“Well, at least we’re not as bad as the Americans.” That would be the go-to statement for most Canadians when comparing politics between the two countries. Our neighbours to the South have a flair for the dramatic when it comes to making decisions. The storylines, sub-text and everything in-between coming from Capitol Hill to the White House reads as a soap opera these days. It’s the reason why series such as the West Wing and House of Cards have captured the imagination of international viewers.
However, the time has come for politics in the Great White North to be the opening act for a Saturday Night Live bit.
The SNC-Lavalin scandal has been a headline for almost a month, as reports have come out painting a dubious light on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the ruling Liberal party. As the Prime Minister’s Office tries to put out the fire by moving on to other issues impacting the country, it appears that the next great Canadian scandal will not be usurped in the news cycle any time soon.
So why is this story as big as it is? There are sceptics among us who believe that corruption at any political level is prevalent. The shadiness of politics can be completely off-putting. This is the story of the leader of our nation reportedly applying pressure on Jody Wilson-Raybould — a cabinet member, Minister of Justice and Attorney General. Things don’t look great when you consider why SNC-Lavalin was originally charged. Before the Quebec-based company became the subject of contention, SNC-Lavalin operated as one of Canada’s biggest employers. Having operated in Quebec for 100 years, the company became a staple of the province. However, SNC-Lavalin came under fire for attempting to bribe Libyan officials for a project. The company was charged with one count of fraud and another count on corruption overseas in Libya, putting them at the mercy of the Canadian Government. The Montreal-based company — which operated under SNC-Lavalin International Inc. and SNC Lavalin Construction Inc. — was a key player in the Canadian economy. That, along with some loose ties to the Liberal party, is what got the company in the door to make a case for themselves on home turf.
Because SNC-Lavalin was charged with those previous criminal counts mentioned, under Canadian law, the company would be barred from operating on Canadian soil. Outside of picking up their ball and moving elsewhere, SNC-Lavalin begged for a remediation from the Liberal government. Granting remediation to them would drop the criminal charges against the company. In that scenario, there still would need to be a settlement — and likely a hefty fine — but it would have been business as usual for the company.
However, Wilson-Raybould didn’t see it that way. Based on news reports from various outlets, the former attorney general and justice minister followed the case to the letter of the law. From what we on the outside are led to believe, the Prime Minister tried to influence her decision in the matter, laying out the not-so-subtle repercussions of not ruling in the party’s favour would cause. To her credit, Wilson-Raybould illustrated patience and resolve, remaining steadfast with her decision in the face of political pressure to do otherwise.
On January 14th, 2019, Justin Trudeau shuffled his cabinet. In a move that was viewed as a demotion, Wilson-Raybould became the veteran affair minister. David Lemetti was named the country’s Justice Minister and Attorney General.
So the cause and effect on the surface paints the picture of Wilson-Raybould being demoted for insubordination as it pertains to her unwillingness to overrule the federal prosecutor’s criminal case against a lobbyist group. This feels like a script for a mini-series on CBC. Move over, Schitt’s Creek! Following the cabinet shuffle, Jody Wilson-Raybould would resign from her position as Veteran Affairs Minister. By then, the fallout had begun to make waves in the public. The fiasco that was the handling of the SNC-Lavalin and the demotion of Jody Wilson-Raybould appeared to be the final piece in the political nightmare for Trudeau and the federal Liberals. Instead, the firestorm over Parliament Hill was just beginning.
Like me smelling a Krispy Kreme donut, or better yet the old analogy of sharks sensing blood in the water, the federal opposition approached Wilson-Raybould to testify in front of the committee about what truly happened regarding SNC-Lavalin, Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberal staff attempting to coerce her decision. While the details and testimony continue to be worked out, it certainly is a miserable blemish in a federal election year.
Despite the looks of Mr. Trudeau, there’s hardly anything sexy about politics in Canada. It’s a reflection of the country, to a degree. With most of the country’s focus revolving around sustaining a good way of life, upholding standards and surviving winters, politics is supposed to serve many masters, but doesn’t always live up to the notion. The problems of a new family in Southern Ontario are much different than that of a family in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Foreign investors buying a huge portion of Vancouver real estate have no impact on the imports/exports of Nova Scotia. Canada has always been celebrated for its diversity and multiculturalism. However, catering to the diverse needs across this vast land is why politicians are tasked with tough decisions for a decent pay grade. Do your job, represent your constituents and don’t embarrass the country. It’s a pretty low threshold — you’d think — and has been manageable for most politicians in the north. That was until this current debacle.
Emotion and politics have never been good bedfellows. Heck, they can barely live with one another. However, when the two are combined, it does add intrigue and entertainment. We’re not going to skate over the people who are feeling the financial crunch as a result of SNC-Lavalin ultimately being unable to work in Canada moving forward. That’s not a subject that I or anyone would make light of. This entire mess means that Canada, like Britain with BREXIT and the numerous political fires in the USA, is just as messy about our political affairs as everyone else.
The best part about this story is that we all can count on the fact that this issue is “to be continued…”