Jody Wilson-Raybould had to resign from cabinet.
When this whole scandal about whether the Prime Minister’s Office put pressure on her to reach an out-of-court settlement with SNC-Lavalin broke, Wilson-Raybould did what every lawyer learns in Law 101 … “when the going gets tough, invoke solicitor/client privilege,” which is a crock, but more on that later.
The point is, she made it clear she was not going to air the government’s dirty laundry in public. An honourable decision from the Honourable Minister of Veteran’s Affairs.
So on Monday, when the Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided that he wouldn’t acquiesce to the opposition’s calls to waive solicitor/client privilege and allow Raybould-Wilson to talk and then gleefully gave his take on what they discussed, the die was cast.
The icing on the cake, though, was likely his comment that because Raybould-Wilson, at that time, was still in cabinet everything was hunky-dory. Basically he was saying if she had a problem with anything, she should resign from cabinet.
So she did, and surprise, surprise, he was surprised. That whoosh heard across the country was nuance escaping over Trudeau’s head. If Trudeau truly doesn’t realize he backed her into a corner from which there was only one escape, then he truly doesn’t understand politics.
And the question remains … did the prime minister’s officer and/or the prime minister pressure Wilson-Raybould to give SNC-Lavalin a get-out-of-jail-free card?
Here’s what I think happened. Bear in mind this is pure speculation. I have don’t have any more insight into this than anyone else.
Trudeau has confirmed that he discussed SNC-Lavalin with Wilson-Raybould back in September. At the onset of the scandal he said he “did not direct” Wilson-Raybould to cut a deal with SNC-Lavalin. He has since said he told her the decision was hers to make. I believe he probably did.
The question the media doesn’t seem to be asking Trudeau, though, is whether he told Wilson-Raybould what his preferred outcome of the case was. Wouldn’t be the first time someone higher up the food chain in an organization let their views be known to those lower down, and then stressed it was up to them to make the decision (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).
I believe that Wilson-Raybould, either naively or stubbornly, believed Trudeau when he said the decision was hers. Trudeau is now saying if Wilson-Raybould thought, at the time, that something was untoward, she should have raised her concerns with him. If she thought in September that the decision was hers to make and that the prime minister had her back, then why would any alarms bells go off?
Fast forward to January when she was removed from as Attorney-General and handed the Veteran’s Affairs portfolio.
She may have suspected her SNC-Lavalin decision was the reason, but would have no proof. I doubt Trudeau called her into his office and said: “Hey, I don’t like what you did with SNC-Lavalin, so I’m moving you out.” He probably praised her work, told her how valuable she is, and maybe suggested that the election is coming up so they needed another cabinet minister in Quebec to shore up support in that province.
She had to suck it up and accept it. Resigning then would just be petty.
Then the Globe and Mail report came out and Trudeau became a walking textbook on ‘How not to Manage a Crisis.’ Even though Wilson-Raybould was still committed to staying quiet, Trudeau’s comments Monday forced her to act. His comments Tuesday that she should have come to him with any issues she had, can only be described as “throwing her under the bus.”
It’s clear now the Liberal strategy is to try and discredit Wilson-Raybould.
The Opposition Conservatives are now demanding that Trudeau waive the solicitor/client privilege and allow Wilson-Raybould to talk. I think they’re more interested in shoring up their chances at electoral success in the fall than they are in finding the truth.
Which brings me to this solicitor/client privilege argument. It’s a bunch of bunk.
Firstly, if there is such a thing as attorney client privilege between the Attorney General and the government then, technically, the Attorney General cannot, or should not, speak publicly about anything the government does, particularly on legal matters. Attorneys general, including Raybould, have, since Confederation, spoken publicly about legal matters facing the country. Full stop.
Secondly, if there is such a privilege, why is Wilson-Raybould’s replacement, David Lametti, telling any news outlet that will listen that he has not been pressured by the Prime Minister’s Office on this matter. Shouldn’t he be keeping his mouth shut? Solicitor/client privilege and all that?
Now the issue has come before the Commons justice committee which, in its Liberal-dominated wisdom, has decided, in the name of openness and transparency, its further deliberations will be held in secret … out of the public eye. And, in its unwavering quest to uncover the truth, will not speak to Jody Wilson-Raybould, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or his chief of staff, Katie Telford, or his principal secretary Gerald Butts … the four people who actually know what happened.
The whole thing has just moved from melodrama to farce.