It’s been a stunning 24 hours in Canadian politics since I wrote about former Attorney General and Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould taking a wrecking ball to the Parliament of Canada.
Last night the Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Scheer gave a press conference calling on the Prime Minister to resign over the revelations in Wilson-Raybould’s testimony to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Wilson-Raybould detailed the pressure she faced from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Finance Minister’s office and the Chief Clerk of the Privy Council Office to abandon a decision to prosecute Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin over bribery and fraud charges emanating from their trying to get contracts from the Libyan government.
The Prime Minister then gave a press conference essentially saying that Wilson-Raybould was lying. The problem with that is that Wilson-Raybould had notes, emails and text messages supporting her testimony.
The PM steadfastly refused to resign saying there was an election coming this fall and Canadians will decide who should be the Prime Minister then.
Scheer followed that up with a letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki on Thursday essentially saying the actions of the PMO and other senior members of government may have committed a crime under section 139 (2) of the Criminal Code which discusses obstruction of justice. In point of fact, I made exactly that point in a discussion with Andrew Lawton of True North two weeks ago.
The difference now is that Scheer’s letter represents a complaint of criminal behaviour that the RCMP is duty-bound to investigate. The Commissioner’s office acknowledged receipt of the letter and said they are “reviewing” the letter. Really? What’s to review? The Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition has made an allegation of criminal behaviour by senior members of government.
This must trigger an investigation.
It is no different than if you call the RCMP to say that your neighbour is in possession of stolen property. They are duty-bound to investigate and with that justify the allegation or say there is no evidence. But action must be taken.
To add to that five former federal or provincial Attorneys General wrote to Commissioner Lucki calling for an investigation. And it wasn’t along party lines. Signatories were from former federal Conservative AG Peter McKay as well as former NDP B.C. provincial AG Colin Gableman.
The rule of law is at stake in this question and this matter simply cannot be ducked by Lucki however much she may wish to do just that.
Since the days of Norman Inkster as Commissioner, the office of the RCMP commissioner has been politicized and is essentially a Deputy Minister under the Minister of Public Safety, in this case Ralph Goodale who has been an MP and Liberal Party hack since the current Prime Minister’s father was Prime Minister in the early 80’s. Is she going to claim independence and investigate this given that relationship?
That then brings into question the tradition of Parliamentary responsibility for members of Executive Council. Historically, Cabinet members, including the Prime Minister, had to step aside if the cloud of investigation hung over their head until that cloud was lifted. Our history and the history of British Parliamentary tradition is littered with examples of where this has happened.
This is serious.
If Lucki says the RCMP will look into all of this, would not then the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and the Clerk of the Privy Council have to step aside? That’s traditionally what should happen. But, in an election year that will decimate the governing party. Yet not doing so would also likely be as damaging to the Prime Minister and his government.
The short-term future is not looking good for this government.