Jody Wilson-Raybould says that despite her fractious past with her former colleagues in the Liberal government, she is likely to vote with them on a range of issues.
The Liberals were re-elected on Monday, but with their leader beset by scandal, they were reduced to a minority government. And with less than one-third of the vote, they come out the gate with less popular support than any government since Confederation. They’ll need help from other parties to avoid being forced into an election. That makes every vote count, including that of Ms. Wilson-Raybould.
The woman who held Justin Trudeau to account for attempting to interfere in the decision to proceed with the prosecution of the engineering giant SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. was rewarded for her integrity. She held Vancouver-Granville – the first time a woman has been elected to Parliament as an Independent.
And in an election that everyone seemed to lose, from the chastened Liberals, who squeaked out a minority win, to the Conservatives, who failed to build out from their base, to the NDP, which lost 15 seats, to the Greens, who managed to add only a single seat, Ms. Wilson-Raybould emerged as a winner. Her raucous, joyful victory party – which she entered surrounded by her family to Elton John’s I’m Still Standing – reflected that.
But her sister, Kory Wilson, says the win didn’t hit them until they were in the car, on their way to meet supporters at Vancouver’s Hellenic Centre: “Someone suddenly screamed: ‘We did it!’ Then we all started screaming.”
“I am the same person I was when I was elected in 2015,” Ms. Wilson-Raybould said on Monday night. “I am a progressive. I believe in fundamental principles of equality and inclusion and justice. I will continue to advocate for these issues and will, I am sure, support a lot of the [Liberal] agenda. That’s not to say that I am going to agree with everything the government does or the decisions that are made.”
Richard Johnston, who teaches politics at UBC, said her victory has “great symbolic value” for Canadians fed up with hyper-partisanship. But, he added, her voice will likely shrink once politicians return to Ottawa and the Trudeau government uses parliamentary procedure to limit her speaking opportunities.
“The interest of the Liberals is basically to shut her up,” Prof. Johnston said. “She’s gone from one of the most powerful people in Parliament to being an appendage that we won’t hear much from.” Members of minority governments tend to rally around their leaders and remain tight-lipped. But as Mr. Trudeau works to build bridges with opposition parties, he will also have to keep an eye on his own caucus: Mr. Johnston said Ms. Wilson-Raybould could act as a conduit for any former Liberal colleagues to express their discontent with Mr. Trudeau’s leadership.
The last Independent to win a seat in B.C. played pivotal role in saving a Liberal government from defeat. This happened in 2005, when Chuck Cadman cast a vote in favour of a minority Liberal government supported by the NDP.
On Monday night, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said hers was a moral victory: “This win means that it’s okay to stand up for what you believe in to speak your truth, to act with integrity.”
The Liberal government is likely to continue to be haunted by the unresolved SNC-Lavalin affair. Had the party held its majority, it may have buried it. However, the opposition parties are now in control of committees, and able to call any witness they like. Indeed, former prime minister Stephen Harper’s director of communications is among those calling on the opposition to demand a judicial inquiry into the handling of the SNC case as a condition of their support of the government’s inaugural Throne Speech.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould seems unlikely to side with the Liberals on that one.
With a report from Mike Hager