Canada: The scandal that threatens Trudeau
Wilson-Raybould and Trudeau: Corporate pressure?
The biggest scandal to hit Canadian politics in decades doesn’t involve sex or money, said Peter Donolo in The Globe and Mail, but it is still the stuff of high drama. Former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould has accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of pressuring her not to prosecute SNC-Lavalin, a multinational engineering firm that employs thousands of Canadians and stands accused of paying $36 million in bribes to secure contracts in Libya. Wilson-Raybould, Canada’s first indigenous justice minister, stood firm and was demoted in a January cabinet reshuffle; she has since resigned and gone public with the scandal. This grubby tale combines male politicians not taking a female colleague seriously; corporate favoritism; and the revelation that Trudeau, our golden boy, is just another politician. Trudeau has claimed there was a simple “breakdown in communications” between his office and that of Wilson-Raybould, and that there was “no inappropriate pressure.” But it looks ugly “for a leader who is both an avowed feminist and a champion of indigenous reconciliation” to publicly refute Wilson-Raybould’s version of events. That another woman cabinet member, Treasury Board Secretary Jane Philpott, has resigned in solidarity with Wilson-Raybould only cements “the latter’s claim on the moral high ground.”
Why can’t Trudeau just say sorry? asked Jaime Watt in the Toronto Star. Canadians “apologize so frequently it has been deemed part of our national character.” Yet Trudeau has expressed only tepid regret that his office’s actions were misunderstood, resulting in what he calls “an erosion of trust.” This is what happens when you pick ministers based on quotas rather than competence, said Jim Warren in the Toronto Sun. Trudeau wanted a rainbow cabinet, with 50 percent women and all races and religions represented. He got ministers who lack “loyalty and political experience.”
Wilson-Raybould, in particular, seems “singularly devoid of any political sense,” said Lysiane Gagnon in La Presse. She should have understood that the trade-off between punishing SNC-Lavalin and protecting the Canadian jobs it provides is worthy of discussion. Other countries faced with similar conundrums have opted to fine the company in question, rather than push for expensive, lengthy trials that often result in exactly the same fine being issued. But Wilson-Raybould insisted her mind was made up—she wanted SNC-Lavalin taken to court. This whole flap was caused by her horror that “behind closed doors, politicians talk about…politics.” Where’s the scandal in that? Trudeau will weather this, as he should.
Maybe this public bruising will be good for the prime minister, said Stephen Maher in Macleans. Trudeau has been “a Disney prince striding on the world stage, speaking up for feminism, diversity, and human rights,” but this “princely confidence seems to come with a princely sense of entitlement.” The son of a prime minister, he has “spent his life having strangers fawn over him.” Let him learn a little humility. ■