Federal Liberals watching the former justice minister outline the sustained and co-ordinated political pressure she said she endured from the most powerful members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government had three options on Wednesday: undermine Jody Wilson-Raybould, join the social media campaign to #StandWithJody or take refuge in silence.
Most chose silence.
In her testimony, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said she was subjected to intense pressure to intervene and shelve the criminal prosecution of Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.
Ontario Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes offered her support as Ms. Wilson-Raybould testified. “Truth is power. Proud of you,” she stated on Twitter.
Alexandra Mendès, a Montreal-area MP and former president of the Quebec branch of the federal Liberal Party, expressed skepticism about the former justice minister’s testimony in a tweet she wrote in French: “It’s not because she said it that it’s true! I’m sorry, but being an adult means accepting that greater responsibilities are inevitably linked to pressures that are quite legitimate.”
But in British Columbia, where Ms. Wilson-Raybould served as a high-profile Indigenous leader before accepting Mr. Trudeau’s invitation to run for his Liberal Party of Canada, there was a stronger tone of support.
Ken Hardie, the Liberal MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells, sat alongside the former attorney-general in Wednesday’s caucus meeting, and said in an interview that he hopes she will seek re-election as a Liberal MP.
However, Mr. Hardie said he disagrees on her position on the deferred prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. “She’s a person with deep integrity, with whom we disagree,” Mr. Hardie said.
Former B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh, who’s also a former federal Liberal cabinet minister, said Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s testimony has plunged the Liberal Party into a crisis without an easy resolution.
“If you’re asking me a political question, this is a big hit,” he said. “The evidence is devastating.”
Mr. Dosanjh suggested that some housecleaning is needed. “I hope we can come back, but my worry is so many around the Prime Minister are tainted as a result of the evidence we have heard – and there is no reason not to believe anything she has said.”
Other Liberal MPs, who sit on the House of Commons justice committee, were tasked with grilling Ms. Wilson-Raybould in the committee hearing. Randy Boissonnault, the Liberal MP for Edmonton Centre led some of the most aggressive lines of questioning.
Mr. Boissonnault pressed the former justice minister on why she was not willing to reconsider her decision based on “new information” regarding SNC-Lavalin, and sought to corner her on her support for Mr. Trudeau, as she remains a member of the Liberal caucus. “Do you have confidence in the Prime Minister today?” he asked.
With a report from Justin Giovannetti