Like many other Canadians, I closely watched former Justice Minister and Attorney-General Judy Wilson-Raybould testify before the justice committee of the House of Commons recently. She looked the camera in the eye and calmly presented details in a composed, believable and well-documented manner. She clearly documented what she called continual and sustained pressure from the federal government, the Prime Minister’s Office and her own party. It proved beyond a doubt that the Prime Minister, his office and senior bureaucrats attempted to pressure her into disregarding the rule of law of this country to benefit Quebec industrial giant SNC Lavalin.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s factual testimony gave a fascinating insight into the inner workings and machinations of government at its most corrupt. This testimony would have been shocking had it been directed directly toward any run-of-the mill politician. The fact that it was squarely aimed at the Prime Minister of our country makes this a damning indictment of the PM and begs the question as to whether he still has the moral authority to lead this country. Mr. Trudeau, as we all remember, was elected on a platform of racial and gender equality, a promised new and shiny integrity and “sunny ways”. Western Canadian cynics and veteran political watchers had long thought that most Liberal government decisions were made to benefit Quebec. To watch it unfold and be proven on national television was both shocking and yet not surprising at the same time.
In our parliamentary system imported from Great Britain, and in other political systems, personal integrity is supposed to be prized above all other qualities. History is filled with politicians who either resigned or were forced to resign after alleged involvement with kickbacks, collusion and even liaisons with prostitutes, real or imagined. It’s always easier to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest than it is to explain it. While our political system demands by expectation that the Opposition Leader call for Mr. Trudeau to step down, this is one of those rare occasions where the usual political bluster becomes fact. In his early governing days, Mr. Trudeau set himself apart from “politics as usual” and attempted to define the moral higher ground on all manner of decisions. But one of the downfalls of setting such a high bar is the potential for an even higher fall.
In the short time since Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, members of the self-proclaimed “natural governing party” have circled the wagons in an attempt to discredit her and to defend the actions of the Prime Minister. “Ms. Wilson-Raybould must be mistaken,” they say. “She must have misread the intent of the conversation,” say others. Worse yet, innuendos about her not being a team player, or difficult to work with were immediately leaked from on high. Some Liberal MPs were suggesting that Ms. Wilson-Raybould was not capable of pulling the strings and that maybe someone else was doing so behind the scenes. In other words, there was a concerted and directed attempt to discredit the witness and her intelligence and integrity.
I don’t agree with some who suggest this is an Indigenous or feminist issue. Ms. Wilson-Raybould was, and is, being treated exactly as any other politician would who dares challenge the status quo. The only difference is that the PM himself positioned her appointment as an attempt to change “business as usual” and trumpeted her gender and Indigenous status to meet his own agenda of change. The fact that it was an Indigenous female who stood up to his office and the people in it only makes it more cringe-worthy.
The PM himself has stated that he was merely doing what he was elected to do and standing up for jobs and “hard working Canadians”. In truth he has been caught with both hands in the very cookie jar that he haughtily disdained.
Mr. Trudeau has lost the confidence of a very large number of the people who elected him, and he must either resign, or at the very least, step aside and let the federal ethics commissioner decide if what he did was illegal or improper.