Opinion-Policy Nexus

Is the SNC-Lavalin/Jody Wilson-Raybould uproar really the silver bullet that will slay Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government?

The government has been damaged; there’s no question of that. The Prime Minister’s credibility has taken a blow. If the polls are to be believed (and I think they are in this instance), Canadians have lost considerable trust in him and his commitments. He is no longer seen a shiny warrior for inclusiveness, transparency, reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians, or even gender equality. His self-proclaimed feminism and dedication to the rule of law are being questioned.

But I suspect he has weathered the worst of the storm – not well, but he is still afloat. His next month should be considerably calmer than the month since the Globe and Mail broke the SNC/JWR story on Feb. 7. For the first time in a month, he has an opportunity to get back on message, starting with the budget next week.

The relevant facts of the SNC controversy, or as many of them as are likely to become public, are known.

The Commons Justice Committee will decide on Wednesday whether to hear a second round of testimony from Jody Wilson-Raybould. But it wouldn’t serve any useful purpose. The committee has already heard her account of everything that happened up to the time when she surrendered the SNC file as she moved out of her dual portfolio of Minister of Justice and Attorney General and into Veterans Affairs.

A second appearance would keep the controversy alive for another news cycle or two, which the Liberals certainly do not want. But they also do not want to risk further fallout if they deny her an opportunity to put on record her version of events between her departure from MOJAG (Ottawa shorthand for the dual ministry) and her resignation from the cabinet.

Whatever the committee decides, Andrew Scheer will continue to demand that Trudeau resign, but, having played this, his strongest card, in his opening hand, the Conservative leader will struggle to retain the attention of voters beyond his base.

A number of questions seem destined to remain unanswered. Why did the government accept, seemingly at face value, the company’s claim that 9,000 jobs would be at peril if it were not granted a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) – in effect, a negotiated settlement without an admission of criminal culpability?

Why did Kathleen Roussel, the director of public prosecutions, refuse to proceed by DPA? How much due diligence did Jody Wilson-Raybould actually do –and who did she consult? – in the few days that she took to review the file before confirming Roussel’s decision? Why did she forbid her deputy minister to pass on to the Privy Council Office a report on the matter that the Justice Department had prepared at the request of the PCO?

There’s another question that will not get asked officially, but it deserves an answer. Who was the source of the original Globe story back on Feb. 7?

I have had experience in managing teams of investigative reporters, both at the Globe and at Maclean’s. A solid investigative story involves extracting detailed information from a variety of often-reluctant sources. Their accounts will never be precisely the same, and those differences must be noted and balanced in the story.

The Feb. 7 Globe story is not like that. It is a seamless tapestry that appears to be woven from a single source. (The attribution throughout is “sources say,” which tells the reader nothing and means nothing.)

The story foretells with striking accuracy the account that Jody Wilson-Raybould would subsequently offer publicly.

As I read it, the story had a single source, someone close to Wilson-Raybould, although it may have been passed to the Globe through other hands to eliminate fingerprints and preserve deniability for the true source.

If this is what happened, there is one obvious conclusion. The story was “leaked” with the intention of damaging the Prime Minister personally while throwing a stink bomb into his office.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - 09:56