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Politics Politics Briefing: What happened between Jody Wilson-Raybould, the Prime Minister and SNC-Lavalin

Good morning,

From the outside, it certainly appeared that Jody Wilson-Raybould was demoted last month, when she went from becoming the Liberals’ justice minister to their minister for veterans affairs. At the time, it wasn’t entirely clear why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might have been unhappy with her performance. Now, thanks to some dogged reporting at The Globe, we have a little better idea of what happened.

Sources tell The Globe that, as attorney-general, Ms. Wilson-Raybould refused pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to intervene in a corruption prosecution against Quebec construction giant SNC-Lavalin. The Montreal firm has sought to avoid a trial for allegations that include millions of dollars in bribes paid to officials in Libya before Moammar Gadhafi was ousted from power. SNC-Lavalin said the executives responsible for those decisions have left the company and internal ethics rules have been overhauled.

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But the federal director of public prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel, was not interested in negotiating an agreement with SNC-Lavalin that would have avoided criminal prosecution. And, sources say, Ms. Wilson-Raybould stood by her and resisted entreaties from the Prime Minister’s Office to come to an agreement with the company.

Read the full story for more details, including comments from the PMO, Ms. Wilson-Raybould and SNC-Lavalin.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


Finance Minister Bill Morneau has said his government will look into the issue of housing affordability for young Canadians, and one measure that might be looked at is allowing first-time home buyers to get 30-year insured mortgages (up from the current limit of 25 years).

Canada’s failure to collect better data on race and ethnicity may have come from a desire to prevent discrimination, but it has now lead to some dangerous gaps in knowledge in fields like health, where it is important to know who is at the most risk for different problems.

A group of Canadian diplomats and their families who served in Canada’s embassy in Cuba is suing the federal government, alleging that they were not properly cared for after developing mysterious brain injuries while serving in Havana.

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The Liberal government has pledged $53-million in aid for those affected by Venezuela’s humanitarian and economic crisis, which includes some three million refugees that have fled into neighbouring countries. But none of that aid will go to governments, instead flowing to “trusted” NGOs in the region.

The New Democrats appear to have some confusion about the party’s line about Venezuela. NDP foreign affairs critic Helene Laverdiere said she spoke for the party when she said they are comfortable with recognizing interim president Juan Guaido, in contrast to Nicolas Maduro, who last year won an election in which all his major rivals were barred from running against him. The federal Liberals, in addition to many other Western allies, have said Mr. Guaido has more legitimacy to be the leader of the country than Mr. Maduro. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, however, told reporters that he would not name who he thought the president was, and instead that it was up to the people of Venezuela to decide.

Scott Brison, the long-serving Nova Scotia MP who stepped down from cabinet last month, says he will also leave the House of Commons this weekend. Mr. Brison is currently also involved in a court case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.

And Paul Dewar, the former NDP MP for Ottawa Centre who was extremely well-respected among his colleagues – even those across the aisle – died yesterday of brain cancer. He was 56. Mr. Dewar left a farewell post on Facebook that says, in part: “It is easy sometimes to feel overwhelmed by the gravity of the challenges we face. Issues like climate change, forced migration and the threat posed by nuclear weapons. It’s hard to know how to make a difference. The secret is not to focus on how to solve the problem, but concentrate on what you can contribute – to your country, your community and neighbours.”

Andray Domise (The Globe and Mail) on the data gap for marginalized communities: “Not so long ago, the collection of race-specific data was seen as unseemly at best, and targeting at worst. That data was often used as a cudgel by police forces to stereotype marginalized communities, and often there was no counternarrative offered. But now, with data analysis having become essential to the global economy and our political systems, everything boils down to the numbers. Geopolitics are being tilted and societies are being reshaped by information asymmetries. Avoiding discussions about race has effectively left policy-makers wandering blindfolded through a forest, at the expense of communities of colour.”

Amanda Munday (The Globe and Mail) on the possibility of cancelling Ontario’s full-day kindergarten: “For a government that purports to put Ontarians back to work to even consider changes to full-day kindergarten invites pause (and employer heartburn). With average monthly childcare costs at thousands of dollars a child, asking families to find a spot and absorb the fees for half a day of care means some parents would be forced to leave the work force entirely.”

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Globe and Mail editorial board on the Conservative proposal for a single tax return in Quebec: “Here’s a tip for Andrew Scheer, the rookie leader of the Conservative Party of Canada: Just because the Liberals say no to a demand from Quebec, that doesn’t mean you should say yes.”

John Doyle (The Globe and Mail) on the CBC: “Day to day and week to week, CBC Television’s weakness is its commitment to ordinary, middling-good TV, and it has become complacent about middling success. That’s CBC’s problem, one created by lack of imagination and laziness, not some imagined cultural imperialism.”

Terry Glavin (Ottawa Citizen) on what Trudeau has learned about foreign policy: “Justin Trudeau has been given a lashing by events beyond his control, and even though he should have seen it coming – China doesn’t see Canada as the coolest kid in class, and the Chinese Communist Party isn’t going to be impressed by Trudeau showing up on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine – Trudeau appears to have learned a lesson from it. Freeland has been given free rein to marshall support among like-minded countries. Coalition-building of that kind – like the Lima Group on Venezuela that Canada hosted in Ottawa this week – has got to be the new gold standard in foreign policy.”

Nicholas Kristof (New York Times) on Canada: “Canada may be one of the world’s more boring countries, as yawn-inspiring as sensible shoes — wake up, reader, I know you’re snoozing!— but it’s also emerging as a moral leader of the free world.”

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