Meanwhile, in Canada…
by D.J. McGuire
As America careens into its Article 48 moment, a near-universal sentiment among the center-left — that at least democracy was functioning well north of us, in Canada — was shattered by the very man who fueled it for over three years: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
I’ll admit that I have never been a fan of Trudeau, so watching his political star fall dramatically just as an election is on the horizon (October) heartened me more than most — if not all — American Trump critics. That doesn’t change the fact that the Trudeau persona has been badly damaged.
It all started about a week ago, when the Globe and Maildropped a huge accusation regarding the Prime Minister and his former Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould (via Paul Wells of Macleans, still my favorite columnist in North America):
The story asserts, on the basis of unnamed sources, that Wilson-Raybould “came under heavy pressure to persuade the Public Prosecution Service of Canada” to cut a “deferred prosecution arrangement” with SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., the mammoth Montreal engineering and construction firm, to forestall a trial over corruption and fraud charges.
For the uninitiated, SNC-Lavalin is a major government contractor in Canada, headquartered in the province of Quebec, and under the legal microscope for bribing Qaddafi regime officials in Libya. Wells described the actions of the firm’s ex-CEO thusly: “If I may paraphrase, spraying money in every direction to grease whatever wheels needed greasing.”
When caught, SNC faced (Wells again) “the threat of never getting another federal contract again if the company continued to stink like a polecat.” Naturally, it loudly made sure everyone within range of its voices and donations would know that it would change its tune. Of course, those donations themselves also created trouble – to the tune of over $100,000 in campaign contributions that were illegal (most to the Liberals, the very party Trudeau leads).
Legalities aside, SNC still had friends in the Liberal Party, friends who were more than willing to go back on their word about putting an end to what we would call logrolling (and they call omnibus budget bills) for the purpose of putting “deferred prosecution arrangements” on the books as a potential out for the firm …
… except that the Director of Public Prosecutions (the civil servant in charge of this sort of thing) refused to let SNC have one of those (Wells).
That’s where the Attorney General (the DPP’s boss) and the Prime Minister (the AG’s boss) come in …
… or not, if you believed the PM’s assertions last week that nothing untoward happened. Never mind that he couldn’t say what actually happened, just that it was all above board, and the former AG would certainly agree — if she were allowed to talk, that is. No matter, even silent, she was still in Cabinet (albeit demoted to Veterans Minister), a trusted — and trusting — member of the team. Trudeau calmly noted that, “In our system of governance, her presence in cabinet should speak for itself.” (National Post).
Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned less than 24 hours later — and noted on the way out that she had lawyered up with a retired Supreme Court Justice. That spoke for itself. In the days since, Trudeau has gone from insisting she never gave any hint at feeling pressured to … all but admitted she told him she was feeling pressure (National Post).
In one of the most bizarre off-shoots, a desperate Trudeau tried to hint Wilson-Raybould would still be AG if not for an unrelated resignation in cabinet that caused a reshuffle. Why Wilson-Raybould had to be part of said reshuffle was anyone’s guess, but social media had a field day (same link, emphasis added):
It’s never good for a politician when they’re being laughed at. Justin Trudeau’s claim that Jody Wilson-Raybould would still be justice minister if Scott Brison hadn’t resigned from politics quickly became a social media meme.
“If Scott Brison had not stepped down, Erik Karlsson would still be an Ottawa Senator,” wrote one hockey fan.
Brison’s spouse, Max St. Pierre, joined in the fun. “It’s ok, I usually blame my husband for everything too,” he tweeted.
The internet nearly blew up under the pressure of political nerds pointing out that Brison leaving his job as Treasury Board president did not necessarily mean Trudeau had to shuffle Wilson-Raybould. Rather, it offered him an opportunity to move a minister who was proving too independent for the prime minister’s liking.
Even in normal times, this would be both a serious crisis for Prime Minister Trudeau and an opportunity for his critics to enjoy laughs at his expense. However, these aren’t normal times. Canada has adopted a fixed-election law which mandates an election by October of this year. So far, only one poll has been in the field and reported out since the scandal blew … and it puts the opposition Conservatives up five points (Hill Times).
Before this year, the number of one-term majority governments tossed out by the voters was exactly one — and that was in the nineteenthcentury. Before last week, the idea that Trudeau would be turfed from power was nothing but a fevered Tory dream.
But as Harold Wilson supposedly said, a week is a long time in politics.