The House of Commons justice committee will likely decide Wednesday to invite Jody Wilson-Raybould to appear before it a second time, dealing a further blow to both Brand Trudeau and Brand Canada.
There is no reason for the former attorney-general not to return to the committee, especially since Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick testified twice in his unsuccessful effort to refute her allegation of attempted political interference in the corruption prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. If the committee votes yes, most people will think: only fair. If the committee votes no: pitchforks.
But every day of additional testimony will further damage the public’s already-shaken confidence in the Prime Minister’s leadership. And the affair damaged as well Mr. Trudeau’s reputation abroad. News organizations around the world have reported on the controversy, with “charismatic Trudeau tarnished by scandal” a common refrain.
And this week’s statement by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development was devastating.
“The OECD Working Group on Bribery is concerned by recent allegations of interference in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin,” the statement read, adding that, under the terms of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention that Canada belongs to, “political factors such as a country’s national economic interest and the identity of the alleged perpetrators must not influence foreign bribery investigations and prosecutions.”
To anyone who has been arguing that this controversy was manufactured by febrile media feeding off the actions of misguided or disloyal MPs: The OECD disagrees.
Canada’s position on Transparency International’s Perceived Corruption Index slipped to ninth place in 2018, in part because of allegations of corrupt practices in Vancouver real estate and construction contracts in Quebec. James Cohen, executive director of the organization’s Canadian chapter, said in an interview Tuesday that the OECD memo should serve as “a warning flag” that Canada needed to up its game in the fight against corruption. Otherwise, “we are on the skirt of losing our top-10 ranking,” he warned.
It may end up that, under Mr. Trudeau, the world wants less Canada.
To expand on an earlier theme: One of this country’s great strengths in this century has been the shared approach by both Conservatives and Liberals toward foreign affairs, which goes beyond a shared commitment to protecting and expanding international trade.
Stephen Harper leveraged Canada’s influence as a G7 nation to improve maternal health in the developing world; Justin Trudeau did the same to improve education for girls. Both parties support high levels of immigration, though they differ on the proper ratio of economic class to family class to refugees.
As well as sharing the morally principled decision to confront Russian aggression and the morally dubious decision to sell armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, both parties are stout supporters of Israel and opponents of the Maduro regime in Venezuela.
Mr. Trudeau and his Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, can point to foreign policy successes for which the Conservatives share credit. Whichever party wins the next election is unlikely to disrupt this broad stream of consensus.
But Mr. Trudeau also brought to the foreign-policy table his personal charisma, his strong commitment to the United Nations and – with the arrival of Donald Trump as president – his offer for Canada to play a leadership role in preserving the Western alliance that the U.S. was threatening to leave.
The charisma has faded, and the romance with the UN soured after the government took forever to choose a peacekeeping mission: a one-year commitment of some helicopters for medical airlifts in Mali.
There was the sartorial debacle in India, botched efforts at trade talks with China, and the general impression that the government mishandled the detention of a Huawei executive on a U.S. extradition request. And now the SNC-Lavalin affair has further tarnished both Mr. Trudeau’s and Canada’s image abroad.
Brand is not reality. Few nations are more dedicated to preserving the rule of law than Canada. And on some of the biggest files – increasing immigration; fighting for the rights of women and minorities overseas while advancing them at home, and alleviating childhood poverty (another example of the Liberals improving on a Conservative initiative), the Liberals have a good story to tell.
But for a leader who was so dedicated to convincing the world that Canada was back – from where, who can say? – the corrosion of respect must be galling.