libya — particularly to a son of Muammar Ghaddafi — while building jails for the violent regime. Cancelling the trial would cover-up the names of those who knew and participated in the corruption and helped empower violent men.

Now the five Liberal MPs on the Justice Committee, by shutting down testimony, is covering up evidence of any political interference by Trudeau government officials who, by shutting down the trial, were trying to cover-up the corrupt acts of SNC-Lavalin executives.

This entire SNC-Lavalin scandal reads like a true crime novel with the most important pages torn out. From the pages the Liberals have left for us to read, we know something very wrong has happened. But we don’t know who orchestrated the plan. We haven’t heard from the Trudeau staff against whom serious allegations have been made. We don’t know anything from Wilson-Raybould about what happened after January 14. And it seems that’s just the way these five members of “Team Trudeau” want it.

To add insult, they now tell Canadians that reading the page-depleted book proves there were no crimes.

The past three years of Trudeau government have been intensely disappointing. The electoral reform promised was tossed aside once they won their 39% false majority. The promised middle class tax cut turned out to give the maximum benefit to people with $200,000 incomes. Their infrastructure promise morphed into an infrastructure privatization plan. Numerous promises were broken to Indigenous people. Provincial health care transfers are being cut. Trudeau adopted Harper’s carbon targets — and not only is far off projections to hit them, we are further away now than a year ago.

It should be completely clear now that this Trudeau Liberal government promise of “real change” was a political hoax, ensnaring many decent people — no doubt including Liberal candidates — whose only error was believing Justin Trudeau wasn’t the bald-faced liar we see he is today.

Trudeau, Butts and the other amoral centrists who created the “Team Trudeau” brand represent the worst sort of politics — empty, cynical, self-serving, smarmy, phony, duplicitous, disingenuous and maybe law-breaking.

No doubt the Trudeau PMO selected the five MPs for the Justice Committee exactly because they knew that, faced with a choice between serving the Liberal partisan cause or the people of Canada, these five could be relied on to go against Canadians.

As we have seen in recent days, there are a few Liberal MPs who do not hold confidence in this Prime Minister. But the majority say nothing while their amoral leader directs them. And given where he has led then, any Liberal MP who continues to hold confidence in Trudeau is part of the moral decay of the politics of our country.

That Canadians are ruled by these sort of people is not just a national tragedy, it’s a national insult. Of course Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, ally of the alt-right, is no alternative. So NDP leader Jagmeet Singh needs to get his game on — urgently — because Canadians deserve a lot better than a choice between wicked and worse in the election that is now only seven months away.

 

 

 

With Wernick and McLellan, empty partisanship is the Liberal curse

Whatever liberalism is today, the Canadian Liberal Party is now not that. It’s Team Trudeau, a political venture based on the personality of a leader who holds no particular fixed ideas except for the virtue of centrism, which is a self-serving political strategy, not a political philosophy that benefits the people.

Team Trudeau has no purpose other than the partisanship of winning. And while partisanship is an essential ingredient of politics, unless balanced with integrity and purpose, is often one that invokes the gag reflex. Left as a sole ingredient, it turns everything rancid.

That malodourous mix was amply displayed in the testimony of Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick. When he should have been defending the integrity of the public service and acting as Canadians’ top public servant, it seems his allegiance was to SNC-Lavalin and the Prime Minister.

Even after former Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould personally told Wernick she had done her due diligence and firmly decided to not override the decision of the director of public prosecutions to go to trial, he told SNC-Lavalin executives they were entitled to a deferred prosecution — and clearly he was exactly the man who was going to get it for them.

Now Wernick is gone — though on his own terms, rather than being fired, which is what he deserved.

Wernick’s resignation raises more questions — and Canadians deserve an independent public inquiry that will get to the truth. Instead, today the Trudeau Liberal government served up another stupid double scoop of more partisanship, appointing former Liberal Justice Minister Anne McLellan to look into the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Specifically, McLellan has been asked to consider whether the Minister of Justice and the Attorney-General should be separate positions. And this is important because it seems the Trudeau government wants us to believe the structure of government caused him to transgress the long-established Shawcross doctrine, a part of our constitution which sets out the relationships between politicians and prosecutions. And, of course, it is important because the Trudeau Liberal government does not accept that the source of the problem lies in its own naked partisanship.

McLellan was the Justice Minister under the last big Liberal scandal, the sponsorship scandal. She served as Deputy Prime Minister to Paul Martin in the good old days when SNC-Lavalin was giving illegal donations to the Liberal Party and the prime minister was lobbying the Ghadaffi government to give contracts to SNC-Lavalin. And she’s still an active partisan, advertised as the main speaker at a Liberal fundraiser later this month.

Whatever recommendations come from McLellan’s report will be the recommendations the Trudeau government wants. Liberals investigating Liberals is not an investigation.

Wernick, McLellan — we’ve had enough of Liberal partisanship and cover-up, it’s time for the truth. Today the fourth person resigned because of the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Restoring the trust of Canadians won’t be done by appointing another Liberal partisan advisor — we need a public inquiry.

 

 

 

 

The Murray shuffle: please report without comment

After three years of keeping leadership competitor Joyce Murray out of Cabinet, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed the Vancouver Quadra MP to cabinet, filling the vacancy left when Jane Philpott quit over the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

It’s a conflicting media opportunity for the Trudeau government. On one hand, it can helpfully detract from a historic day when the first racialized leader of a Canadian political party, Jagmeet Singh, enters the House and puts his first question to the Prime Minister. On the other hand, it’s a nasty reminder to Canadians of the SNC-Lavalin scandal that has torn at Trudeau’s credibility. On balance, the Trudeau government hopes the shuffle is like a pebble dropped in the water that leaves no ripples.

Rather than select an up-and-coming MP from an electorally competitive seat, Murray’s selection shows a Liberal Party concerned about its own fractures and fissures. Murray ran against Trudeau for the Liberal Party leadership and a mutual dislike between Murray and Trudeau is widely rumoured. Her Vancouver Quadra seat is a Liberal bastion, one of the 34 seats won in their 2011 electoral wipeout. If Trudeau wanted to signal to his caucus that media discretion among those not keen about his leadership is valued, he has done it. It’s quite something that he needs to do so.

Murray’s appointment also reminds Canadians of the alignment between the Trudeau Liberals and their recently-defeated BC cousins. Former BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark has been a leading media defender for Trudeau. Both federal Liberal candidates for Burnaby South were draft from BC Liberal ranks. And Joyce Murray was a member of the BC Liberal government under Gordon Campbell.

The Murray appointment also conflicts with the cabinet shuffle theory that Gerald Butts told to the Justice Committee. The motivation for the shuffle is important because of concerns it was retaliation against an Attorney-General who refused to allow political interference in a criminal prosecution.

Butts’ testified that removing Wilson-Raybould as Attorney-General was required because Philpott was needed at Treasury Board. Philpott’s move opened Indigenous Services, a role so mission-critical only Wilson-Raybould’s would do. Taking Murray from the backbench undercuts Butt’s argument that Treasury Board is such a critically important position – at this point of the mandate, anyway.

Today’s appointment may be one of the rare cabinet shuffles the opposition wants to talk about more than the government.

Butts’ testimony: paper-thin excuses that didn’t refute serious allegations of political interference

In strategic communications, no one tries to change the channel when they’re winning.

So perhaps it was no accident the PM’s press conference at 8:00am the day following the testimony of Gerald Butts, the former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, turned out to be a puzzling nothingburger. But the speculation leading to it and the analysis following did cut short a robust analysis of what Butts told the Commons Justice Committee.

Looking back, many of Butts’ responses to the Committee were paper-thin, based on nonsensical theories, uncorroborated personal thoughts, omitting and suppressing facts. It wasn’t credible and didn’t refute any of Wilson-Raybould’s main points.

According to Wilson-Raybould, on September 17 she told the PM and Clerk of the Privy Council that she had already decided she would not override the director of public prosecutions and direct her to offer a deferred prosecution agreement to SNC-Lavalin. Despite having made the decision – which was in her power alone to make – PMO staff, including Butts, continued in an inappropriate campaign to reverse the decision. Specifically, Wilson-Raybould alleged:

– PMO staff who reported to Butts continued to inappropriately contact Wilson-Raybould’s staff on the issue, and wanted to speak to the director of public prosecutions and the case prosecutors

– on December 5 Butts pushed the AG her to change her decision and override the director of public prosecutions

– on December 17 Butts met with the AG’s chief of staff, telling her “there’s no solution that doesn’t involve some interference”

– asking the AG to make a decision based on economic interests was inappropriate because making a decision on those grounds was explicitly “unlawful” – her words

Wilson-Raybould said she refused the pressure. Then she was removed as Attorney-General in a January 14 cabinet shuffle.

Butts said he was unaware of any inappropriate actions by his staff. He acknowledged that such interventions would be inappropriate, but said his staff would not do such thing. Conservative MPs Lisa Raitt then made a motion to receive their relevant emails and texts to confirm Butts’ assessment of his staff. The Liberal majority defeated the motion, suppressing key evidence.

In addressing the December 5 meeting, Butts’ deployed a burst of responses. Much hinges on whether the AG had made a final decision. Offering information before a decision can be appropriate. But once the AG makes her decision – and it is hers alone to make – attempts to reverse it are generally inappropriate.

Butts argued he was unaware the AG had made a final decision. Somehow in the preceding three months neither the PM or the Clerk had informed him. And somehow Butts had missed the news that the Department of the Attorney-General, in November, had responded in court to SNC-Lavalin’s application for judicial review of the decision to not offer deferred prosecution. To most people, fighting an appeal would seem to be strong evidence of support for the initial decision leading to it.

Then he gave three arguments why the decision couldn’t be final. First, he argued, the decision hadn’t been put in writing and so could not have been final. However, never before had Wilson-Raybould discussed her decisions about prosecutions with the PM – in writing or otherwise. Butts offered no legal or logical argument made for why the situation should be different in the SNC-Lavalin case.

Second, Butts argued Wilson-Raybould’s decision couldn’t have been final because she had sought the December 5 meeting at which the SNC-Lavalin case was discussed. But Wilson-Raybould testified the purpose of the meeting had nothing to do with the SNC-Lavalin case – that was something Butts tagged on at the end of the meeting. For Butts to now use his unplanned intervention as evidence that the AG’s decision wasn’t final is not only nonsensical, it was an insult to the Justice Committee.

Third, Butts argued that no decision can be final because the public interest in a case constantly evolves. Deputy Minister of the Attorney-General Nathalie Drouin, in her testimony, agreed that a prosecutor must always be open to considering new public interest considerations – new facts or evidence that should be considered. When Butts was asked by NDP MP Murray Rankin to name any new facts or evidence that might have triggered a reconsideration of the AG’s decision, Butts could not name any.

None of the explanations offered by Butts to about his December 5 intervention have much credibility.

On December 17, according to Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, Butts told her chief of staff that any solution would require some interference. Butts told the Justice Committee he didn’t remember making the statement. Then he offered a sort-of denial, saying he didn’t believe he could have said that because he doesn’t use the word “solution.”

The former Attorney-General also told the Justice Committee the grounds on which she was being pushed to overturn the director’s decision would have been “unlawful” and therefore the pushes were inappropriate. The Criminal Code lists factors to consider and not consider when evaluating whether a deferred prosecution agreement is in the public interest. Economic interests are specifically excluded from consideration – exactly what Butts claims was motivating him.

The reasons for the removal of Wilson-Raybould as AG are important, and Butts provided an alternative theory to the idea that Wilson-Raybould was removed as punishment

According to Butts, the PM wanted to promote Jane Philpott, then Minister of Indigenous Services, to President of Treasury Board, the role vacated by Scott Brison. Butts argued the work at Indigenous Services was so important to Trudeau that they needed a person of Wilson-Raybould’s caliber to fill that hole – and that need was the motive for moving Wilson-Raybould out of Attorney-General, not the SNC-Lavalin case. But that logic is badly undercut by the fact than when Wilson-Raybould declined the Ministry, it was filled by Seamus O’Reagan, hardly a strong Minister.

Gerald Butts did not knock down Wilson-Raybould’s allegations. And it doesn’t get much more serious than politicians trying to cancel the corruption trial of corporate insider friends. If that was what the Trudeau government was attempting to do, Canadians need to know. The appropriate way to investigate would be through a public inquiry. If Trudeau won’t give us that, the work of the Justice Committee must go on.

 

Liberal signals suggest Butts’ testimony will hurt PM more

We really don’t know Gerald Butts’ motive for quitting as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. In his resignation letter he said it was to defend himself from Jody Wilson-Raybould’s assertions against him. But why he couldn’t do that as the PM’s employee isn’t evident.

He quit saying he did nothing wrong. But over the last 24 hours, signals from the Trudeau government suggest Butts’ testimony today will make things worse for the PM, not better.

Yesterday afternoon an anonymous Liberal source leaked a story to the CBC that the Prime Minister was considering a message of contrition to Canadians for his actions in the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

Of course the very idea that a person needs to consider whether he is contrite or not is odd — a person either is, or is not, and doesn’t need to consult strategists on this question, let alone leak this status of contrition-possible to the media.

Such contrition would also be at least six months late. On September 6 Ben Chin called Jessica Prince, telling her what terms SNC-Lavalin executives would accept, and starting a campaign by multiple Liberal cabinet ministers and staff to push Wilson-Raybould to override the prosecution for “unlawful” (Wilson-Raybould’s words) reasons. The former AG made it plain in her testimony that interference driven by Liberal electoral goals was improper because acting for those reasons would be illegal. The Criminal Code also, in addition to factors to be consider in determining whether a company qualifies for a DPA, explicitly disallows consideration of a DPA because of economic effects.

Yet this campaign by Liberals to aid SNC-Lavalin in an improper way continues to this day — you can watch it on any of the pundit shows — with a Liberal Minister yesterday saying SNC executives should get a DPA for explicitly illegal reasons and a Liberal backbencher arguing the executives were simply “entitled” to one.

But the contrition-unsure leak nonetheless suggests the PM is steeling for today’s testimony, realizing the only truthful testimony Butts can give will also be hurtful — the sort of hurt after which the only solution is public grovelling.

The Liberals have also issued a press advisory saying — surprise, today of all days — they have an announcement about Pharmacare. It’s an issue they’ve dilly-dallied on for three years, with their chief action being the appointment of a former Ontario Minister of the Ancien Regime — one particularly close to drug companies — to do a study on whether to squeeze drug companies for the benefit of Canadians.

Given that the Liberal-in-scandal is a wiley and wooly animal, willing to say and do anything to protect its God-given right to power, it is possible the Trudeau government has decided that Big Pharma needs to be a whipping boy for the sins we have been alerted to about Trudeau and his SNC-Lavalin connection. So who knows what will be announced — maybe even something that isn’t another Trudeau sell-out to corporate Canada at the expense of Canadians. We can only live in hope.

What is to be watched for today isn’t whether Butts can respond to the accusations of Wilson-Raybould. It’s whether he will be buried under questions about his relationship with SNC-Lavalin executives — back to his McGuinty days — including what their lobbyists asked for, what he promised and even which politicians and politicians were whispered to be named as taking pay-offs if SNC executives agreed to the scope of admissions it seems the prosecution was demanding — and Liberals and executives fighting.

Jody Wilson-Raybould isn’t on trial — this is an investigation into whether the Butts and other Liberals attempted to have the AG illegally fix a prosecution — that’s the sole focus and concern. Today, we need to keep our eyes on the prize.

On Venezuela, it’s Chrystia Freeland who’s out of step with allies – or in step with the wrong onesi

On Monday, the Trudeau government backed calls for the Venezuelan military to enter politics and choose the next President of Venezuela.

That hawkish call has put the Trudeau Liberals and their Foreign Affairs Minister, Chystia Freeland, out of step with many of Canada’s traditional allies.

Last Thursday, several European countries – Spain, France, Britain, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Netherlands and Sweden – established an international contact group to help find a way out of the Venezuelan crisis. That group has now been expanded to include Uruguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, Costs Rica and possibly Mexico.

The expanded group meets in Montevideo, Uruguay, on Thursday, February 7.

But Canada won’t be there. Chystia Freeland continues on her one-track military approach. Neither the European nations or the international contact group has endorsed Freeland’s call for a military change.

Different theories have been offered on the motive for Freeland’s position as foreign policy hawk.

It does duplicate the Conservative position, preventing any attack from Canada’s political right, an advantage in an election year. Some have suggested it may be aimed at proving Canada is not the national security risk Trump claimed when placing tariffs against our steel and aluminum. Others have offered that this get-tough look is a story to cover recent weakness on China and India. Or it may simply be that Freeland is a hawk who thinks military solutions are the stuff of foreign policy realists, and those working hard to join them.

Whatever the motive, Freeland’s plan heads down a dangerous path – one which could lead to bloody chaos, even civil war. Once fractured, the military could degrade into rival militias of the sort we’ve seen too often before.

No one can know how Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro would respond. And no one can doubt that Maduro has a significant political following – in society, the Venezuelan state and the armed forces. Mudaro’s party has held the presidency without interruption since 1998. His PSUV lost its National Assembly majority in 2015 for first time since 2000.

Meanwhile, Trump’s National Security Advisor and super-hawk John Bolton has been musing to Fox News about getting “American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela” and sending signals about moving troops into next-door Colombia. In this worrying context,  Freeland’s military call risks creating a lawless scramble for control of a petrostate. It is absolutely the wrong move.

In contrast with the Liberals and the Lima Group they set up in 2017, the New Democrats have been supportive of the European grouping and its evolution into the international contact group.

That support has continued even though the European Union last weekend voted to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as president, a step the NDP has not taken.

The Venezuelan episode has the eerie reminiscence of the Iraq invasion, with President George W. Bush, like Donald Trump now, threatening military action. And UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, like Freeland today, clearing the pathways.

Whether something hopeful can come from the international contact group meeting in Montevideo is hard to know. Unfortunately, despite the importance of the issue and countries participating, Canadian news reports have been scant leading up to the meeting. Hopefully there will be some reports from international media on the meeting communique, assuming there is one.

What’s worrying isn’t just that Canada won’t be with allies in Montevideo, hoping to find a way to peace. It’s that, Freeland, for whatever reason, has fallen into step with Trump, Bolsanaro and other hawks who are stuck on a single, dangerous military track.

PMO rewards McKenna’s mandate failure even as Wilson-Raybould demoted

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna was not a victim of PMO demotion in the cabinet shuffle held last Monday. But perhaps by any normal objective standard she should have been.

And McKenna’s treatment stands in marked contrast to that of former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who, in her long demotion letter last week, argued “there is very little, if anything, in my mandate letter we have not done or is not well under way to completing.”

ALSO: Wilson-Raybould posts demotion letter, says she spoke truth to power, gives no thanks to Trudeau

Yet the very top bullet of McKenna’s mandate letter was to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions, consistent with our international obligations,” a job at which, by objective standards, she is failing. An Environment Canada report released December 20 shows McKenna is now even further from reaching our international obligations than last year.

McKenna is supposed to be getting the Canadian economy on target to produce 517 megatons (or less) of carbon by 2030 — our United Nations obligation. But an Environment Canada report released last month not only projected Canada falling short of our 2030 obligation — it showed the gap widening, up from the 66 Mt shortfall projected in 2017 to a 79 Mt shortfall projected last month. We are going the wrong way.

McKenna’s failure may be her fault. Or perhaps not. Perhaps McKenna is failing to work effectively with her Ministry to find solutions. Perhaps she is failing to make the case at the Cabinet table. Or perhaps despite good Ministry work and strong cabinet presentations, the PMO has competing priorities. Perhaps as long as she keeps up appearances with inspiring tweets and soothing public words she can stick around — mandate letters about international obligations notwithstanding.

Politically, the problem is the Liberals’ usual cover-line for failure – “better than Harper!” — doesn’t work with climate change.

The Paris Accord targets are Harper’s targets. And when the climatic health of the plant is the issue, there’s no middle ground. Failure – big, medium or small – is still failure.

The result of McKenna’s failure is polarization — and not just on the climate change issue. Trudeau’s rushed approval of the Trans Mountain was shot down by the federal court of appeal due to a failure to properly consult and accommodate Indigenous people.

The Trudeau government’s climate change failure has fractured its internally inconsistent coalition. That fracturing is now playing out as people move to oppose Trudeau over both climate change and Indigenous title rights. Including, perhaps, at the cabinet table.