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 | 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 ; AND YET AGAIN MARCH 30 : For March 30 update scroll straight to end of this page — where there are also now updates for March 31 and April 2]. 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.”Â  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 : Cw editors note — 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.

RW UPDATE MARCH 30 : Two polls released March 28 make altogether clear that L’Affaire SNC-Lavalin has finally done greater immediate damage to the Trudeau Liberals’ fortunes than I (and pollster Frank Graves and others) over-optimistically imagined back on March 1.

In an Ipsos poll as reported by Global News : “If an election were held tomorrow, the Conservatives would receive 40 per cent of the vote among decided voters, according to the poll of 1,002 Canadians conducted between March 25 and 27 … The Liberals would receive 30 per cent of the vote … the NDP would receive 21 per cent and the Bloc Quebecois five per cent.”

According to a much larger Angus Reid poll also released March 28 (5,289 Canadians), and apparently covering a comparable time period, Conservatives are at 37%, Liberals 28%, NDP 17%, Greens 8%, Bloc 5%, and M. Bernier’s People’s Party 4%.

In both polls Justin Trudeau’s personal popularity has clearly taken a substantial hit as well. As Angus Reid puts it : “More Canadians have a favourable view of CPC leader Andrew Scheer (44% do) and New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh (39%) than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (36%).”

UPDATE TO MARCH 30 UPDATE, MARCH 31 : A new Mainstreet poll out today (“conducted between March 19th and the 25th“) shows the Liberals  in rather better if still bad enough shape than the Ipsos and Angus Reid polls suggest.  See “Scheer Conservatives Take Lead: CPC 37, LPC 35, NDP 12, GREEN 8.”

According to Quito Maggi, President and CEO of Mainstreet Research : ““The good news for Scheer is that Conservatives have posted gains in every region… But the good news for the Liberals is that despite the drops in support they are still leading in Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces … If an election were held today with these numbers, it would be a minority. The only question is which party would win.”

FURTHER POLLING UPDATE APRIL 2 : The Nanos Weekly Tracking report released today has still better numbers for the Trudeau Liberals (who have also, as of around 6 PM ET, finally expelled Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from their caucus) :

“The latest Nanos federal ballot tracking has the Conservatives at 35.1 per cent, followed by the Liberals at 34.6 per cent, the NDP at 16.6 percent, the BQ at 4.4 per cent, the Greens at 8.1 per cent and the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) at 0.5 per cent … Nanos tracking has Trudeau as the preferred choice as PM at 31.1 per cent of Canadians followed by Scheer (26.7%), Singh (7.8%), May (7.6%) and Bernier (2.7%). Twenty three per cent of Canadians were unsure whom they preferred.”

1. Prime minister under some stress

In the TV clips I see PM Trudeau is clearly enough under some stress. It shows in such incidents as his recent no doubt somewhat smart-ass “thanks for your donation” comment to departing Indigenous protesters on the Grassy Narrows issue at a Liberal public fund-raiser.

A few days ago at lunch in the suburban Greater Toronto Area I even heard reports on growing negative feelings about Pierre (and Margaret) Trudeau’s eldest son, in such diverse places as Vancouver and Montreal.

Yet in the Canadian Twitterverse, from what I see in my daily visits at any rate, there is equally clearly still substantial support for the leader of what some have called the most progressive government in the western world today. (With due allowance, eg, for Jacinda Ardern’s regime in much less populous and geographically vast but still remarkable New Zealand.)

For many of the prime minister’s fans, he continues to handle himself well and in ways they like and admire. And there are now at least the beginnings of a more complex and almost certainly more realistic narrative around the adventures of Ms Wilson Raybould and Ms Philpott, in which PM Trudeau could finally re-emerge as the most admirable public figure.

2. My guess still that PM Trudeau will finally squeak through in October

Of course, opposition critics, critical journalists, and critical voters will laugh and/or cry. And with many voters on edge for various good and bad reasons right now, things could turn out very badly for Justin Trudeau and what continues to seem to me (as to many others), whatever else, a quite good Canadian federal government, as such things go nowadays around the global village. (And certainly better than any likely or even unlikely alternative.)

Just look at what happened to Kathleen Wynne’s quite progressive Liberal government in Ontario. “History has many cunning passages” (the very conservative TS Eliot). And sometimes so many people want to make the same mistake that it becomes inevitable (especially in a democracy where you can win a governing majority of seats in parliament with around 40% of the popular vote).

Time will tell, as it always does. Justin Trudeau is, I agree, being challenged by fortune at the moment. (Not at all justly or fairly in my own opinion, but that is of course beside the point. And any long political career will be full of such challenges, finally successfully met.)

My guess with the end of March 2019 in sight is still that our prime minister will  finally show those among the great majority of the Canadian people who are not already dead-set against him that he has enough of the right stuff to at least scrape by with, say, a slender minority government in the federal election on October 21, 2019.

3. Conservatives also ahead of Liberals in polls at this point in 2015 federal campaign

I have two further quick thoughts for now in support of my still current guess that PM Justin Trudeau will finally survive, and even possibly live to rise again. To start with, at this time in 2015, with the last federal election on October 19, 2015 still almost seven months away, the Conservatives were also ahead of the Liberals (and the New Democrats) in the opinion polls.

On March 24, 30, and 31 in 2015, eg, the Harper Conservatives were 3.3%, 3.9%, and 4.3% ahead of the Trudeau Liberals.

This is not as great a lead as the Conservatives have in the late March 2019 Ipsos and Angus Reid polls. In an April 24, 2015 Abacus data poll, however, the Conservatives were at 36% and the Liberals at 28% – which is quite close to the Angus Reid poll released on March 28, 2019!

It wasn’t until October 11, 2015 that the Trudeau Liberals seized the lead they held without further challenge until the October 19 election.

4. Pierre Trudeau almost lost his second election in 1972, which led to “Liberal-NDP” minority government 1972—74

My second concluding thought here is that Justin Trudeau’s father in fact almost lost his second election in 1972.

To quote the somewhat learned person I know best, various “innovations” of Pierre Trudeau’s “first Liberal government [elected in 1968] were not immediately popular in many parts of the country – from official bilingualism on. The long postwar quarter-century of buoyant economic growth in places like Canada was also approaching less promising directions … .”

In “the federal election Pierre Trudeau called for October 30, 1972 … [f]ormer Nova Scotia premier Robert Stanfield’s Conservatives almost but not quite beat the Trudeau Liberals … But it was David Lewis’s New Democrats who wound up with the balance of power in parliament.”

The “number-of-seats result between the Liberals and … Conservatives was so close that it wasn’t clear just who had ‘won’ on election night. The next morning … the Liberals had 109 seats with more than 38% of the cross-country popular vote. The Conservatives had 107 seats with 35% of the vote.

“Meanwhile the federal Social Credit party under Réal Caouette took 15 seats in Quebec. The New Democrats under the new leadership of David Lewis – running against what he memorably characterized as “corporate welfare bums” – won a record 31 seats with almost 18% of the cross-Canada vote. And the Trudeau Liberals remained in office for the next 20 months, under what might be characterized as a de facto or informal “coalition” or at least co-operation agreement with David Lewis’s NDP.”

History does not repeat itself, of course. Justin Trudeau is not his father, and so forth. But it won’t be too surprising if he only manages a minority government, dependent on the New Democrats (or the Greens possibly?), on October 21, 2019.

Meanwhile, there are various new (if not at all very interesting) SNC-Lavalin issues gurgling in the media. I append my own key current list below.

I may have more to say later in a proper new posting on this entire sad and sorry subject. But I seriously hope that this update to my second stab at making sense of something that, to me in any case, fundamentally makes very little sense as any kind of big public concern, will prove as much as is at all called for between now and October 21. (While agreeing that, the universe being as it does seem to be at the moment, this may just prove at least a bit over-optimistic all over again.)


MAR 30 – 3 interesting twists Wilson-Raybould’s new evidence reveals about the SNC-Lavalin controversy.

MAR 29 – A lawyer surreptitiously and, in her own words, “inappropriately” tape records her client’s obvious surrogate.

MAR 29 – My respect for our national commentariat is sorely diminished in this entire affair.

MAR 29 – Maybe @Puglaas is not so interested in following the law & has her eye on a  bigger prize?

MAR 29 – Pressure building in Liberal caucus to eject Wilson-Raybould, Philpott.

MAR 29 – New Privy Council clerk to take over from Wernick on April 19.

MAR 29 – PM wanted SNC-Lavalin deal ‘one way or another,’ Wernick told Wilson-Raybould in secretly recorded call.

MAR 28 – SNC-Lavalin warned of U.S. move, slashing workforce if no remediation deal, documents show.

MAR 28 – Wrongfully convicted man’s case sat on Wilson-Raybould’s desk for months.

MAR 28 – SNC-Lavalin’s legal woes are putting a $500M federal defence contract at risk.

MAR 25 – At this point, the Philpott-Wilson-Raybould end game is obvious – destroy Trudeau.

MAR 25 – Anyone else thinking that what we thought was l’affaire SNCLavalin is actually the Kinsella-orchestrated Raybould/Philpott/Fife stitch-up?

MAR 25 – Sources say Trudeau rejected Wilson-Raybould’s conservative pick for high court.

MAR 23 – Is This The Real Reason JWR and Philpott Are Attacking Trudeau?

MAR 23 – Joly joins growing list pointing to House as place to air remaining SNC-Lavalin information.

MAR 23 – ‘Put up or shut up’: Liberal MP challenges Philpott and Wilson-Raybould over SNC-Lavalin.

MAR 22 – Trudeau adds new caucus-PMO liaison.

MAR 22 – Wilson-Raybould to provide emails, texts and written statement on SNC-Lavalin affair.

MAR 22 – Former cabinet ministers have Justin Trudeau in their sights.

MAR 21 – Philpott and Wilson-Raybould can speak freely on SNC-Lavalin in Commons, says former clerk.

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