Trudeau, Butts, Wernick just don’t get it
March 7, 2019, 4:47 pm
Former Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould shook this government to its core with her recent testimony that the Prime Minister’s office attempted to obstruct justice by pressuring her to intervene in the prosecution of a serious criminal case against SNC Lavalin.
The testimony and claims in this case have been spun every which way, and some people have a hard time understanding the intricacies of the attorney general’s role and why the Prime Minister’s office would be considered obstruction of justice.
To make it easier to understand, let’s transfer the events to a small city in Saskatchewan that has its own police force. The police chief is hired by the city to do his job, and is expected to apply the law equally to everyone. The city pays his salary, but is not supposed to influence the way he does his job—the mayor should get a parking ticket just like anyone else—there should be no favoritism.
Let’s imagine that a local professional or business owner has been charged with a very serious crime.
The mayor is worried that, if the local professional goes to jail, his office will close and the nine people employed there would be out of work. And let’s just say the nine people include the mayor’s daughter, and he and the business owner are friends, just as there are close ties between SNC Lavalin and the Liberal party.
Let’s say the mayor and people in his office approached the police chief and asked him to drop the charges against the business owner. Let’s say they approached him 20 different times, maybe threatened that he would be fired if he didn’t comply, but always finished their meetings with “but of course it’s entirely up to you.”
Let’s say that the police had done their work and there was lots of evidence against the business owner and it was pretty clear that he was guilty. And the mayor wasn’t claiming that the business owner was innocent. He understood that he was guilty of a very serious crime.
But he implored the police chief to drop the charges, to stop pursuing justice against the guilty business owner, because of the jobs that would be at stake if he were to go to jail.
We all know that justice is supposed to be applied equally to everyone in Canada, that there should be no favoritism shown to anyone.
In a small city like Estevan, for instance, that has its own police force, where the police chief is directly employed by the city, we would all expect that the mayor’s son or daughter would get a speeding ticket just like anyone else, that there would be no favoritism.
(The exception, of course is Moosomin, where the local newspaper is nice enough to let the sergeant write whatever he wants in a lengthy column in the paper each week, and the editor expects, therefore, that he should never receive a speeding or seatbelt ticket :)
Now imagine that our small city mayor has been unsuccessful in convincing the police chief to drop the charges against his friend.
Imagine that the police chief is demoted to dogcatcher, but the mayor’s assistant, Seymour Butts, says that, omigosh, that has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that the police chief kept pursuing charges against the mayor’s friend—omigosh, omigosh, heaven forbid, who could possibly think such a thing!?!?!?
Imagine that people do think such a thing, especially since it was mentioned that the first thing the new police had to be briefed on was the case against the mayor’s friend. Imagine there are rumors that the case against the mayor’s friend is exactly why the police chief, who everyone agrees did an exceptional job as police chief, was inexplicably demoted to dogcatcher.
Imagine that the mayor insists that nothing could be further from the truth and points to the fact that the former police chief is still employed by the city as dog catcher as proof that the former police chief has full confidence in the way the mayor runs the city.
And then, hours later, the former police chief resigns as dog catcher, and prepares to testify to council about how the mayor attempted to obstruct justice, which is a criminal code offence, by interfering in the way the police chief does her job.
For anyone who doesn’t understand the intricacies of the SNC Lavalin affair, that should explain it, and explain why people are so incensed by the words of three people at the centre of the scandal—PM Justin Trudeau, former principal secretary Gerald Butts and Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick.
Butts testified on Wednesday that “Had everyone on the team done what the prime minister asked of them, then we would not be having this conversation today.” In other words, rather than standing up for justice, integrity, and the rule of law, Jody Wilson-Raybould should have sat down, shut up, and done what she was told. He just doesn’t get it.
Michael Wernick, asked by a Commons justice committee member Wednesday if he saw anything wrong with the SNC Lavalin CEO reaching out to him, the head of the public service, directly, to lobby for a deferred prosecution agreement, answered simply “no.” This is a company facing serious criminal charges asking for a free pass. He just doesn’t get it.
In a statement to media Thursday, Justin Trudeau refused to apologize for his actions which could certainly constitute obstruction of justice, and insisted that he was simply trying to save jobs at SNC Lavalin.
He. Just. Doesn’t. Get it.