Opinion-Policy Nexus

Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
Parliament Buildings

My Dear Prime Minister,

You’ve got yourself and your government into a pretty pickle, haven’t you, Sire?

Just when the universe was unfolding the way your father said it would, just when your Liberals were on a nice roll to re-election in October, this accursed SNC-Lavalin business had to rise up and bite you in the credibility.

More Canadians, it seems, believe Jody Wilson-Raybould when your former Justice Minister says you and the bright lights in your PMO subjected her to “inappropriate” pressure to drop the criminal prosecution of SNC than believe you when you say there was debate, for sure, and  maybe even pressure, but nothing inappropriate took place.

JWR matters. She presents herself as representing some of your highest values: the rule of law, the equality of women, reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians, transparency in government, and truth-telling. It doesn’t matter whether “my truth” – as she calls her account of the pressure she experienced – is accurate in every detail; chances are, it is not. It also doesn’t matter that the decision she defended – to prosecute SNC – may have been the wrong one; a reasoned case can be made that a negotiated settlement would have been the way to go in the first place.

What does matter is that Wilson-Raybould has the high ground. The public – or that portion that is paying attention – sees her as a defender of political principle, while in their eyes you, Prime Minister, are indulging in political expediency.

You are being accused of arrogance. You have no bigger fan than the Toronto Star, yet that newspaper devoted a full page on Monday to an analysis that linked your handling of the SNC controversy to the arrogance of the Louis St. Laurent Liberals in the 1956 pipeline debate, a controversy that led to a minority Progressive Conservative government under John Diefenbaker in the 1957 election.

Some, perhaps many, Liberals fear they are facing a similar fate. So, what do you, their leader, do to reassure them, strengthen their resolve, and avoid the ultimate indignity of losing office to Andrew Scheer, a man so many Liberals regard as an empty suit with dimples?

I know you have been bombarded with free advice from many directions. All I can offer is my two-cents worth.

First, get rid of the “strategists” who told you that the crisis would go away if you kept denying that anything untoward had happened. That advice made you look shifty, evasive.

Second, let everything hang out. Lift the cabinet-confidence gag from Jody Wilson-Raybould; permit her to tell the Commons Justice Committee everything that happened from the moment you removed her from Justice. And tell Gerald Butts, your defrocked principal secretary, to keep falling on his sword by telling all when he appears before the committee on Wednesday.

Third, offer to appear before the committee yourself to demonstrate you have nothing left to hide.

Fourth, get the criminal prosecution of SNC off the table by instructing your new Justice Minister/Attorney General, David Lametti, to direct the director of public prosecutions to negotiate a remedial settlement with the company. Tell the nation that preserving SNC jobs is in the national interest.

Fifth, use these two weeks when the House is not sitting to sell your new message of transparency and resolution to the skeptical electorate.

Sixth, ignore Scheer’s repeated calls for your resignation; the media is already tiring of his refrain.

Seventh, because Jody Wilson-Raybould matters, find a way to bring her back into your cabinet. Humble yourself. Play to her ambition. You could make International Development a separate ministry again and send JWR forth to spread Canada’s message of tolerance, inclusion and equality to the world. She would be great at it, and the foreign experience would bulk up her resume for an eventual leadership run.

This is my two-cents worth, Mr. Trudeau. I will email my invoice.

Your unsolicited adviser,

etc., etc.


Monday, March 4, 2019 - 15:27