Jody Wilson-Raybould told Elizabeth May no one broke the criminal code and “that is no small fact … lost on most” so far?

Mar 1st, 2019 | By Randall White | Category: In Brief

“Happier times: Jody Wilson-Raybould, then the federal Liberal candidate for Vancouver Granvlle, talks with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau in 2014, prior to the party's election success in 2015. VANCOUVER SUN.”

[UPDATE ON ELIZABETH MAY’S MARCH 1 DEMANDS BELOW. UPDATED AGAIN MARCH 10]. What it still seems most sensible to just call the SNC-Lavalin Affair 2019 (as in, eg, the Dreyfus Affair long ago in France) would be altogether beyond reason for many of us, if our only sources were the remaining mainstream media empires in Canada today — caught up in various almost alarming panic modes and navel gazings.

Fortunately in this present age of high communications technology in the global village we also have so-called “social media” like Twitter.

This “we’re-all-journalists-now” alternative to the MSM in the so-called “blogosphere” certainly has its own dangers. Travellers on these routes must proceed with care and caution.

On the other hand, I’m finding Twitter a more honest and reliable and even congenial (well, sometimes) source of helpful democratic debate on SNC-Lavalin than our current Canadian MSM — now much less than they used to be in so many ways.

(I of course sympathize with the struggles of the traditional mass media today — and the challenges of those lucky enough to still have MSM jobs. And one of more than a few pieces I actually have found helpful is Neil Macdonald’s “Gerald Butts was done in, at least partially, by the ethos of identity politics … that he himself helped create around our prime minister,” on the CBC News website, February 19. But too much of what’s appeared lately in the old-school press and especially on cable networks I used to admire strikes me as just another part of the problem.)

Global Corporate headquarters of SNC-Lavalin on René-Lévesque Blvd, in Montreal. According to Wikipedia : “The firm has 50,000 employees worldwide with offices in over 50 countries and operations in over 160 countries.” It also has, according to its own website, “8,762 employees across Canada as of January 8, 2018.”

Before listing my current top 4 twitter tweets on the SNC-Lavalin Affair 2019, in the immediate wake of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s February 27 appearance before the parliamentary committee studying the matter, I should also note that I have carefully read Ms Wilson-Raybould’s prepared statement to the committee.

I watched some of her further appearances on TV. I once studied Canadian government and politics at university, long, long ago. I have worked in and around federal, provincial, and municipal governments in Canada (and the United States) for some five decades now. (And I can hardly believe this strange length of time myself, in my inevitable senior moments today!).

All this has conditioned my own personal selection of top 4 twitter tweets (or tweet clusters, as it were) on the SNC-Lavalin Affair 2019, as of the first still wintry day of March, at the edge of one great lakeshore gateway to the northern woods :

Intolerant Centrist @lisa_m_228 : “I am NOT the tolerant left. I say stuff, I curse, I'm not sorry and you liking it is the least of my concerns.”

(4) Intolerant Centrist on Elizabeth May : no laws broken. The Intolerant Centrist — aka “@lisa_m_228 … I am NOT the tolerant left. I say stuff, I curse, I’m not sorry and you liking it is the least of my concerns” — offered two tweets that made a lot of sense to me just after11:30 PM ET, February 27.

The first : “[Green Party leader] Elizabeth May asked the most important question when she asked Wilson-Raybould if she felt anyone broke the criminal code. Wilson-Raybould responded no. That is no small fact, and I think it has been lost on most.”

The second: “Elizabeth May also pointed out the system actually insulates the PM from crossing legal lines. The Clerk is there to hold them to the law, along with the A.G. Wilson-Raybould testified the Clerk never intervened or warned the PM that any legal lines were crossed.”

(And to see the rest of one particular concerned citizen’s Top 4 tweet clusters on our latest Canadian craziness click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below!)

(3) Anne with an “e” : both are telling truth. Anne with an “e” is a “Lawyer, poli.scientist, criminologist, a.k.a. hell-bent feminist. Slayer of sexism in media and politics. Resident of ‘big, cold California’ (aka Canada).”

Anne with an "e" : “Lawyer, poli.scientist, criminologist, a.k.a. hell-bent feminist. Slayer of sexism in media and politics. Resident of “big, cold California” (aka Canada).”

Just after 5 PM ET on February 27, Ms Anne tweeted that when she looks at SNC-Lavalin, “ I believe @Puglaas [ie Jody Wilson-Raybould] is telling the truth. That she felt the decision was hers & political consultation amounted to interference … I also believe that PMO is telling the truth. That they felt the decision required consideration of jobs at stake & consultation wasn’t interference.”

An accompanying thread to this tweet has much of interest — a lot of which, intriguingly enough, seems to come from women. A so-called donna flick, eg, quickly responded to Anne with an “e” : “You’re right, she is telling ‘her’ truth. Unfortunately, her truth was (using her favourite word) inappropriate under the circumstances and has caused her party and our country a great deal of unnecessary stress and confusion.”

Just after 8 AM ET on February 29 the pollster Bruce Anderson retweeted  Anne with an “e”’s views on truth and added : “Here’s a take that caught my eye. JWR wanted to stop a conversation she felt was inappropriate and others wanted to start one they felt was entirely legitimate.”

(2) Justin Trudeau probably did make a mistake appointing Ms Wilson-Raybould to cabinet in the first place? Bryan Leblanc — who is, I should and do confess, a Liberal communications specialist with a track record in the former Wynne government of Ontario — has drawn to my and other Twitter habitués’ attention a series of February 27 and 28 tweets from a Nancy Eaton, who describes herself as a “Proud Progressive Canadian with West Coast Roots and Global Awareness,” now resident in Ontario.

Nancy Eaton : “Proud Progressive Canadian with West Coast Roots and Global Awareness.” Ontario, Canada.

Ms Eaton alludes to “my take now that we have heard JWR’s perspective.”  And she begins with “JWR confirmed she was not directed by the PM or his government to enter into a DPA agreement. JWR confirmed nothing illegal occurred.” (DPA here refers to a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, a new legal arrangement bequeathed by the Harper government, which is what SNC-Lavalin was asking for, to secure continuing eligibility for government contract work in Canada.)

Nancy Eaton goes on to suggest what she calls some “facts that contradict JWR narrative.” An example that especially impressed me is “there is no expertise on DPAs within the Ministry of Justice since it is a new tool/law in Canada. JWR appeared to take offence at the idea that someone would be more qualified to review the case than her yet she only had 4 years of experience working in the Vancouver DTES Office (drug crimes etc) as a junior prosecutor, in addition to her role within the BC FN Org. It is my contention that JWR & PMO overestimated her legal acumen, communication, mgmt & political skills.”

For me this just underlines how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (like the rest of us) is far from perfect, and sometimes makes mistakes. He took a chance (as I’d guess he did know) appointing a relatively inexperienced lawyer like Jody Wilson-Raybould Attorney General of Canada. And that has proved a mistake.

In terms of my own experience, eg, I would have thought a cabinet minister who wanted to keep his or her job would not talk face to face with the prime minister as Ms Wilson-Raybould has quite proudly told us she did. To me this is just a point of democratic etiquette in getting things done. In our parliamentary democracy the prime minister is supposed to be the person who can command the support of the branch of parliament elected by the people of Canada. (See Walter Bagehot’s classic on The English Constitution for all this.)

And, for those who work with and for the prime minister at any level, that deserves more respect — if not exactly agreement — than Ms Wilson-Raybould seems willing to acknowledge (even or especially when you think you’re right and the PM is wrong!)

(1) My most objective best guess right now : Justin Trudeau will finally show us what he’s made of, yet again. I’m already going on far longer than I first intended on all this (as happens too often no doubt).

Snow in Ottawa February 2019. Is it driving some residents crazier than usual?

I’ll try to just quickly acknowledge that both the Conservatives (and the New Democrats it seems), in the ancient but now dysfunctional Canadian tradition of the Pacific Scandal, are pretending that some appalling criminal act has taken place in SNC-Lavalin 2019, for which the Liberals must be punished in the forthcoming October 21, 2019 federal election.

I am not now and never have been a member of any political party. Like many who have worked in and around governments for a long time, I like to think I have friends in and out of all the major Canadian parties. But I do think that, for all its faults (and I’d agree they’re much more obvious now they were in, say, 2016), the Trudeau Liberals are still offering better — and even far better — government for the times we’re in today than any of the realistic alternatives.

So I’m suddenly ending with two quick and what could only half-correctly be taken as overtly partisan political conclusions. (This started as a Top 5 Tweets. But it could go on forever. And that’s yet another part of the problem.)

Rob Silver : “I talk baseball on Launch Angle podcast. I write about baseball at Baseball Prospectus. 2016 NFBC Main Event winner. I talk politics on CBC’s Power and Politics.” Toronto/Ottawa. Also husband of Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford.

I start with a tweet by Rob Silver. He describes himself as a baseball writer who also talks politics on the CBC sometimes. He is also the husband of the Katie Telford for works for Justin Trudeau’s PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) in a prominent position. (I should confess that my own long government experience has typically taken place much further down the food chain, and I know no one involved in any way in SNC-Lavalin, or as young as anyone working seriously in Ottawa now, I think.)

Whatever you might feel about Mr Silver or his wife, it seems to me that there was considerable real-world wisdom in a “political observation” he tweeted just after 9:30 PM ET on February 27 : “There are a lot of people publicly writing PMJT’s political obituary today. It’s not the first time this has happened. Betting against Justin Trudeau has been a losing bet over his political career … He usually does well when underestimated.”

I could say that I have almost been “directed” to end my too wordy reflections here with a tweet from my fellow counterweights editors, from very early on the morning of February 28 (when the office junior who looks after these things is still awake, possibly in some bar downtown). But that wouldn’t be entirely correct. It would only be one kind of truth.

Counterweights : “Canadian Political Magazine. Democracy in North America. Peace (and free trade) in the Global Village. Hats off to #TheResistance in USA today.” Toronto, Ontario.

In any case this concluding tweet was advanced by the editors in response to a slightly earlier tweet from the (sometimes not entirely crazy?) conservative (and Conservative) “Senior janitor, vomitorium … Toronto, Ontario,” Stephen Taylor : “Three types of PM in modern Canadian history … Long term, shrewd, ruthless, professional: Harper, Chretien, Mulroney … Short term bumbling disasters: John Turner/Joe Clark/Kim Campbell … Mid term catastrophes: Paul Martin and…… Justin Trudeau?”

My fellow counterweights editors retweeted Mr. Taylor’s tweet with the following comment : “This leaves out Pierre Trudeau, who almost lost his second election, but then went on to win again, actually lose once, then win one last time, to defeat the first Quebec referendum and finally “patriate” the Canadian Constitution … like father, like ??”

PS : A Coda on Elizabeth May and Frank Graves’s latest polling. That was going to be it. But this just in “A standing ovation from the opposition parties for @ElizabethMay, who demands action over the SNC Lavalin affair … This needs to happen now  … Will the Prime Minister Fire the Clerk of the Privy Council?”

My sad conclusion on this front must be that like so many caught up in this current Ottawa craze, Ms May seems to have let her recent celebrity for her more temperate remarks go to her head.

At a BC Lions football game in August during singing of O Canada, far away from the February snow in Ottawa.

Her one piece of good advice for the Trudeau Liberals, as the prime minister reflects on further steps, may be to tread lightly on Ms Wilson-Raybould’s future. Some on Twitter have suggested she’ll cross to the Conservatives. But there are good reasons of many different sorts (including her own) for staying Liberal. If she’s going to cross anywhere the NDP would seem a better guess. Ms. May’s own party is no doubt even a prospect! (And her call for firing the Clerk of the Privy Council shows that even she is prepared to stoop to conquer, when opportunity knocks.)

But Twitter does also suggest that Jody Wilson-Raybould has a constituency out in today’s real world of politics. The fact that she didn’t resign over this issue (whatever it really is) until quite late in the day suggests she may be not altogether unwilling to learn from her mistakes as a tyro player in the game, like everyone else (including of course tyro prime ministers).

At the same time again, note this 10:25 AM ET March 1 tweet from the pollster Frank Graves : “New polling from last night shows the same thing as all of our polling since this affair began: no effect, zero, nada. At some point we need to ponder how such a feeding frenzy of media interest in this affair hasn’t moved the dials one bit. Maybe, citizens have other priorities?”

Here’s hoping that is the simplest and plainest truth of all.

UPDATE MARCH 10 : For a more recent report by Randall White on this issue see “What Will SNC-Lavalin Mean for Ontario In the Federal Election?” on the Ontario News Watch site.

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