Based on her testimony before the House Justice Committee, it is clear the prime minister had no choice but to move her out. She cannot be trusted to sit in caucus where she could be note-taking for her next committee exposé.
By Sheila Copps
First published in The Hill Times on March 4, 2019.
OTTAWA—Buried in the nearly four hours of House Justice Committee testimony by Jody Wilson-Raybould was an astonishing admission.
In answer to a question from Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt, Wilson-Raybould revealed that she herself had used her legal power of direction, issuing an internal directive to all Crown prosecutors, instructing them to revisit their handling of upcoming Indigenous cases.
Wilson-Raybould’s directive was self-described as internal, as the actions she took were never gazetted in the way that a company remediation agreement would have to be.
Her reasoning for issuing the Indigenous directive was quite different from the SNC-Lavalin case.
Indigenous people are jailed in much higher numbers than their presence in the population.
But last Wednesday Wilson-Raybould kept insisting that it was not proper for her to overturn a recommendation of the public prosecutor and that was the reason she refused to heed public interest pleas to cut a deal with the embattled Quebec-based company.
To the unschooled ear, Wilson-Raybould’s testimony was devastating. Citing from copious notes, she fingered 11 government officials for improper conduct, including the prime minister.
But the notion that the finance minister and other colleagues should stop harassing her about a decision affecting almost 9,0000 Canadian jobs is unbelievable.
She serves in cabinet at the pleasure of the prime minister and has a duty to consult caucus and cabinet colleagues.
Wilson-Raybould believes as attorney general, she should not sit in cabinet, to avoid the potential for political interference.
She seemed to have little understanding of her role as part of a team in government.
Ministers are supposed to hear colleagues out and are duty bound to consider their opinions.
At one point, Wilson-Raybould accused the prime minister of crossing the line when he said his interest, as a Member of Parliament for Papineau should be taken into consideration.
Isn’t that what a Member of Parliament is supposed to do?
Would Wilson-Raybould have had the same response if the 9,000 jobs were in aboriginal communities?
The reason she became attorney general is because Liberals won an election, in part on an ambitious promise of Indigenous reconciliation.
How does she help her people by taking down the government?
And if she was so aggrieved by the 11 requests to review her decision, why did she neither inform the prime minister nor resign from a team in which she obviously has so little faith?
Her repeated references to the “due diligence” she exercised in the performance of her prosecutorial duties were never backed up.
Instead, she insisted that her mind had been made up even before she took meetings with colleagues in cabinet and in the Prime Minister’s Office.
She also refused multiple committee invitations to reiterate her faith in the prime minister.
Two weeks earlier, her father mused about how she could take down the government, and even proffered that she could be prime minister.
Wilson-Raybould refused to explain why she would not seek outside counsel on the SNC-Lavalin matter even though prosecutorial staff was split on the direction that should be taken.
What is so difficult about asking for an outside opinion? She moved pretty quickly to do so when she sought legal counsel on whether or not she could breach attorney client privilege.
Wilson-Raybould continued to insist that she could say nothing about her decision to resign from cabinet, even though that has nothing to do with the convention of cabinet confidentiality. There is nothing preventing her from laying out her reasons for departure.
Given her scorched-earth approach last week, one wonders why she would want to remain in the caucus of a leader for whom she has so little regard.
Being kicked out of caucus allows her to continue the victim narrative.
Based on her performance at the Justice Committee, she obviously holds a very high opinion of her decision-making capabilities, and doesn’t have a lot of time for the opinions of others.
She positively bristled when some Liberal Justice Committee members suggested she should have resigned from her position or voiced her misgivings directly to the prime minister.
She did neither. I wrote some weeks ago that Trudeau should have kept her at justice.
Based on her testimony before the House Justice Committee, it is clear the prime minister had no choice but to move her out.
She cannot be trusted to sit in caucus where she could be note-taking for her next committee exposé.
Trust is an important element in any political organization. She does not trust the prime minister and the feeling is mutual.
Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.