Friday, February 8, 2019

Some Habits Die Hard


In some ways, it is hard to believe that the old Liberal propensity for corrupt coziness with corporate chums has reasserted itself so quickly, barely three years into Mr. Trudeau's tenure. In other ways, it is not hard to believe at all. After all, old habits die hard.

Th latest allegation is that Trudeau tried to influence former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution for bribery of Libyan officials in order to secure business contracts. It is an allegation the Prime Minister stoutly denies, but the fact is that Wilson-Raybould was recently demoted to Veterans Affairs.

Cause and effect? The smell of a smoking gun is in the air.

First, there is what has been described as Trudeau's legalistic denial in response to reporters' and House of Commons' questions:
“The allegations in the Globe story this morning are false,” Trudeau told reporters Thursday in Vaughan. “Neither the current nor the previous attorney-general was directed by me or anyone in my office to take a decision in this matter.”
The new justice minister, David Lametti, repeated Trudeau's words in answering the charge of interference in the House.

So, are we simply jumping to judgement, based on little or no evidence? The Toronto Star doesn't think so.
And what communications, if any, did members of Trudeau’s office have with Wilson-Raybould and her office on this issue? These are questions that can’t simply be waved away with a carefully worded blanket denial. The Globe reported that the company lobbied federal officials more than 50 times since 2017 on “justice” and “law enforcement” issues, including 14 times with Trudeau’s closest advisers in the PMO.

What exactly did they discuss? Did it include the possibility of SNC-Lavalin benefitting from a so-called remediation agreement that would allow the company to avoid a criminal trial on serious fraud and corruption charges (and therefore remain eligible for lucrative government contracts)?

And what communications, if any, did members of Trudeau’s office have with Wilson-Raybould and her office on this issue?

These are questions that can’t simply be waved away with a carefully worded blanket denial.
Susan Delacourt finds Wilson-Raybould's silence on the matter quite telling:
... she didn’t have a thing to say in the wake of the Globe and Mail’s explosive story of how the former justice minister reportedly stood in the way of a deal to let SNC-Lavalin detour around prosecutions that could have blocked it from receiving government contracts for years to come.

“That is between me and the government as the government’s previous lawyer,” Wilson-Raybould was quoted as saying in the Globe’s scoop, as well as a cryptic, “I don’t have a comment on that,” in reply to more pointed questions about how she handled the SNC-Lavalin case.

Pro tip: “No comment” only works as a clever misdirection in fictionalized political journalism. In real life, it is often regarded as confirmation.
Did she speak truth to power?

Delacourt attended a Robbie Burns dinner last week in which Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes took jabs at her own government:
One of those jabs was aimed squarely at the ouster of Wilson-Raybould from the justice job, and a joke about how an Indigenous woman lost her post for doing it well and unsettling the “white man.”
None of which 'proves' these allegations. However, it is worth noting that SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec company, has had a long relationship with the Liberal Party of Canada, even when it was out of power:
SNC-Lavalin, many were reminding us on Thursday, was the same firm that was detouring around election laws for much of that decade to put roughly $110,000 in the party’s pocket in those lean years.
And so, an old pattern re-emerges. Coupled with Trudeau's stout defence and dismissal of allegations regarding his good friend and fundraiser Stephen Bronfman over what was revealed about offshore accounts in the Panama Papers, as well as the CRA foot-dragging in going after the big corporate cheats who operate such accounts, one can justifiably wonder whose interests the Prime Minister really is protecting.

This may rankle those who believe a Liberal government should never be criticized, given the poor alternatives, but to take such a position is to be willfully and woefully ignorant.

Lord knows we have enough of that already today.

10 comments:

  1. I'm with Delacourt. As I read the Wilson-Raybould interview I realized that she was using her solicitor-client relationship to avoid the tough questions. All she had to do was deny that JT had twisted her arm to take SNC-Lav off the hook. Denying that would not have breached her professional duty of confidence. It was because she wouldn't deny these allegations that I had to conclude they were probably true.

    As for this prime minister, those who take him at his word at this point should know better.Remind me how many of those well-placed tax wizards at KPMG ever saw the inside of a cell over the Isle of Man tax scam. By my recollection that would be none. Then there was the "cash for access" in the first year of the Trudeau government. I'd also like someone to explain why Morneau gave Kinder Morgan and its execs such a sweetheart deal on Trans Mountain at the very moment Kinder Morgan was ready to throw in the towel.

    As I look on Justin I can't help but draw on PET as a yardstick. Here the apple fell far from the tree and kept rolling downhill. You look at all the tough issues the father unhesitatingly tackled - the status of women, homosexuality, abortion, patriating the Constitution and then that lasting gift, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It wasn't an unbroken chain of successes but it was impressive and, perhaps, unique to its time, the pre-neoliberal era.

    I'm a real fan of PET. I have eight (I think nine) books on the man and his government, three of which are critical. I greatly admired his intellect and enjoyed watching him at work during Question Period. It was an exercise in "reason over passion" that drove the opposition to despair. There's none of that in JT. He's quite boring on his feet.

    Do I believe his fanciful account of the SNL-Lavalin controversy? I can't see any reason why I should.

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    1. As you know, Mound, I voted for Justin and had high hopes at the outset that politics would be different under his tenure. It didn't take me long to grow disillusioned. Clearly, he is his father's son in name only.

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  2. Simon will think of some excuse for Trudeau's behaviour, bank on it. No doubt he's beavering away as we speak, desperate to keep Justin's noble head above troubled waters. Fancying someone from afar, as the Brits like to call it, will lead you down the garden path to ridiculousness if you let it, and he has.

    I'll repeat what I said in the days after the Lib win in 2015, and several times thereafter. About Oct 14 when it was becoming clear JT would win, out of nowhere came Paul Martin to whisper in Justin's ear at a rally. It was on video. The latter looked surprised upon hearing the words. I saw the old guard revivified at that moment, their troubles over, and their new man was co-opted on the spot by more or less threat. You wonder who runs this country? The billionaires, and Martin is one, while portraying himself as a lovable doofus who likes gardening.

    Then there was Morneau's Economic Council of Jan 2016, where more than a dozen people of high industry and academe, chaired by an accountant from one of the bigwig firms, pledged to offer economic advice for a $1 a year each as Canadian patriots. As if they were actually altruistic. It was neoliberal input writ large, and Morneau's subsequent behaviour shows it. Now we are taking part in regime change in Venezuela, while any mention of the years of US sanctions which brought that country to its knees is expunged from the record, never once mentioned, and we are told we're high-minded saviours of the common folk from a mad dictator. Bullsh*t!

    From beginning to end, on every file, Trudeau stinks. Someone tries to do a good job, and boom - demoted. The most fantastically nonsensical reason I heard was that Wilson-Raybold was shifted to Veterans because Brison resigned. What possible connection is there? None. Lies, DISHONOURABLE PEOPLE, that's the Liberals for you.

    The whole thing stank back in late 2015, and I was roundly criticized by some old blogger called Scotian on iPolitics when it was half-decent, who thought I should give Trudeau a chance when I could see the back-pedalling coming apace. Others piled on - Justin was the fair-haired boy. I was being mean. I saw through the scam before the end of November 2015 - call it a feeling if you must.

    Poor end-of-life legislation far from what people expected, proportional representation thrown out to the distress of the Liberal head of the Commons Committee studying it, and so on. That carryover Bill C51 from harper was supposed to have public input and revised, according to Goodale - may we ask when? Nothing has happened. And any Canadian driving can now be pulled over FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER and subjected to a breath or drug test. Freedom? Good government? Not subject to unreasonable search and seizure? Don't make me laugh.

    Then there's the matter of the 392 unfilled promises of the 394 Trudeau promised during the election campaign, listed so lovingly on his website at the time.

    What do we actually get? Same old, same old. Grubbies out to fill their pockets and lord it over the rest of us, or trying to avoid prosecution. The Conservatives, as Douglas Fraud shows in Ontario are similarly rapacious. And who can forget harper, now willing to sell out the country for consultancy fees. A damn traitor! Screw the whole damn lot of pocket-picking political skunks from the two main parties!

    Jagmeet Singh is only interested in the status of being leader of a major party. He expects to be feted for that alone. Work? Policy? What's that? Aren't there minions to carry out the daily slog? Why be a leader if you can't swan around doing bugger all seems to be Singh's idea of his responsibilities. He cannot answer questions properly, uninformed as he is, and will go down in flames one way or another.

    I'm with Mound, vote Green. The only minor hope.

    BM

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    1. The neoliberal pattern, as you point out, has been clear for some time, BM. I think we do no one any favours if we try to ignore, justify or sugarcoat Trudeau's myriad and manifest failures.

      I did read The Mound's post about voting Green in the next election, and I am giving it very, very serious consideration. While at one time the NDP might have been an option, Singh has put to bed any such notion. His ineptitude is indeed breathtaking.

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    2. Great post BM. "Progressives" who refuse to criticize Trudeau frustrates me to no end. The cheerleader you spoke of has lost all credability.

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  3. I had high hopes. I'm deeply disappointed. But what other options have we got?

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    1. It is a question bedeviling many, I am sure, Owen. As I mentioned in my above comment to BM, I am giving serious consideration to the Mound's suggestion about voting Green.

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  4. But ... but ... but ... Benghazi! Nothing to see here folks. Just another shiny thing to distract from the non-existent Conservative platform. I wonder what the Globe or N Post will come up with next week? I bet it ... Look, Squirrel!

    UU

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    1. Believe me, UU, I am not in any way fooled by the faux outrage being expressed by the Conservatives. Nonetheless, the allegation of political interference is a serious one, and merits serious investigation.

      There is a very informative primer about the entire issue in today's Star: https://www.thestar.com/politics/federal/2019/02/08/heres-your-primer-on-the-snc-lavalin-drama-in-canadian-politics.html

      Here is an excerpt:

      Gerry Ferguson, a professor at the University of Victoria who wrote a book on global corruption law, said there is a centuries-old tradition that the attorney general’s role as the government’s chief prosecutor needs to be independent from her position as a member of the executive branch at the cabinet table. As such, “it is improper for any other minister to attempt to influence the attorney general in her first role,” he said by email Friday.

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    2. If Jody W-R was so principled that she would not do what the PM supposedly was pressuring her to do then she would have left cabinet and not accepted a “demotion”. The only FACT we have is that she was moved to a different portfolio in a cabinet shuffle. We don’t know anything else about the “why” of the move.

      UU

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