Everyone on the SNC truth pile! - Macleans.ca

Everyone on the SNC truth pile!

Politics Insider for March 4: Trudeau’s unwindable fight, Meng sues Canada, and another day another dipper gone

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A man walks past the headquarters of SNC Lavalin in Montreal on Nov. 6, 2014. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Welcome to a sneak peek of the Maclean’s Politics Insider newsletter. Sign-up at the bottom of the page to get it delivered straight to your inbox.

Jody Wilson-Raybould was once a symbol of Justin Trudeau‘s brand of sunny, inclusive politics. So exactly how did she became his government’s biggest threat? Maclean’s Ottawa bureau chief John Geddes traces the paths that set them on a collision course:

Several layered factors make Wilson-Raybould unique. In a shady sequence of events involving a tainted company lobbying for a big favour from the government, she seems to have stood up to the powers that be. She did so as one of the top-ranking women in a cabinet famously engineered around gender equity. And she did it having risen higher in the federal government than any Indigenous politician before her. At the core of her persona are her Vancouver Island roots in the villages of her father’s Kwakwaka’wakw people. “I come from a long line of matriarchs and I am a truth-teller in accordance with the laws and traditions of our Big House,” she told the committee.

How would Trudeau fight that? There’s no political opposition research playbook for counterpunching against Wilson-Raybould’s singular challenge. The Prime Minister stuck to the usually reliable jobs, jobs, jobs tack—that he was only worrying about the fate of SNC-Lavalin employees, almost 9,000 of them across Canada. The problem was, Wilson-Raybould freely allowed that pointing out to her the potential job losses if the company suffered was fine. What wasn’t legitimate was trying to inject raw politics into decision-making surrounding a criminal prosecution. (Maclean’s)

Because one of the only things that would make this twisting story stranger would be for Wilson-Raybould to run again in the next election as a Liberal, Wilson-Raybould declared she’s running again in the next election as a Liberal. (CBC News)

Gerald Butts may be set to add his testimony to the SNC truth pile this week, but there are still too many key players in this saga we aren’t hearing from, writes Andrew MacDougall. And the longer Trudeau refuses to let everyone put their cards on the table, the more this looks like a cover-up. (Maclean’s)

China is lapping up the SNC controversy. When you’re arguing that the Canadian government plays politics with the country’s justice system, it helps to have Canada’s former justice minister saying the same thing. So after Canada’s Department of Justice ordered on Friday that the extradition hearing for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou could go ahead, Beijing took aim at what it called a “political persecution against a high-tech enterprise … The final result of the Canadian court to handle this case will be a touchstone for testing whether Canada adheres to the judicial independence or not.” (CBC News)

Apologies to Beijing, but the SNC case is not the ace card the regime thinks it is, writes Terry Glavin. For all Trudeau’s apparent and alleged efforts to help SNC dodge a criminal trial, the case is still going ahead, showing Canada’s rule of law held up. But as Meng’s extradition case unfolds, it provides current Justice Minister David Lametti, “an opportunity to prove he’s not just a compliant, errand-running stooge.” (Maclean’s)

Meng’s legal team fired back Friday with a lawsuit claiming the RCMP, border agents and the Canadian government violated her constitutional rights when she was arrested in Vancouver in December. Meng claims border agents detained her without arrest in order to obtain information from her before handing her over to the RCMP. (CBC News)

The carpet under the NDP exit sign must be getting worn by now. Northern B.C. MP Nathan Cullen is the latest member of the party to announce they won’t campaign for re-election in October. Twelve other NDPers have bowed out, with fellow B.C. NDP MP Murray Rankin saying just a day earlier that he won’t be back either. (CTV News)

The Liberals are also losing an incumbent ahead of the Fall election. Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who represents the riding of Whitby, Ont. said a “number of factors” were behind her decision to end “this role in politics.” None of those factors involved the ongoing SNC controversy or Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, she said. “I have tremendous respect for Ms. Wilson-Raybould and this will never change,” she wrote in a statement she tweeted, which Wilson-Raybould retweeted with her own uplifting note to Caesar-Chavannes. (Canadian Press, CCC’s tweet, JWR’s tweet)

Remember when the only thing anyone seemed to talk about in Canadian politics was the fate of the NAFTA talks? Mexico has now joined Canada is saying there won’t be ratification of the NAFTA 2.0 deal so long as the Trump administration keeps the steel and aluminum tariffs in place. (Canadian Press)

Weekend politics show roundup

Didn’t catch the political shows over the weekend? Here’s what you missed:

  • A do-over for SNC? Attorney General David Lametti, who replaced Jody Wilson-Raybould as justice minister, told Global’s West Block his predecessor’s decision not to grant SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement isn’t set in stone. “You do have an ongoing obligation as attorney general in terms of your relationship to prosecutions and the prosecution service to be open to new facts,” he said. “I can’t speak to the actual facts [of the SNC-Lavalin affair] but I know that in principle, an attorney general has to remain open so, in that sense, no decision is ever final.” (Global News)
  • After Lametti left the door open to reversing Wilson-Raybould’s decision during his West Block interview, Tory MP Candace Bergen and NDP MP Daniel Blaikie joined to call on Lametti to clear up his position on SNC. Describing Lametti as “evasive”, Bergen accused the Attorney General of being under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s thumb. Blaikie agreed: “What we need right now from the attorney general is clarity. It’s what we need from the prime minister, too.”  (Global News)
  • If he were prime minister, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he’d consider splitting the roles of justice minister and attorney general. Speaking on CTV’s Question Period he also claimed “at no time [would he] ever pick up the phone and try to get a Crown prosecutor or judicial decision overturned or changed to benefit corporate cronies.
  • Irwin Cotler, who held the positions of justice minister and attorney general in the Martin Liberal government, also says the time has come to split those duties. He told CBC’s The House there is an “inherent tension between the dual responsibilities” because as justice minister one is bound by cabinet solidarity while an attorney general is execpted to “speak truth to power.”  (CBC News)
  • Meanwhile Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says it’s time for Michael Wernick, Canada’s highest-ranking bureaucrat who Wilson-Raybould accused of trying to pressure her on the SNC file, to go, she said on Question Period. “There’s the question of that improper use of the non-partisan, independent expert civil service used in a very partisan fashion, and I think the clerk of the Privy  Council should be fired.” (Twitter)

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