Listen Up! It’s been a great week for political junkies, with more to come

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Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

Political Perspectives

If you have any interest at all in politics, this past week would not have been a boring one for you. There is lots going on in Ottawa of course. I want to get to that and some of my views may surprise you. But let’s start here in Parry-Sound Muskoka, where my bet is things are going to start to heat up shortly.

A few weeks ago I wrote a column urging Tony Clement, our current Member of Parliament, to make a decision as to his intentions related to the Federal Election this Fall. I can tell you he was less than happy with me and told me he would make up his mind in his own good time and to basically butt out. I am really not very good at butting out however, and my sense is that the time for an announcement is coming soon. Perhaps not this week, but soon.

My guess and my hope is that Tony Clement will announce that he is ending his career as a politician, following what in many ways has been a distinguished career that cannot simply be erased because of his recent serious mistakes, although many will take great joy in trying to do so.

Tony is without question a pragmatist and a Conservative. If he cannot run under the Tory banner, or if he can run, but concludes he may not win, he will not do anything to hurt the Party he has served for so long and so well, until recently. He will not, in my view, run as an Independent and he will not support the alt-right Party of Maxime Bernier. He also knows how important it is for a new candidate to find their own feet and make their own impression on the electorate. My guess is that as hard as it will be for him, he will do the right thing, and will not be a candidate when the October election takes place.

Huntsville’s Mayor, Scott Aitchison, has already been public with his interest in seeking the Conservative nomination if Tony Clement does not. He will not decide until that decision is announced. While it would not be a slam dunk, Scott would be a formidable candidate. He is well known throughout the riding, especially in Muskoka and East Parry Sound. He is personable and articulate and will speak well to the issues. He has a real sense of history, which I believe to be important in an elected official. He also knows how to get things done. He may well have competition for the nomination as Parry Sound may think it is their turn for a member of Parliament and there are likely others out there with Federal ambitions.

If Scott does seek and win the Conservative nomination, he will take a leave of absence as mayor and if he wins the election, Huntsville will have to find a new Head of Council. I have my view on this as well (and for the record, it is not me) but that is a story for another time.

Whoever wins the Conservative nomination in Parry Sound – Muskoka will have a tough row to hoe. Matt Richter will do well again for the Green Party, but it is Trish Cowie for the Liberals, one will have to watch. She too ran in the last election. She performed well and significantly closed the margin between the Liberals and Conservatives in this Riding. She is a lawyer with an indigenous background. She plays the feminist ticket and there is nothing shy and retiring about her.

Trish Cowie does have one big problem though. She is the standard bearer for the Liberal Party in this Riding and over the last several weeks we have not heard a peep, not a single peep from her, about the current scandal her Party is enduring in Ottawa. She needs to tell us where she stands. Does she believe that SNC Lavalin should escape criminal prosecution? Does she believe it is right for the Government to intervene to make sure it does? Having listened to the tape, does she believe that the Attorney General was pressured to intervene in a matter where she believed and had been advised, that it was contrary to the rule of Law, to do so? Does she respect the fact that Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from Cabinet on principle and gave her reasons for doing so? Does she think she and Jane Philpott should be turfed out of Caucus? And finally, does she believe Jody Wilson-Raybould when she made it plain in her discussion with Michael Wernick that she was trying to save Justin Trudeau from himself? Some answers would be insightful.

So that does take me to Ottawa and the shenanigans there. There are just a few of them on which I want to give my own point of view. For one thing, and this is where the surprise may come, I find it quite believable that Michael Wernick did not brief the Prime Minister on his conversation with Wilson-Rabould. I have been in those halls at the Provincial level. I’ve seen it when the boss wants something done and he doesn’t necessarily want details. He just wants it to happen. And then the back-room boys and girls get to work and damn the torpedoes. It’s a blood sport and they are often good at it.  They sometimes believe they are protecting their boss by preventing him (or her) from interfering in their own affairs. Sometimes it works. Often it backfires. I’ve seen that happen more than once.

As for the recording made by Wilson-Rabould, I think it was exactly the right thing to do under the circumstances. She was alone in her condo when the call came. She knew who it was from and she knew from previous discussions what it was about. She did not have an aide in the room to take notes for her as would normally be the case. It was David and Goliath and she had no sling shot. She did not say it was inappropriate to record the call, as some are saying.  She said were it not for the circumstances she found herself in, when the call came, it would otherwise have been inappropriate. There is a significant difference here.

I do think that from a practical perspective, Wilson-Rabould and Philpott need to leave the Liberal Caucus. However proper and principled their decision to resign from Cabinet was, they have separated themselves on a major issue from the Government. The Liberals will be weaker without them, but they can no longer be an effective part of that team. Hopefully, they will look elsewhere.

Finally, it would not surprise me if the Prime Minister calls a snap election. The release of the Wilson-Rabould tape gives the SNC/Government scandal more shelf life and the Government’s crisis management has been just awful all the way through this. Justin Trudeau may want to try to short circuit that by putting all his campaign goodies on the table for people to think about. As well, Andrew Scheer, while he has performed well as the leader of the Opposition, has work to do to show people who he is as a person, what makes him tick, what his passions are, other than wanting to get rid of Trudeau. I don’t think people have seen that part of him yet and they want to. He needs to get on with it, and soon.

Well folks, I have given you plenty of red meat here, so let’s start gnawing but please do it respectfully. Use a napkin!

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16 Comments

  1. Henk Rietveld on

    Hugh, as usual, your comments are “insightful”, and provide food for thought. This whole drama is nothing new. Does Thomas a Becket come to mind? “Who will rid me of this worrisome priest?”
    Too much of the senior bureaucrats acting as the PMs fixers.
    Scheer and co. are scary, but alternatives??

  2. On Tony, He has served the country well and has been an excellent riding representative no doubt. That it is time he announced he will not run again there is also no doubt.
    On Aitchison running for MP, I have no problem with that at all. He would probably win and make a good member.
    It has always been my position that sitting politicians should show the courage of their convictions and resign from their current political office when running for another. By not doing so it demonstrates a reluctance to let go of the public teat while reaching for still another even after declaring their willingness to abandon the current office. A leave of absence while seeking another job is nice work if you can get it. Not very graceful if you ask me.
    On the rest, SNC Lavalin has been proven to be unethical on several fronts. These include improper activities connected to the New Champlian Bridge, being caught paying huge over payments the Liberal Party, massive bribery in overseas contracting and more. The claims that Canada would be hurt if that company had to appear in court and so should be given a break is bogus and outrageous.
    Clearly Trudeau tried to interfere in legal matters. Nobody can possibly think otherwise give the circumstances, resignations and testimony. His obfiscatipn has been amateurish and has embarrassed the entire country.
    From poster boy to a disgraced fool in 1 year. It isn’t easy but he has done it and more. The bigger disgrace is that only two of the sorry crowd of Ministers have resigned in principle and only one regular MP. The rest obviously have no honour or shame. A sad and sorry affair all round.
    Poor Canada!

  3. Hugh:
    I am fascinated with the SNC file because to me it is not about politics at all; it is about the Rule of Law, and the law is fundamental to democracy. Wars have been fought to protect it, and I believe in it. Politics is simply the game humans play; the overlay, and provided it is in accord with the rules and they don’t jeopardize the Rule of Law they can play as they want. I have no interest in politics, per se. None. They can play their little games. But, it’s when they break the rules, knowingly, or even through inadvertence, that I get very exercised.

    Were it not for journalists and journalism generally (and some of ours are brilliant) we would never know when the rules are being broken; and only in a democratic system that provides freedom of speech can journalism thrive. Globally, almost 100 journalists were killed in targeted attacks last year alone….which speaks for itself.

    So, from my perspective, I take every opportunity to read as many of our excellent journalists as time permits, probably more out of sheer curiosity and because I am free to do so than from any particularly intense interest in most of their stories. Occasionally, fortunately, and certainly not frequently as of yet, in this country at least, there is a story such as SNC. Clearly, the politicians, for political reasons, were trying to break the law, got caught, and are covering up as best they can as they always do; but, that’s the only political aspect to it. Were it not for a single journalist this story would not be.

    No law was broken, that we know of, yet. But, there is no doubt that Junior and his henchmen and henchwomen tried valiantly, through consistent, sustained and relentless pressure, and with threats…veiled and direct….that the A.G. JW-R considered harassment (which at law is in the eye of the harried or the harassed), to interfere with or go around the Rule of Law in attempts to get her to over-rule or direct the Director of Public Prosecutions to change the decision to prosecute and not settle. There is a long established principle that is foundational to any Westminster Parliamentary System that no one, especially politicians, shall interfere in the function of that office. Full stop.

    Read the statute law here. https://www.ppsc-sppc.gc.ca/eng/pub/fpsd-sfpg/fps-sfp/tpd/p1/ch01.html When you abandon the Rule of law you begin down the slippery slope of authoritarianism, which leads to fascism, which leads to…..etc, etc…

    As JW-R said in her opening statement to the justice Committee:
    “…..the role of the attorney general – the attorney general exercises prosecutorial discretion as provided for under the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. Generally, this authority is exercised by the director of public prosecutions, but the attorney general has the authority to issue directives to the DPP on specific prosecutions or to take over prosecutions. It is well-established that the attorney general exercises prosecutorial discretion. She or he does so individually and independently. These are not cabinet decisions.”

    As she also said: “These events involved 11 people (excluding myself and my political staff) from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council Office and the office of the minister of Finance. This included in-person conversations, telephone calls, emails, and text messages. There were approximately 10 phone calls and 10 meetings specifically about SNC-Lavalin. And I and/or my staff were a part of these meetings. Within these conversations, there were express statements regarding the necessity of interference in the SNC-Lavalin matter, the potential of consequences and veiled threats if a DPA was not made available to SNC. These conversations culminated in Dec. 19, 2018, with a conversation I had with the clerk of the Privy Council, a conversation that I will provide some significant detail on.”

    And so she did , in spades…..!

    This is her full statement. It’s a very illuminating read. Every Canadian should take the time to read it. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/jody-wilson-raybould-opening-statements-1.5035785

    Even in the good old US of A, per the Duke Law Journal: “In this country, the Attorney General alone is responsible for prosecuting violations of federal law. Any attempt by other members of the President’s Cabinet or anyone else to influence the exercise of his responsibility might be viewed as an improper interference with the course of impartial justice. This is the rule, too, in England in ordinary circumstances, but where political offenses are involved such as sedition, it is said not to be uncommon for the Cabinet to consider the question of prosecution.”

    The Shawcross Doctrine is the gold-standard of conduct generally applicable in a Westminster Parliamentary System, as enunciated by Lord Shawcross. It is the standard by which we in Canada are bound:
    “In order to inform himself, he may, although I do not think he is obliged to, consult with any of his colleagues in the government …. the assistance of his colleagues is confined to informing him of particular considerations which might affect his own decision, and does not consist and must not consist, in telling him what the decision ought to be. The responsibility for the eventual decision rests upon the Attorney-General, and he is not to be put, and is not put, under pressure by his colleagues in the matter.”

    The SNC story is a human interest story about a valiant, strong-willed, and principled MP defending the Rule of Law while trying to keep the all-powerful boss from breaking it. That the MP is a brilliant, female, indigenous, attorney general and her boss is the Prime Minister of Canada adds intrigue, certainly, but is almost beside the point.

    Tom Pinckard

    • Hugh Holland on

      Sorry Tom but I think this whole SNC affair was brought about by an AG feeling compelled to support a relatively new and inexperienced Director of Public Prosecutions (appointed June 2017), and both let those factors prevail over their common sense. Neither has given any rationale as to why SNC should be treated differently in Canada than their competitors have been and are still treated in any other competitive jurisdiction. The result could range anywhere from the loss of highly skilled people to companies in the UK or US that have already received one or more DPAs, to the loss of yet another in the rapidly dwindling list of important companies and corporate head offices in Canada. To suggest otherwise is pure guesswork. Why take that risk? Compared to the USA, Canada simply does not have the same economies of scale and opportunities to attract skilled people and companies. That means we must work harder to protect what we have.

      • Hugh
        This is the third or fourth time (at least) you have mentioned all the DPA’s granted to SNC-L competitors in other jurisdictions. I have looked for them and cannot seem to find them. Can you tell us what other jurisdictions have granted a DPA and to which companies for offenses such as SNC-L is accused of? I would also suggest that the reasons have been given as to why one was not granted in this case – never mind other countries, they DO NOT QUALIFY for a DPA under the current Canadian law.

        • Hugh Holland on

          John, DPAs have been used in the USA for 20 years and by the UK since 2014. Google “Globe and Mail – Konrad Yakabuski March 29 to see his article entitled “Taking SNC to court will make Canada look stupid.” He refers to a recent OECD report showing 78% of 890 cases of foreign bribery concluded since 1999 involved the use of DPAs that yield more effective correction and much less court time and cost.

  4. Greg Reuvekamp on

    Mr. MacKenzie, I agree that it would be a very good thing to hear from Ms. Cowie about the SNC Lavalin issue, and recent problems with the Liberal government in general. How many other ridings in this country would have a Liberal candidate running who is an indigenous lady and a lawyer, just like Ms. Wilson- Raybould? As a lawyer, does Ms. Cowie believe it was proper for the Prime Minister and people in his office to conduct themselves as they have? And as an indigenous person, what does Ms. Cowie think of Grand Chief Stewart Philip recent comment on Trudeau, after Trudeau’s disgraceful mocking of an indigenous protester at a Liberal fundraiser.
    “Now that he’s under tremendous pressure from the Jody Wilson-Raybould/SNC-Lavalin issue, Mr. Trudeau is really revealing himself to be who he really is, which is a very self-centred, conceited, arrogant individual and I think that was demonstrated with his very smug, mean-spirited response to the Grassy Narrows demonstrators,” said Phillip, who is also president of the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs.
    If Ms. Cowie doesn’t agree with this, then what are her thoughts on Trudeau’s behaviour?
    I look forward to the coming campaign, and hope and trust that these questions will be put to this Liberal candidate here.

  5. Jim Alexander on

    Very well done Tom: factual, concise, easy for an engineer to understand. Less opinion, more facts.

  6. Jim Logagianes on

    Canadians should be very concerned that the laws governing us are being manipulated by the people we elect to run the country. The fact that no one in Ottawa is being charged with obstruction of Justice in the SNC Lavalin affair or Vice Admiral Mark Normans trial speaks volumes. When the second in command of our military can not receive a fair trial, this should be a wake up call to all Canadians. Continually blocking transparency, just like the Conservatives did with Senator Mike Duffy. Ottawa has spent in excess of 10 million dollars in court prosecuting the Vice Admiral for leaking something to the press which seems to happen everyday in Ottawa. These two witch hunts were initiated by the governing parties with no regard for the costs associated with these decisions. Senator Duffy and Vice Admiral Mark Norman after being dragged through the mud will have the last laugh. They will both receive significant financial compensation for these injustices. And who will be responsible for the cost of these incompetent actions,sadly all of us.
    Ottawa has become a rudderless ship in a sea of uncertainty. How cost effective is that?

  7. Arleigh Luckett on

    Correction: Matt Richter has never been a candidate in a federal election. He was the candidate for the Green Party of Ontario in the last four provincial elections. Glen Hodgson was the candidate for the Green Party of Canada in the last federal election. To my knowledge, the GPC has not yet confirmed a candidate for the election to be held later this year. The GPO and the GPC are separate organizations.

    Arleigh Luckett, President
    Parry Sound-Muskoka Constituency Association
    Green Party of Ontario

  8. Tom Pinckard on

    To the best of my knowledge no DPAs have been granted in Canada, ever. SNC would be the first. It is an entirely new piece of legislation brought in by Junior (embedded in an Omnibus Bill C-74 in June 2018). Other jurisdictions have similar provisions. It is clear to me, now, that it was brought in purely for SNC, though that can’t be proven of course.
    As for jobs, SNC has far more employees offshore than they do in Canada. Besides, there is zero chance they would move out of Quebec and give up the benefits of the ongoing financial largesse they (and Bombardier, et al) have ben enjoying at the expense of Canadian taxpayers for decades. As for jobs, none are guaranteed in this country (ask the GM workers in Oshawa) and if the enforcement of the Rule of Law results in job losses (which most savy pundits very much doubt) so be it. The law is the priority.
    Whether or not the prosecutor is inexperienced is pure opinion and it matters not in any event. The point here is that no-one, including politicians, shall interfere in any way with any prosecutor or the prosecution of a case. (Richard Nixon and Jean Charest come quickly to mind.)

    • Hugh Holland on

      Tom, with all due respect, prosecutors are not God. They are human beings that can also make mistakes. Take for example the case of David Milgard. PM Mulroney asked AG Kim Campbell to review the case to consider new information. Milgard was exonerated after spending 23 years in prison.

  9. The state of affairs in Canada’s Liberal government led by Globalist Justin Trudeau is very sad. Trudeau has proven in every facet of his so-called administration that he is the most corrupt, destructive, dishonest prime minister ever inflicted on us by uninformed voters who apparently forgot the disaster of his father, Pierre. His is an administration that no Canadian should remotely be proud of.

    There is an advantage to him calling an early election when his treacherous acts against Canadians are freshest in peoples’ minds that pay attention. Hopefully, Andrew Scheer will form a strong majority government and the Liberals will lose party status as the Liberals that supported all Trudeau’s intentional acts of betrayal against the people of Canada should also be held responsible.

    I have heard time and time again that Andrew Scheer needs to be more proactive in putting forth his platform and in presenting himself as a person to the electorate. These thoughts obviously are formed by people who rely on the strong leftist, often radical and unethical, certainly biased media which is benefitting from well over a billion of taxpayers’ dollars donated by Justin Trudeau to dispense his propaganda. The CBC, The Toronto Star, and even the once respected Globe & Mail come to mind. Watching Andrew in the legislature battle the arrogant, unaccountable Justin is one good source. Through his website, there are multiple channels from which to garner information and to communicate with Andrew. He is active on social media where accounts of his representation of Canadians as opposition leader are informative and encouraging. Journalists such as Furey, Lilley, Bonokoski, Rex Murphy are sources on Andrew Scheer. Mr.Scheer has a remarkable team alongside him such as Paul Poilievre, Lisa Raitt, Erin O’Toole, Brad Tost, Michelle Rempel, Candice Bergen, John Brassard who work diligently and with unwavering commitment to stand for the rights of Canadians against Justin Trudeau’s repeated attacks on our freedoms, democracy, sovereignty, as he indiscriminately gives our money away in the billions to foreign countries, terrorist organizations, illegal aliens entering our country, while ignoring Canadians in need like our veterans, seniors, Indigenous people. Justin Trudeau has, with intent, inflicted the most harm that he can to our economy, fiscal well being, our security, our international relationships.
    The sooner we dispense with the economic catastrophe of the Liberals and their pathetic virtuousness the better our chance that our county might survive the destruction of their years in office.

  10. Hugh…regarding the rightness of wrongness of JWR making that recording…I read the transcript and she placed the call to him, right? Even if she was calling him back, did she have to do so right away? When one person knows something is being recorded and the other doesn’t, it’s very easy to make oneself look good at the expense of the other. And wasn’t she technically the government’s lawyer? Or is she the lawyer for the people of Canada? (I confess I don’t get that part). If the former, what lawyer does this to their own client? I am far from an expert in these matters and I am not qualified to judge these situations. But these are the thoughts and questions that have been niggling away at me.

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