Force Jody Wilson-Raybould to stay silent. Shut down the justice committee hearings. And pray to God that the media shift their focus to the budget, and that the SNC-Lavalin scandal gradually fades away.
Not going to happen.
Liberal MPs on the justice committee voted Tuesday morning to end hearings into allegations that Justin Trudeau and his advisers pressed Ms. Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the prosecution of the Quebec engineering firm on corruption charges, and then removed her as attorney-general when she refused.
Mr. Trudeau must be hoping that by terminating the hearings, he will starve this controversy of political oxygen. He will fail, just as his government has failed in every attempt to smother this scandal.
We are going to find out why Ms. Wilson-Raybould resigned. We are going to learn whether she was removed as attorney-general as punishment for not intervening in the SNC-Lavalin case.
I can’t tell you how this will happen. But the truth comes out. Always.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould is not the only person whose testimony we won’t hear, now that the committee has shut itself down. We won’t hear from Ben Chin, Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s chief of staff. In her initial testimony on events prior to her departure from cabinet, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said that Mr. Chin warned that prosecuting SNC-Lavalin could the harm the electoral prospects of the Quebec Liberal Party and “we can’t have that happen.”
We won’t hear from Mathieu Bouchard, an adviser to Mr. Trudeau who allegedly said “we can have the best policy in the world, but we need to get re-elected.”
We won’t hear from Katie Telford, Mr. Trudeau’s chief of staff, who at one of the meetings declared: “We don’t want to debate legalities any more," according to Ms. Wilson-Raybould.
We won’t hear from Jessica Prince, who was Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s chief of staff, and who bore the brunt of much of the pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office.
All of these people should have been allowed to tell their version of events. Mr. Trudeau silenced their voices as well when he ended the hearings.
Above all, we won’t hear from Ms. Wilson-Raybould herself, at least not at this time or at that forum, on the question of her departure from cabinet. But somehow, she will find a way to tell her story.
The Conservatives have vowed to take “emergency actions,” as Andrew Scheer put it, to force the Liberals to let Ms. Wilson-Raybould speak. The Conservative leader clearly believes this scandal could be an election-defining issue. And Mr. Trudeau certainly appears spooked.
During Question Period, the once-confident and charismatic Prime Minister offers carefully-scripted responses to questions, while cabinet ministers and MPs look on glumly, offering their leader little or no support. Most of them can’t even summon the energy to heckle.
This scandal has already crippled the government. Ms. Wilson-Raybould resigned in protest. Jane Philpott, one of the most respected figures in cabinet, resigned in solidarity. Gerald Butts, Mr. Trudeau’s former principal secretary, resigned for what appear to be sacrificial-lamb purposes. And now Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council, is stepping down. There will be other shoes to drop.
One of those shoes could take the form of caucus unrest. Whitby MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Trudeau greeted her decision not to run again with open hostility.
Earlier this week, Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Don Rusnak issued a statement saying he too would not be running again, citing family reasons. In his statement, Mr. Rusnak offered not one mention of Mr. Trudeau. The word “Liberal” appeared nowhere in the text. He did not extol the government’s accomplishments, outside of local riding initiatives.
He did, however, say this: “Progress requires us to not only stand by our values, but to recognize the common dignity that unites us with those we disagree with and to realize it every day through our relations with one another.”
Mr. Rusnak declined a request for further comment. None, really, was needed.
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