Corruption, the exercise of official powers without regard for the public good, exacts a monstrous cost on multiple levels.
Michael Harris is at it again, casting bones and reading entrails, Justin Trudeau's this time. He writes it's not looking good for Canada's prime minister.
None of this needed to happen.
The PM could have admitted to a terrible judgement call two months ago when the story of his interference in a criminal case broke in the Globe and Mail. He could have apologized to the former attorney general and let justice run its course.
Instead, the prime minister and his PMO have staggered from one communications disaster to the next as their story kept changing. Along the way, four very senior public figures, two Liberal cabinet ministers, the clerk of the privy council, and the PM’s principal secretary have bitten the dust. Now Wilson-Raybould and Philpott are tossed off the stern of the party’s boat.
[Yesterday's] ethical ineptitude was preceded by another — the PMO and Privy Council Office’s reaction to the “secret” tape that the former attorney general made of a call with the clerk of the privy council. It was the death march of absurdity.
The clerk, Michael Wernick, would have Canadians believe that he never briefed the prime minister on what was arguably the hottest file on the government’s radar — the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin for bribery and corruption in Libya. If true, Wernick makes Rip Van Winkle look hyperactive.
Wernick’s explanation for this comic narrative is that it was Dec. 19, 2018, and “everyone went on holidays.” As every clerk of the privy council knows, the PMO never sleeps. And as Wernick may or may not know, Trudeau remained in Ottawa until he visited the troops in Mali on Dec. 22. The PM did not go on holiday until Dec. 23 that year.Besides, there are Wernick’s own words on the Raybould tape: “Well, I am going to have to report back before he leaves.” Nowhere did he say “after the holidays.”
Wernick’s account was adopted with slight modifications by the PMO. The office claimed that Trudeau had not been fully aware of what had been said in the conversation between the clerk and Wilson-Raybould. You might call that implausible deniability. The weasel word here is “fully.”
Now that the Wernick tape is public, it is obvious that it would have taken a five-second briefing to convey to the PM Wilson-Raybould’s bottom line: She was not happy about the perceived pressure, and she was not going to change her mind.
...The plain words on the tape explode the heart of the PM’s defence in this story. Trudeau had maintained that if his ex-minister had had a problem with how the government was handling the SNC-Lavalin case, she should have come to him. The “if only I’d known” gambit.
The tape makes crystal clear that Wilson-Raybould did exactly that with the clerk. In fact, Wernick tells Wilson-Raybould on the tape that he would be reporting their conversation to the PM.
The crowning irony of the Wernick tape? On it, the clerk says that the prime minister still thinks there are lawful things Raybould can do to square away the SNC-Lavalin case without a criminal trial.
Think about that. The PM giving legal advice to the very person who, as chief-law-officer of the Crown, is supposed to be giving advice to him. She, the attorney general and lawyer who had already decided the matter; he, the prime minister and former teacher, who wanted that changed.
Besides, Trudeau didn’t have to wait for the briefing that Wernick claims he never gave to know where Wilson-Raybould stood on the SNC-Lavalin case.
Five days before she “took the extraordinary and otherwise inappropriate step” of recording what she believed would be an “inappropriate conversation” with the clerk of the privy council, the attorney general wrote a letter to the prime minister himself. It was a reply to an earlier letter from the PM written on Dec. 6, and received at the Justice Department on Dec. 7.
Trudeau’s letter to his then-attorney general included a copy of a letter that Neil Bruce, SNC-Lavalin’s CEO, had sent to the PM. In that letter, Bruce complained that his company had not been granted negotiations for remediation under Canada’s new Deferred Prosecution Agreement law. He asked for a meeting with the PM at his “earliest convenience.”
It is easy to understand why the CEO would write such a letter. If the company were convicted in the current court case, it could face a 10-year ban on bidding on federal contracts in Canada.
So SNC-Lavalin’s interest in appealing to the PM is obvious. But with a criminal case before the courts, why would Trudeau forward that letter to the attorney general? Did he really think it was okay to personally lean in with the full weight of his office on due process?
After “closely” reading the PM’s letter, Wilson-Raybould replied to him on Dec. 14, 2018. It was an attempt to save a puppy running loose on the Trans Canada.
The real face of this "decent man."
What should bother Canadians about the PM’s take on this matter is that his stand on SNC-Lavalin is not just a one-off. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was the first federal leader to argue that Trudeau is not the champion of the middle class he claims to be, but rather a consistent corporate cheerleader. He talks the talk for the environment, Indigenous rights, and human rights; but for Big Business, he walks the walk.
Canadians saw Trudeau the corporate cheerleader in Houston, where he told a group of Texas oilmen that no country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and leave it there.
They saw the same thing when the PM dismissed the solid opposition of coastal British Columbians to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, and instead paid the Texas oil company $4.3 billion for this leaky relic and vowed to get the expansion to tidewater.
They saw it again on Canada’s East Coast, where Trudeau denied that Ottawa had environmental jurisdiction over a project that plans to dump toxic pollutants from a kraft pulp mill owned by Northern Pulp into prime fishing grounds in the Northumberland Strait.
And now, they see it once more with the PM and his minions interfering in an active criminal case involving SNC-Lavalin. That violates the heart of the judicial system: the complete independence of the prosecution service under the law.
...It was the former attorney-general, Wilson-Raybould, who protected the government from the potentially deadly charge of interfering in a criminal case the way potentates do in corrupt Third-World countries. It was the PM and his over-zealous operatives who put the government in jeopardy by trying to violate the independence of the prosecution service, and arguably obstructing justice.
Yet not a peep out of the Liberal lemmings about the PM tampering with the criminal justice process. Instead, general apoplexy about the former attorney general having recorded a conversation with the clerk of the privy council without his knowledge. That is like screeching about a leaky faucet while the house is on fire.Now, before you "Liberal lemmings" launch into your usual tirade about "Con media," this is The Tyee, not the National Post. And Michael Harris is no Con stooge either. If you've got a problem, it's yours and it's the way you recoil from the truth.