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It was just one more perfectly predictable, almost perfectly staged, extended selfie in the life of official Ottawa.
Budget day in the nation’s capital, the cable news networks filled with spinners spinning, many if not most of them photogenic partisans and “strategic communications” specialists doing the bidding of the parties for which they or their firms toil or hope to toil; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau not responsively answering a single question in that oxymoronically named exercise called question period and opposition members unable to do a thing about it but watch their hair burst into flames; Finance Minister Bill Morneau actually saying, this in response to a question from Lisa LaFlamme of CTV about what in the budget will make Canadians turn the page from the SNC-Lavalin scandal, “Optimism to face the future.”
What does that even mean?
Have any of these clowns, from all parties, who talk endlessly about what “Canadians want” with such staggering confidence, ever met a real Canadian, that is, one who is not a Liberal/Conservative/New Democrat shill from birth, who works at Costco or GM or some other real, non-trust-fund-enabled job, who plays hockey and drives her kids from pillar to post and wants a government that takes care of the basics and MPs who just occasionally speak the truth or say what they actually mean, not heave up some dreadful porridge of “talking points” determined by teams of handlers.
Earlier Tuesday, the Liberal-dominated Commons justice committee did what its Liberal members had telegraphed they would do the night before the meeting in a letter — shut down its purported “review” of the SNC-Lavalin imbroglio.
If not a surprise, this was covered with such a shine of stupendous duplicity it was dazzling.
The Liberal members, in their letter, cited the fact that they had heard 13 whole hours of testimony from 10 witnesses and thus had “achieved our objectives.”
They actually said they had “approached our work with an open mind,” forgetting, perhaps, that Anthony Housefather, the Liberal chair, had within a week of the Jody Wilson-Raybould story first breaking, and before anyone had testified, suggested, twice, that perhaps she’d been shuffled out of justice because her French wasn’t good enough.
He later apologized, but it’s not as if he hadn’t got his oar in to discredit the woman. It’s not as if he or his colleagues on the committee are independent.
The Liberal letter also sang the praises, ala the PM, of the government having waived cabinet confidence and solicitor-client privilege so Wilson-Raybould could freely testify.
That order-in-council, in fact, specifically allowed the former attorney-general to testify only about conversations she had about the SNC-Lavalin prosecution “while she held that office.”
In other words, she wasn’t free, as she has several times made clear, at the committee and elsewhere, to discuss conversations — and she had several with Trudeau — after she was moved from the justice portfolio, shuffled to veterans affairs, and then resigned from cabinet.
(I did try to ask her lawyer, former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell, about this. He declined the opportunity.)
Not only did the committee fail to recall Wilson-Raybould and fail to call at all the key witnesses she mentioned, but it also failed to even scratch at the incestuous relationships between SNC-Lavalin lobbyists (official and unofficial) and this government, and the astonishing access the company’s officials had to senior members of the PM’s staff and to the privy council clerk, Michael Wernick, and others.
Last week, Wilson-Raybould wrote a letter to her Vancouver-Granville constituents.
In it, she said “Currently … I intend to stand for re-election as the Liberal candidate for the 2019 federal election.”
(I only pray she used “current” in the manner that one of my ex-husbands jokingly used to do, that is, meaning I was on borrowed time and was so far still his wife.)
She also talked about how the SNC-Lavalin business has “been a wake-up call for many across the country. … As in other places around the globe, our democratic institutions and norms — including the rule of law and prosecutorial independence — are under pressure.”
She would know, both about being under pressure and about the public pulse: In the wake of SNC-Lavalin, she received more than 10,000 emails, texts, calls and cards “expressing the vision, desire and passion of Canadians to effect real and transformative change.”
She felt in those messages a real yearning to get beyond “partisanship, spin and image” and she said, “I stand with you” in wanting to “advance all lines of action that will help transform a political culture from being self-serving to service-oriented on behalf of all Canadians.”
Dare I say it, but she was speaking to me too, to anyone, I suspect, who has even once watched question period or caught a glimpse of the one-hand-washing-the-other coziness that is official Ottawa and in particular this government.
The only thing I know for sure is that she isn’t going to get very far with her dream — now mine too — of something better if she stays a Liberal, or defects to one of the other parties, which function pretty much the same way.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019