Justin Trudeau should ask the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament immediately, with a general election to follow in April. Instead, he and his remaining advisers will likely hunker down and hope that time dulls the public outrage over his acts.
But let there be no mistake: According to Wednesday’s testimony from Jody Wilson-Raybould, the Prime Minister and his most senior advisers gravely undermined the rule of law when they repeatedly urged her as attorney-general to interfere in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin for partisan political reasons. To have then threatened her when she refused, and to have removed her from her portfolio when she would not bow to those threats, was reprehensible.
A prime minister who has been accused of such abuses by his own former attorney-general should no longer have the confidence of the House of Commons. This government should fall.
Instead, the Liberal caucus will probably continue to support their leader out of blind loyalty. And the strategists preparing for the scheduled October election doubtless already have the lines out: The Prime Minister was only trying to preserve the thousands of jobs that would be at risk if SNC-Lavalin were convicted; no one intended to press or threaten the former minister; the final decision was always hers to make.
This may wash with some people, but won’t with many others. Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s testimony Wednesday was so utterly damning that the Liberals no longer have a moral mandate to govern.
The testimony last week of Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council, now makes sense. When he insisted that no one applied “inappropriate pressure" to Ms. Wilson-Raybould, the nation’s most senior public servant must have hoped to cauterize the impact of her testimony before she gave it. If so, he failed. Few people of goodwill who listened to Ms. Wilson-Raybould as she carefully but relentlessly described a campaign of pressure, partisan concerns, intimidation and threats, based on the meticulous notes she made of each meeting, will believe him and not her.
The Clerk’s testimony seems even more strident and ill-advised in light of what she said.
But it is Mr. Trudeau’s actions that deserve the fiercest condemnation. When the first Globe and Mail story appeared saying Ms. Wilson-Raybould had been pressed to defer the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, and he said the story was false, he must have known it was not false.
When he said that if Ms. Wilson-Raybould had any concerns, she had an obligation to raise them, he must have known she had raised those concerns with growing alarm at each meeting that she insisted should not even be taking place.
When he said that Ms. Wilson-Raybould would be attorney-general today had Scott Brison not stepped down as president of Treasury Board, forcing a cabinet shuffle, he must have known that Ms. Wilson-Raybould thought she was being forced out of her portfolio because she would not bend to his will.
And when he told reporters time and again that the Canadian authorities detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou for an extradition hearing because Canada is a nation of the rule of law, he must have known that he was being a rank hypocrite. He was throwing the rule of law in the ditch every time he tried to force his attorney-general to abandon a criminal prosecution because he needed to get re-elected.
You might well believe that, despite these serial abuses, the Liberals are still best-suited to govern the country, and Mr. Trudeau to lead the party. You might believe that he was only trying to save jobs and pensions at SNC-Lavalin, and that the other parties are too far to the right or left. That would be reasonable.
But it would also be reasonable to believe that Mr. Trudeau abused the powers of his office, and that his most senior advisers abused theirs, and that Canadians no longer have confidence in their federal government. That Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who also tried to put pressure on Ms. Wilson-Raybould to cut SNC-Lavalin some slack, no longer has a mandate to present a budget. That this government can no longer represent Canada before the world.
Let the guys in the war room scheme about how they can rescue the party’s reputation between now and the scheduled October election. Let the partisans recite their lines in front of the cameras. The right thing to do is to let the people decide the fate of this government. The right thing to do is have an election now.