Loyalty has its price


By Raynier Maharaj

It comes as no surprise that former Canadian Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott have been kicked out of the Liberal Caucus by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In fact, any action other than expulsion would have been unthinkable for the two former senior Liberal cabinet ministers who openly revolted against their own party and leadership, for motives that as yet are unclear.
Wilson-Raybould is, of course, the so-called whistleblower who accused Trudeau and senior Cabinet officials of political interference in a pending criminal matter against Quebec giant SNC Lavalin.
Philpott, a former President of the Canadian Treasury Board, resigned in sympathy with Wilson-Raybould, also expressing a lack of confidence in the government.
Both went very public with their attacks on their boss and party, and while critics say they were justified in doing so, such behaviour is unacceptable from members of the government.
A parliamentary investigation has found no wrongdoing on the Trudeau government’s part, even after interviewing Wilson-Raybould at length.
Trudeau’s explanation for getting involved in the SNC Lavalin matter, in which the company is accused of paying bribes to foreign governments to win contracts, is that he was concerned how criminal charges would affect the future of the company, and the possible job loss it may cause. That’s reasonable.
Yet the former AG opted to continue leading the civil war against the Liberals, handing over a secret recording she made of a conversation between herself as AG and the Michael Wernick, the clerk of the Privy Council, to the opposition Conservatives.
That act, according to the Prime Minister, is unconscionable and warranted his decision to oust her from Caucus.
“Civil wars within parties are incredibly damaging because they signal to Canadians that we care more about ourselves than we do about them,” Mr. Trudeau said. “Our political opponents win when Liberals are divided. We can’t afford to make that mistake.”
Trudeau is right.
Independent observers are left to question the timing of Wilson-Raybould’s “disclosure” of the SNC Lavalin affair. It came not at a time when the alleged “interference” had taken place, but months later, only after she had been removed as AG in a Cabinet shuffle that was largely seen as a demotion.
That alone hangs a shadow over the purity of the intention of Ms Wilson-Raybould’s public accusations. If she was truly concerned, why didn’t she go public before? It appears she was content to sit as AG in the same government she so callously accused of misbehaviour… at least until she lost her high profile post.
Secondly, how can an AG, who holds an office of immense public trust, justify making a recording of a conversation with the country’s top civil servant, without letting him know that it was being recorded?
That in itself, in this country, is an illegal act. Furthermore, it makes it clear that Wilson-Raybould had a plan to bring down the Trudeau government before she even went public with her claims. Why else would she have opted to record the conversation?
No member of any government who makes such accusations against a sitting administration in an election year can expect cordial treatment from her colleagues or leader, so Wilson-Raybould should not be at all surprised that she was kicked out of Caucus and the party.
As for Philpott, she clearly backed the wrong horse, and was too hasty in throwing her support behind the former AG without first knowing the facts.
She, too, got what she deserved.
The opposition is, of course, all over this, hoping to milk it for what it is worth in the run-up to the election. That is to be expected. But Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is truly pushing the envelope when he calls the ouster of the two former senior Liberal Ministers “a betrayal of justice.” That’s because had it happened to him and the Conservatives, he would have done exactly the same thing.
The truth is, no party can afford to go into an election as a divided unit. Doing so basically hands the election to the opponent.
Trudeau had to get a handle on this situation immediately, and he did so by acting decisively — as one would expect from a good leader.
Loyalty has its price.