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The Wernick question: When this fall’s federal election gets underway, five bureaucrats have the job of warning Canadians about foreign attempts to meddle in the campaign. If the Conservatives and NDP have their way, Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick won’t be among them. (Toronto Star)
As Canada’s top bureaucrat Wernick sits on the panel that will assess intelligence reports of foreign election interference and decide whether to notify the public. But after former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould named Wernick as one of the officials who tried to pressure her to give SNC-Lavalin a get-out-of-prosecution card, and with his testimony to the justice committee seen as overly partisan, the opposition argue Wernick is too compromised to hold that position. Waving aside those concerns, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould says Wernick is staying put. (Scroll down in the newsletter to the weekend politics show round-up for more from Gould.) (Global News)
She said, he said, he said: Yet another rift has opened within the Liberal caucus, this one pitting soon-to-be-former Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. After dashing off a mysterious tweet last week that apparently took aim at Trudeau’s leadership style, Caesar-Chavannes told the Globe and Mail Trudeau reacted angrily when she first told him she planned to leave politics. “He was yelling. He was yelling that I didn’t appreciate him, that he’d given me so much,” she said. The PMO shot back with what has become a familiar refrain—that yet another woman in Trudeau’s cabinet experienced things differently than he did: “There’s no question the conversations in February were emotional, but there was absolutely no hostility.” (Globe and Mail)
But there was, according to a statement from Caesar-Chavannes’s husband Vidal Chavannes, who says he was listening to his wife’s phone call with Trudeau on speakerphone. “What I heard from that call was misplaced anger and frustration.” (Twitter)
It all apparently moved Caesar-Chavannes’s colleague, Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld to rush to defend how Trudeau treats women in the Liberal caucus: “Trudeau has always listened to the voices of women, even changed his mind after hearing the views of women’s caucus. I have never once felt that I couldn’t speak openly to him, even disagree with him.” (Twitter)
In your own words: Wilson-Raybould took a “principled” stance against political interference / Wilson-Raybould engaged in “political posturing” over SNC-Lavalin — Maclean’s readers weigh in on the SNC-Lavalin saga so far. (Maclean’s)
Selective hearing: While Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was at a town hall in southwestern Ontario last Friday, a crank in the audience launched into a rambling question about Trudeau government’s support of “the Clinton Foundation” which the man falsely declared was “part of child trafficking and child sacrifice … it is in the pizzagate.” The audience launched into applause, and rather than set right the conspiracy theorist, the Conservative leader zeroed in on Trudeau’s spending instead.
Facing questions and criticism from the media and Trudeau over his handling of the question, Scheer and his office have since offered up several explanations for why he failed to call the man out: that he didn’t hear the question (or apparently only parts of it), that he was not aware what “pizzagate” meant (a remarkable admission, given the wall-to-wall coverage it got after a pizzagate-inspired gunman shot up a Washington pizzaria in 2016) or that, as he said Sunday, obviously it’s a “ridiculous” conspiracy theory, but Trudeau was just using it to distract from SNC-Lavalin. (Toronto Star, Global News video clip)
Weekend politics show round-up
If you didn’t catch the weekend political shows, here’s what you missed:
- Given that all Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s attempts to put the SNC-Lavalin scandal behind him have all failed, it’s time for more drastic action, like turfing Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick: “I think he should let the clerk of the Privy Council go, whose performance has been panned by everyone who’s watched it,” Mike Van Soelen, a crisis communications expert at Navigator, said on Global’s West Block. “[Trudeau] needs to be contrite because, clearly, the country has been thrown into a bit of chaos for the last four weeks.” (Global News)
- The Conservative and NDP will push for Jody Wilson-Raybould to testify again before the justice committee because they want to know whether Trudeau tried to deceive her about potential job losses at SNC-Lavalin, Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said on the West Block: “Did the prime minister or anyone else lie to Jody Wilson-Raybould in an attempt to get her to sign a deferred prosecution agreement on the fly?” (Global News)
- The mystery of the 9,000 at-risk SNC-Lavalin jobs has dogged the Liberals over the last week, ever since Green Party Leader Elizabeth May challenged former PMO staffer Gerald Butts to explain where the figure he kept citing came from. Appearing on CTV’s Question Period, Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough steered clear of repeating the claim that 9,000 jobs would be lost if SNC-Lavalin weren’t offered a deferred prosecution agreement. “History would tell you that when corporations are convicted, jobs are lost, sometimes companies go bankrupt, sometimes their headquarters leave the country. So the potential of job loss is a significant factor. You know what, can we tell you exactly the precise number? No. But we can tell you that jobs are in jeopardy and that’s enough that it warrants consideration.” (CTV News)
- Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould was out defending Wernick’s position on a panel of bureaucrats that will have the job of informing Canadians if there are foreign attempts to interfere in the next election. “Specifically, why we created a panel was so it wouldn’t be up to any one individual,” she said on the West Block. “I think it’s really important to remember these are some of Canada’s top civil servants who have served governments both Liberal and Conservative and have done so with incredible integrity, and that’s why we have five people on there so they can have those conversations.” (Global News)
- With both Wilson-Raybould and former Liberal cabinet member Jane Philpott on the outs with Trudeau, it’s an open question if they will remain part of the Liberal caucus. As far as Liberal caucus chair Francis Scarpaleggia knows from conversations he’s had with other Liberals, the two are welcome to stay if they wish. “I think with time, any wounds will heal,” he said on CBC’s The House. “I don’t see that there’s a problem in terms of trust. Maybe some people feel that way. Of course, people were saddened and maybe a bit hurt at the beginning when two excellent ministers decided to leave cabinet, but life goes on.” (CBC News)
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