Thursday March 7, 2019
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday March 7, 2019
Gerald Butts’ testimony couldn’t save Trudeau’s skin, but the rest of us will be fine
The flag is still flying on government buildings. There are no troops in the streets. The CBC is still broadcasting and the House of Commons committees are still functioning. Mail is still being delivered, and all those other little things Canadians take for granted are still being attended to. They carry on in their delightfully banal ways despite an Ipsos-Reid poll’s troubling finding that two-thirds of Canadians say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has lost the moral authority to govern.
That Canadian democracy is still functioning is worth pointing out, given the lightning strikes and the rolling thunder accompanying the SNC-Lavalin bribery-case revelations. It is more than worrisome that despite their loudest protests to the contrary, the bigshots in Trudeau’s inner circle do not hold the foundational democratic principle of the rule of law to be especially sacrosanct after all. With all the cabinet resignations and committee-hearing drama, and the public astonishment with the creepiness of the whole thing, 73 per cent of Liberal voters, even, say the RCMP should be brought in to sort things out.
Blame the mainstream media generally, or even specifically The Globe and Mail, which broke the story a month ago, all you like. Recite as accurately and loudly as you please from the Liberal party handbook’s provisions on “jobs for the middle class and people working hard to join it.” The slightest hint that this thematic talking point is being deployed as a justification for monkeying around with judicial independence will be seen by reasonable people as fatally self-incriminating. But go right ahead.
These prevarications were not what the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights heard on Wednesday morning from Gerald Butts, the principal secretary to Justin Trudeau, and Trudeau’s dear friend for three decades, who resigned three weeks ago after having found himself a central character in the whole drama. In his long-awaited testimony, Butts insisted there was no improper pressure applied to attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, at least not intentionally, and that all that was being asked of her was that a “second opinion” might be sought on the propriety of a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin, instead of a criminal prosecution. An eminent jurist might be consulted. Or perhaps a panel of jurists.
When Butts talked about the 9,000 SNC-Lavalin jobs that may or may not be at stake in the case, he spoke as a Cape Bretoner, from a family of miners. He spoke with his heart and his guts. As for his account of his interactions with Wilson-Raybould, and his take on the various communications and encounters the Prime Minister’s Office had with Wilson-Raybould on the SNC-Lavalin file, the most generous reading would be that it’s all been one big horrible misunderstanding.
Whether this repairs any of the damage done to Team Trudeau cannot yet be known, but that Ipsos-Reid poll was concluded even before Treasury Board president Jane Philpott resigned from cabinet on Monday. Her explanation: “Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised.” Set your hair on fire if you must, but Philpott’s view is in complete agreement with the opinion Ipsos-Reid attributes to the overwhelming majority of Canadians. (Continued: National Post)