Rex Murphy: Sorry Liberals – the ‘jobs’ excuse for the SNC-Lavalin debacle won’t fly
Whoever is masterminding the Liberal response to the SNC-Lavalin scandal is confusing the anchor and the life jacket. To be clear, the life jacket is the one that keeps you afloat … the anchor is the heavy thing.
The justice committee Liberals — who are obviously not mariners — met Wednesday only to shut the committee down for a week, to stall on allowing Jody Wilson-Raybould back to complete her testimony, giving every indication possible that they weren’t really very interested in hearing from her at all anymore.
There is nothing opposition MPs could have done more effectively to juice up an already highly-charged saga than the five Liberals’ blatant and televised amputation of what a committee named justice ought to be doing. Which is to hear from the central character in this story — free to speak fully and without the restraint of various privileges — the full account of why she left cabinet, and why another senior minister, Jane Philpott, felt conscience-bound to leave in solidarity with her.
The same committee has also killed opposition efforts to call Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, PMO advisers Elder Marques and Mathieu Bouchard, the former chief of staff to Ms. Wilson-Raybould, Jessica Prince, and notably the only figure who really has the whole story, the prime minister himself.
There is something in the Liberals’ behaviour touchingly reminiscent of the classic line from Dr. Strangelove: “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room.”
Committee chairman Anthony Housefather: “Witnesses? You can’t call for witnesses here. This is the justice committee.”
That’s the tactic they’ve decided on. Close it down. Leave the full story untold. Use process to obscure truth. There’s a morbid irony in using control of the justice committee as the instrument to deny the function of the justice committee. If this were the Harper years they’d call it muzzling. The mores change with the tempores, I suppose.
Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott take part in a cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Jan. 14, 2019, prior to both resigning from cabinet.
The first response to the charges of pressuring the attorney general on behalf of SNC-Lavalin was clear denial. Mr. Trudeau: “The allegations in the Globe story are false.”
They more or less dropped that one and moved on to a more slippery rationale. Yes, there was pressure, all those meetings, the PMO and Gerald Butts, the finance minister’s aide, the clerk of the Privy Council, JWR’s one-to-one with Mr. Trudeau, but it was good pressure, because, you know, SNC-Lavalin employed so many people, and they had to save 9,000 jobs.
This was tacitly something of an admission, a conditional one. It said: If we did put the heat on, if we did — slightly — overstep our bounds, well, as Mr. Trudeau emphasized at least a hundred times, “we will always fight to protect Canadian jobs.” We’re the Trudeau government. Jobs are what we are. We protect Canadian jobs. We may have acted badly but our hearts were job pure.
This newfound emphasis on …read more