Jody Wilson-Raybould could call a press conference immediately to respond to all questions related to her time in cabinet after she was transferred out of the justice portfolio.
By Sheila Copps
First published in The Hill Times on March 18, 2019
The prime minister’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin issue has been a huge part of the problem.
Justin Trudeau should have moved immediately to accept ministerial resignations and he should also have stripped them of caucus membership.
He should have spoken immediately to the nation, revealing all the details surrounding the departure of his minister and the internal disagreement about the application of a deferred prosecution process.
The House Justice Committee should have convened quickly and heard all witnesses without dragging out the process in a way that does further damage to the government.
All those mistakes have inflicted damage on the Liberal government that may haunt them all the way to the election.
Jody Wilson-Raybould has achieved what neither Andrew Scheer nor Jagmeet Singh could.
She has managed to damage the prime minister’s record as a feminist and she has run roughshod over the government’s reconciliation agenda.
So that leads me to the question: what is Wilson-Raybould’s end game?
In her own words, the interventions by the prime minister and others were legal, so how does she feel now about the obstruction of justice claims flying around Ottawa.
If they have no credibility, why does she not speak out to refute them?
Why the silence?
Does she feel any remorse about how much damage has been caused to her own government as a result of this public airing of an internal cabinet discussion?
Of course, the opposition parties are making as much noise as they can to keep this issue before the public eye. The longer the examination is dragged out, the more that the prime minister’s own reputation is damaged domestically and internationally.
He needs to show some leadership and start the caucus and cabinet healing process.
The former attorney general doesn’t have to wait for the House Justice Committee hearing to speak out.
She could call a press conference immediately to respond to all questions related to her time in cabinet after she was transferred out of the justice portfolio.
As a lawyer, she knows that solicitor-client privilege only applies to her work as attorney general. Once she was moved to a different portfolio, she was no longer the government’s solicitor so there is no longer any privilege limitation on her right to speak.
Wilson-Raybould also insists that cabinet confidentiality rules require that she not speak. Cabinet confidentiality applies only to the content of cabinet meetings. Any discussion between colleagues outside the ambit of the cabinet room is not covered by confidentiality. That includes discussions she may have had with the prime minister, yet she continues to claim she is under a gag order.
Why does she continue to insist she is muzzled by solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality? Why does she want to run for the Liberals in the next election under a leader in whom she obviously has no confidence? What will she say to voters when they ask her if she trusts her own leader?
Why does she want to stay in a caucus, which is part of the government that she no longer believes in? Why doesn’t she just cross the floor to another party that is more in line with her convictions? How can her claim to a higher truth-telling ethical standard remain credible when she insists on serving on the team that she obviously no longer believes in?
Why was she reluctant to entertain a legal opinion from the former chief justice of the Supreme Court? If the former attorney general were so certain of her position, surely having a legal confirmation from such an eminent expert would have buttressed her case.
Why would she accept a new cabinet position, after declining a second one, from a prime minister who she accuses of exercising undue influence in her decision-making? Why did it take almost four months following her initial meeting with the prime minister for the former minister to feel aggrieved and resign?
Her body language at the cabinet reshuffle made it clear that she was not a happy camper after losing her dream job. Was she, or her representative, the source of The Globe and Mail article that launched this whole process? If so, how can she expect caucus colleagues trust her?
Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.