For me, the easy path in the SNC-Lavalin issue would be to blindly support Ministers Wilson-Raybould and Philpott. After all they stood their ground for what they think is the right path. It would certainly be much easier to be seen as supporting two strong women in the era of #timesup than to support the mechanism of government. After all, along with discussing the weather, one of our great Canadian pastimes is to criticize whatever our government is doing.
I am a feminist and believe strongly in supporting other women. Thus my dilemma. These are two strong women who are to be admired for their respective accomplishments and their courage to take a stand.
But what if I don’t agree 100 per cent with their actions and the stand they have taken? It feels very uncomfortable to speak out against the stand they have taken because it will be perceived as speaking out against them.
But it is not as simple as blindly supporting them because they are strong women. These are some of the growing pains of my own feminism. I also greatly admire other women working in government: Katie Telford, Maryam Monsef, and Chrystia Freeland, to name just a few. So it is important that I find a way to separate my strong admiration for and desire to support Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott as women and my perception of the SNC-Lavalin issue.
I listened with great interest to Minister Wilson-Raybould’s testimony and applauded her ability to testify calmly and succinctly. Clear and concise. Definitely to be admired. But when I take my focus off her and move it to what she was saying, I am left with some questions.
I believe that our leaders at the highest levels of our government, must be capable of looking at the significant issues facing our country from a broad perspective; with an eye on the future and the ramifications of any and all of their decisions. This is why our highest level of government also amends and sets the laws of our country. And I expect them to uphold our laws without exception. I do not expect them to make laws for the convenience of a single decision they wish to take. But I do expect them to look at both the laws in place and what is best for the country and its people. I expect them to look beyond our borders for good examples that could improve the management of our country.
In other words, I expect them to have a broader viewpoint than I, or most of the people I know, have.
To be clear, I am not talking about anything illegal. However, if our leaders never looked with a view to the future and bettering our country, we would still be operating under the laws established some 150-odd years ago. And sometimes the catalyst for reviewing our system is a situation that cannot be best managed on behalf of the country within the current parameters.
So, back to the issues surrounding SNC-Lavalin and Minister Wilson-Raybould’s testimony. When I examine what I heard in her own testimony, I am left wondering why she did not appear willing to discuss the situation and any potential options with someone else who had expertise in this area? Could Minister Wilson-Raybould have discussed the situation and possible options with another expert and still maintained her stance? I believe yes. She was, without question, on solid legal grounds in the stand she took. But anyone familiar with the law will know that there are, at times, legal options that can have differing results. We all know that there are discretionary powers within our system otherwise every judge’s sentence for a specific crime would be identical, and they are not. Was there another way to manage this without crossing into something that was not legal? I don’t know. I only know what most of us know and that is what has been reported by the media and I know enough to never take that as the entire story.
Was there room for a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA)? Was that option fully explored? Do most of us understand a DPA? I have read comments describing it as “letting them off” and I have read articles explaining it as something that carries much greater long-term impact and forced improvements than a criminal conviction would likely achieve. And by its very name, it is only “Deferring “ prosecution to a later date should they not comply with, or meet, every expectation of the agreement.
So here I am left with questions regarding Minister Wilson-Raybould’s approach.
When the minister felt the pressure she was receiving was extreme and inappropriate, could she have raised the issue while she had the power of speaking as the Attorney General or resigned from her appointment then in protest of what she was experiencing? To clarify, I believe her when she testified that she felt pressure but she also took the action she did after her perceived demotion. That too may be fully justified but I find the media focusing on the issue of pressure as the only reason she stepped down.
I also think that people who step up to any senior government role, whether bureaucratic or political, knowingly put themselves in a pressure cooker and I admire them for doing so. I also believe missteps in that environment are inevitable but there must be accountability and every effort to keep those missteps to a bare minimum and ensure they do not cross legal or ethical lines.
Do I believe that the PMO did not handle this situation the best way possible? Absolutely.
And of course, my opinions on the actions Minister Wilson-Raybould and the PMO fall into the category of “hind sight is 20/20”. Which leaves us all as ‘armchair quarterbacks’ looking at what has been reported, in the particular media that we each choose to read, with all the ‘time in the world’ to dissect what we think we know and declare that things should have been different.
What would I like to see? Reconciliation efforts between those at the centre of this controversy. A way forward for our country.
So, I continue to admire both Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott as strong women but I do not see that as reason to blindly support the way they have managed this particular situation.
I can remain true to my feminist principles and take the stand I am taking on the SNC-Lavalin issue. I can also continue to support this government and their accomplishments, not the least of which includes moving the gender bar further forward than any government before and repairing Canada’s international reputation to a level where this country is seen as a world leader with a strong and influential voice while still believing that they did not manage this situation as well as they should have. Relationships between the PMO and Cabinet Ministers must be nurtured through dialogue and respect on both sides. When that begins to degrade, the time and effort needed to put it right must be an immediate priority. We depend on that for a government to be able to maximize its positive impact on our society.
In closing, I can’t help but recall a saying from a childhood book, “Quarrels never could last long, if in one side lay all the wrong”.
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