Opinions Vary

How do they vary? Let me count the ways.

They vary on Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council.

This guy is a loon.
Warren Kinsella, Twitter, 2019 Feb 21

I thought he was magnificent.
Christie Blatchford, 2019 Feb 21

What I find objectionable is Wernick’s creepy attempt to persuade the people of Canada that if recent events have made them doubt our institutions of government — “lose faith” in them was his phrase — it is the people, and not the government, that must be the problem.
Colby Cosh, 2019 Feb 22

One academic suggested some of his comments sounded like “cheer-leading” for the current government. He certainly came close to crossing lines. But no clerk is a wallflower at the orgy — he or she has to be invested in the success or failure of the government, if the relationship is going to work.
John Ivison, 2019 Feb 21

They vary on Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Now Wernick didn’t suggest Wilson-Raybould could have resigned, but she could have done, of course— the question of why she didn’t hangs flatly in the air.
Christie Blatchford, 2019 Feb 22

The dictionaries define noble as “having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals.” And, with each passing day, you have shown all of Canada that you certainly possess fine personal qualities. High morals and principles and ideals, too.
Warren Kinsella, Twitter 2019 Feb 19

They vary on what’s wrong with Justin Trudeau.

Justin Trudeau has evolved into a politician so well versed in the art of denial, he can’t say yes.
John Ivison, 2019 Feb 21

It wouldn’t have hurt Justin Trudeau to extricate himself from the pointless metaphysics of solicitor-client privilege and wander out to shake a few hands and have a couple of chats with real people in real language about what they’re feeling, what they’re going through and what they might be seeking from his government. [Note: referring to the truck convoy from Alberta]
Rex Murphy, 2019 Feb 22

Jesus H. Christ, these guys make the Trump White House look like communications geniuses.
Warren Kinsella, Twitter, 2019 Feb 21

And they vary on whether any of it makes any sense.

To quote the late William Goldman, nobody knows anything. The last twenty-four hours are proof enough of that. Whatever is going on behind the scenes between Jody Wilson-Raybould, Justin Trudeau and Gerald Butts is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a clown car.
Andrew Coyne, 2019 Feb 20 (updated)

And you’re like, “Dude, your shirt’s on fire!” and he’s like, “What fire, dude? I’m just on a break. Permanently. Because there’s no fire. That’s why I left.”
John Robson, 2019 Feb 19

And, um, oh no, sorry, that’s one point on which the opinionators seem to agree:  It doesn’t make sense.

I find it simultaneously funny and exhausting, predictable and surprising.  Many commentators play true to type (Cosh and Murphy, for example); others play against type (Kinsella-the-liberal/Liberal and Blatchford-the-conservative, for example).

It doesn’t make sense.  Not yet.  Stay tuned.


Even online, I sometimes stumble across informed opinion.  Here’s a lengthy but worthwhile blog by Andrew Roman, addressing some of these issues.  Who the heck is Andrew Roman?  I quote:

I’m a retired litigation lawyer with over 45 years of experience in environmental, electricity, competition, and constitutional issues. I have appeared at all levels of court including the Supreme Court of Canada. I have represented and advised federal, provincial and municipal governments, large and small corporations, environmental groups, First Nations and individuals. I have also the authored over 90 legal articles and a law book, and have been an adjunct faculty member at four Canadian law schools.

What’s his blog about, generally?  Again I quote.

There is so much misinformation, biased media coverage and raw emotion online. This has undermined our ability to examine critically the important issues we face. I hope my blog posts provoke you to think more objectively about these issues.

In my view this piece on the Prime Minister and the Attorney General is great: knowledgeable, rational, even-handed.  I recommend it for when you have some time.  Thanks to Andrew Coyne for linking to it and to Jen Gerson for retweeting that link.

 

14 Comments

  1. Wade

    Here, here. Pour a cup of coffee and read that, it is the most informed and reasoned approach to the SNCL affair. Without an agenda he details how Trudeau and company are all wrong. Of course he learned at the feet of his father and ‘uncle’. From the FP opinion; “In the 1970s, when Jean Chrétien was the Liberal trade minister, he urged Canadians not to put their “head in the sand” and pass up overseas sales by being fussed over bribes.” Pretty much sums it up.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Wade – Sigh. I also like how Roman points out that Wilson-Raybould’s failure to resign earlier “muddies the waters.” It’s entirely possible there’s no one standing on the moral high ground.

  2. Tom Watson

    Isabel
    Given the varied, some fully partisan, takes on the SNC Lavalin events, how do I fully understand this mess? Let me count the ways there too. No matter how I slice it, it’s not very comforting.
    Tom

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Tom – No, it’s not comforting. But better we know that than think they’re all noble. They act “out of self-interest” as well as (sometimes) “on principle.”

  3. John Whitman

    Isabel – Robert Fife made an interesting point on today’s version of CTV’s Question Period. Maybe the reason Wilson-Raybould didn’t resign earlier was because she thought she had the SNC Lavalin thing under control as Solicitor General, even with all the pressure. Once she lost the position of Solicitor General, then her only way of stopping the fix being put in was to resign.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      John – That’s possible. We have yet to hear from her as to why she did resign,and why she didn’t resign earlier. I think a lot hinges on those answers.

  4. Barry

    I do like this issue of Andrew Roman’s blog!

    I have been trying, without a lot of success, to understand the SNC-Lavalin Group issue since it came up. Unfortunately, only about 5% of my information is not from a single newspaper (The Star) so I am missing the divergent views.

    I have not heard any comments about why the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel, decided to not offer SNC-Lavalin a Deferred Prosecution Agreement. It leaves me with the impression that the Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, likely agreed with her logic.
    Perhaps:
    • “Factors not to consider (3)Despite paragraph (2)(i), if the organization is alleged to have committed an offence under section 3 or 4 of the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, [here], the prosecutor must not consider the national economic interest, the potential effect on relations with a state other than Canada or the identity of the organization or individual involved.
    [Emphasis added. This language comes from Article 5 of the OECD convention.]
    • SNC-Lavalin has not been a good citizen since the initial acts were done? They may have only made partial corrections to their culture.

    The best that I can understand is that there was NOT “undue influence/ pressure” placed on the Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould – i.e. she held fast to her initial decision. The decision that is apparently not in agreement with the suggestions from the PMO and Privy Council.

    However, despite the comments by several (Justin Trudeau, Gerald Butts, Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council) there may have been “inappropriate influence/ pressure” exerted on the Attorney General to “consider the national economic interest”, “to get it right”. How much pressure is too much is very subjective.

    Shortly after Jody Wilson-Raybould confirmed her decision to not over-ride the decision of her Director there was a Cabinet shuffle and she was moved from the position of Attorney General to the position of Minister of Veterans’ Affairs. Cabinet positions are at the discretion of the Prime Minister and so she accepted the new portfolio – she did not have grounds to refuse. Apparently this portfolio switch is seen by the MPs as a demotion.

    This “demotion” could easily be seen by her colleagues as punishment imposed because she did not succumb to the influence/ pressure exerted by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council. If the new Attorney General is of this impression then the pressure on him is now undue! Will all MPs (including Cabinet Members) now become sycophants to the whims of the occupants of the PMO? Undue pressure no longer required.

    Justine Trudeau made a statement that if Jody Wilson-Raybould had felt undue pressure she would not have accepted the transfer to the cabinet position of Minister of Veterans’ Affairs. Within a few hours she resigned from that position.

    It seems fairly obvious that she felt that her decision had been subjected to inappropriate influence/ pressure!

  5. Isabel Gibson

    Barry – Yes, lots still to get through. My admittedly superficial understanding of Deferred Prosecution Agreements suggests that it wasn’t appropriate because they hadn’t met the conditions (accepting responsibility and so on) and because the rationales being put forward by PMO et al were, as you noted, explicitly excluded from consideration by the Act.

  6. John Whitman

    Isabel – in addition to Barry’s comments above, as I understand it, for a Deferred Prosecution Agreement to be applied, the guilty party must come forward and admit their sins before they are charged, which SNC did not do. They only started looking for a Deferred Prosecution Agreement after they were charged by the RCMP.

    In many ways a DPA is like cheating on your income taxes. If you admit your error to the CRA before they discover it, the penalties are less than if the CRA finds it first.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      John – Yes, this is one of the reasons Andrew Coyne has argued that SNC-Lavalin was likely deemed ineligible for a DPA. In that case, as he points out, the PMO would have to persuade or over-ride, in turn, the AG, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and then the judge who has to accept what seems to me to be very like a plea deal. Oops. Can’t over-ride a judge . . .

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