Trudeau boots Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from Liberal caucus


Jody Wilson-Raybould speaks to reporters in Ottawa on Feb. 27, 2019. File photo by Andrew Meade

Former attorney general and justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott have been kicked out of the Liberal Party of Canada caucus.

“I am here to announce that Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott are not longer members of the liberal caucus,” Trudeau said to a sombre-looking gathering of his caucus. “The trust that previously existed between these two individuals and our team has been broken.”

Moments before he began speaking, Wilson-Raybould shared the news herself, getting ahead of the prime minister before he began the televised address.

“I have just been informed by the prime minister of Canada that I am removed from the Liberal caucus and as the confirmed Vancouver Granville candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada in the 2019 federal election,” Wilson-Raybould tweeted with Liberal MPs gathered on Parliament Hill to decide her fate.

Wilson-Raybould, who wrote to her fellow Liberals earlier Tuesday in hopes of convincing them to let her stay, stepped down from Trudeau’s cabinet in February after he shuffled her out of the coveted justice portfolio, following a bombshell media report in the Globe and Mail that revealed she had been pressured to intervene in the criminal prosecution of Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin over corruption and fraud charges. MORE

Ex-B.C. attorney general says Jody Wilson-Raybould’s secret recording a sign of ‘something seriously fractured inside the heart’ of Trudeau government

VANCOUVER—British Columbia’s former attorney general Geoff Plant says Friday’s release of a secretly recorded phone call to former federal attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould has embroiled the legal community in ethical debates — but has further exposed a “deep fracture at the heart” of the Liberal government.

The Dec. 19 phone conversation between then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould and Canada’s highest non-partisan civil servant has sparked controversy among legal experts, including in Wilson-Raybould’s home province of B.C.

Wilson-Raybould defended her reasons for not overturning the independent prosecutor’s decision to proceed against SNC-Lavalin. But she came under fire from some lawyers for recording Wernick’s call.
Wilson-Raybould defended her reasons for not overturning the independent prosecutor’s decision to proceed against SNC-Lavalin. But she came under fire from some lawyers for recording Wernick’s call.  (DAVID P. BALL/STAR VANCOUVER)

“It’s a sign of something seriously fractured inside the heart of the government,” said Plant, who served as the BC Liberals’ attorney general and justice minister after the party took power in 2001. “The taped phone call has raised some legal discussion about whether that was the right thing to do, but, for me, the question is why someone who is a Cabinet minister feels it’s necessary to record a conversation with the Clerk of the Privy Council in the first place.

“That feels to me from outside as evidence of a fairly serious trust problem where the attorney general said no and the prime minister kept asking. There is a confidence and trust gap. To me, it’s more about the basic political integrity of the government.” MORE

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Feast hosted for Jody Wilson-Raybould on Vancouver Island

Leak detailing Supreme Court appointment rift only shows how little Trudeau’s camp respects the rule of law

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with members of the Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL) in Winnipeg on March 26, 2019. JOHN WOODS/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The core question in the SNC-Lavalin affair is whether Justin Trudeau and his advisers respect the rule of law.

The answer appears to be that they have no respect for it at all, after an unnamed source, in an effort to smear former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould, fed reporters a story about a dispute over choosing a judge for the Supreme Court.

Even Liberals are furious over the leak to The Canadian Press and CTV, presumably from someone inside the Trudeau government.

“It is outrageous that there is a leak with respect to the Supreme Court judicial appointment process,” Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith told the House of Commons ethics committee on Tuesday. “People from all parties ought to condemn that kind of thing.”

In 2013, Mr. Harper openly criticized Beverley McLachlin….This is worse: a deliberate leak to the media about private discussions between an attorney-general and a prime minister over a judge under consideration for the Supreme Court, with the leak intended to debase the reputation of the former attorney-general. Anyone now under consideration for a judgeship will have reason to fear that their application, too, could be leaked. The legal community should be on its hind legs over this. MORE

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Andrew Coyne: The latest tactic to suppress Wilson-Raybould — smear a judge

 

Liberals block new SNC-Lavalin ethics probe as Trudeau insists his team is ‘more united than ever’

Prime minister downplays caucus divisions over SNC-Lavalin affair


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Liberal caucus is more united than ever, despite divisions over the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair. (Patrick Doyle/Reuters)

Liberal MPs have voted down an opposition motion to launch a Commons ethics committee probe into the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who broke with party ranks to vote in favour of an NDP motion calling for a public inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin matter, said he opposes an ethics committee hearing at this time because it is “premature.”

He pointed out that the justice committee is still awaiting a written submission, texts and emails from former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, the Liberal MP whose allegations of political interference in her work as attorney general touched off the scandal which has dominated federal politics for weeks.

“To me, it makes far more sense to see what is said in that statement, to see how justice reacts to that and whether they think any of that new information is something worth reconsidering their previous decision to close off their study,” Erskine-Smith said.

Apart from Erskine-Smith, no other Liberal members spoke during the committee meeting. He said the Liberal members met before the meeting began and decided he would speak for the group.

Frustrated Conservatives called the vote further evidence of a government effort to sweep a scandal under the rug.

“Liberals had a chance to put their votes where their mouths were, and instead they decided to vote for another coverup,” said Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre.

Conservative MP and ethics critic Peter Kent had drafted a motion to launch an inquiry, call former cabinet ministers Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott to testify by April 5 and formally request that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broaden a waiver to allow them to speak freely. MORE

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Liberals block push for ethics committee probe of SNC-Lavalin scandal
How to change the channel on SNC-Lavalin? Let’s attack a judge!

SNC-Lavalin controversy shows danger of dabbling in economic nationalism


Seven weeks of carnage in Canadian politics prove Justin Trudeau’s choice to stare down the independence of the justice system for the benefit of a corporation was a bridge too far, Heather Scoffield writes.  (JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

If economic nationalism exists on a spectrum, where Donald Trump’s America is at one end, and hands-off, open economies are at another, Canada has traditionally been somewhere in the middle.

Yes, politicians advocate for Canadian corporations, negotiate trade deals on their behalf, and deal in programs and incentives to encourage their growth. But no, they don’t force companies to locate here, or compel trading partners to buy their wares, or jimmy with Canadian institutions to pave the way.

The SNC-Lavalin controversy shows the gravitational pull of the Trumpian side of that spectrum. But if there’s anything that’s heartening in the vitriol that has infected the public discourse on this matter, it’s that Canadians seem to generally agree: don’t go too far in that direction.

From day one, SNC-Lavalin has made little secret that Ottawa should head to that place. MORE

Lobbied 22 times, Trudeau government proposes to let Alton Gas dump saltwater into Shubenacadie River


Mi’kmaq activist Dorene Bernard stands on the shores of the Shubenacadie River, a 72-kilometre tidal river that cuts through the middle of Nova Scotia and flows into the Bay of Fundy, in Fort Ellis, N.S. on July 31, 2018. Photo by Andrew Vaughan/CP

An Alberta oilpatch company met with federal officials 22 times last year to lobby them about major fossil fuel projects. Ottawa is now drafting rules to specifically allow the company, AltaGas, to dump saltwater into a major Nova Scotia river.

The government says the proposed rules would reduce risks to “fish, fish habitat, and human health from fish consumption” by creating limits on brine release into the Shubenacadie River as part of the Alton Gas project, which federal officials would then oversee.

The federal government is pushing a plan that would allow an energy company to dump saltwater into a tidal river over the objections of local Indigenous communities, @Lindsayleejones reports, as eyebrows raised over Ottawa’s priorities.

A government spokeswoman also said that it was in the early stages of consultations on the matter and would ensure high environmental standards on any decision.

But the Trudeau government’s proposed regulation and the direct benefit it would provide one company is raising eyebrows in light of the Trans Mountain pipeline imbroglio and SNC-Lavalin affair.

In all three cases, the Trudeau government attempted to propose policies under heavy lobbying pressure from the companies involved, Texas-based Kinder Morgan, Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin, and now Alberta-based AltaGas. MORE

SNC-Lavalin affair raises the issue of the role of former judges

Image result for SNC-Lavalin affair raises the issue of the role of former judges
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Trudeau speaks to reporters in Sudbury, Ont. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The SNC-Lavalin scandal has proven to be an insatiable beast with tentacles reaching deep into the political and legal worlds — perhaps even as far as the Supreme Court of Canada.

Politically, the allegations of interference with the justice system have deeply damaged the “sunny ways” Liberal brand and catapulted the Conservative Party ahead of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in pre-election opinion polls. And, as most scandals do, the SNC affair has led to a series of high-profile resignations. Former minister of justice and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould may have been the first out the door, but her departure was quickly followed by the principal secretary to the prime minister, Gerald Butts, the president of the Treasury Board, Jane Philpott, and, most recently, the clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick.

The government, in its scramble to defuse the political crises, launched a half-hearted study into the allegations before the Liberal-controlled justice committee appointed Anne McLellan to advise the PMO on the role of justice minister and attorney general in cabinet.

But none of this, rightly so given that the rule of law is at stake, has quieted the continuing questions about Trudeau’s integrity and his leadership.

And now there seems to be a rising grumbling that the legal profession should consider what activities former judges can be permitted to engage in after retirement.

After all, the short history of the SNC scandal does reveal a who’s who of the legal profession.

Former Supreme Court of Canada judge Frank Iacobucci, who is now senior counsel at the law firm Torys, was actively involved in SNC-Lavalin’s defence — even signing his name to a letter to the Public Prosecution Service advocating for a deferred persecution agreement.

Wilson-Raybould hired former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell to provide her with legal advice about the scope and application of solicitor-client privilege.

Even the PMO got into the former judge game by floating the idea of retaining former Supreme Court Chief justice Beverley McLachlin to provide a legal opinion on deferred prosecution agreements.

The re-examination of permissible post-judicial activities may all just be a convenient distraction for those who wish to turn the channel away from the actions of the prime minister and his office. But there may be some merit considering what activities judges should be permitted to engage in during their golden years.

Should judges go gently into the good night of retirement? Or should they rage, rage against the dying of the light?

Should former judges have been involved in the SNC case at all? MORE

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Relations between Trudeau, Wilson-Raybould began to fray over her Supreme Court pick: Sources

 

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Trudeau rejected Wilson-Raybould’s conservative pick for high court, CP sources say