Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday February 9, 2019
Trudeau is lending credibility to SNC-Lavalin pressure allegations
It’s been a burning question for weeks in politics — what did Jody Wilson-Raybould do to get bounced out of her job as justice minister in Justin Trudeau’s cabinet?
Well, now we know one theory about her firing offence: an alleged refusal to do a legal favour for SNC-Lavalin, the Quebec firm with long and lucrative ties to the federal Liberals.
And so, the once-burning question in the capital’s chattering corridors of power is now a flaming bag of trouble sitting on the very doorstep of the Prime Minister’s Office. In the process, the biggest victim of Trudeau’s relatively minor cabinet shuffle last month is now perceived as its loudest whistleblower, whether she embraces that new role or not.
Not that Wilson-Raybould, now veterans affairs minister, was particularly loud on Thursday. In fact, she didn’t have a thing to say in the wake of the Globe and Mail’s explosive story of how the former justice minister reportedly stood in the way of a deal to let SNC-Lavalin detour around prosecutions that could have blocked it from receiving government contracts for years to come.
Wilson-Raybould’s silence, however, was far louder than the prime minister’s carefully chosen words of denial, about how his office had not “directed” the former minister to give the go-ahead to what’s known as a “deferred prosecution” of SNC-Lavalin.
Her nondenial denial, first reported in The Globe and not withdrawn on Thursday, fairly yelled in support of spirited opposition cries in support of her alleged refusal to play ball with the PMO and its cosy corporate friend in Quebec. Wilson-Raybould is now being cast as a hero who “spoke truth to power” — even if, technically speaking, it was more like a whisper to a newspaper.
Pro tip: “No comment” only works as a clever misdirection in fictionalized political journalism. In real life, it is often regarded as confirmation. That’s certainly how Wilson-Raybould’s failure to comment was being interpreted in government and opposition circles on Thursday.
Speaking of no comment, Trudeau hasn’t really explained why he plucked Wilson-Raybould out of her post as Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister and put her in charge of a department where many political careers go to die. (Continued: Hamilton Spectator)
Update, Sept. 11, 2021…
The Prime Minister seemed to be listening intently. “I never directed,” he said, referring to interfering in my role as the attorney-general in relation to the SNC-Lavalin prosecution. His public lines started coming, which were designed to deny responsibility and culpability. There are differences between pressure and direction, he emphasized. We talked about our soon to be infamous meeting with the clerk of the Privy Council on September 17, 2018, where I had asked him directly, when SNC-Lavalin was raised, “Are you politically interfering with my role, my decision as the attorney-general? I would strongly advise against it.” He repeated in that airport room that I was not shuffled from being minister of justice and attorney-general because of SNC-Lavalin. To which I thought to myself, Oh yes, I remember Scott Brison resigned from Treasury, so, of course, you then had to move the attorney-general and two other ministers and elevate two MPs to fill one spot. Good grief. (Excerpt printed in the Globe & Mail, from ‘Indian’ in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power by Jody Wilson-Raybould)