“What’s the big deal?” That’s what some people out there are asking about Lavscam, those who have been swept up in the arguments Liberal voices have put forward to muddy the waters.
Arguments such as: We had to protect the jobs. Or, it was nothing but a bit of “lawful advocacy”, as Michael Wernick put it. Or, Jody Wilson-Raybould just experienced things differently than the three powerful men who have so far testified.
None of that is the issue though. The question isn’t whether SNC-Lavalin was about to go bankrupt (they were not), or whether they were about to leave the country (they were not), or even whether they were actually eligible for a Deferred Prosecution Agreement in the first place (they were not, it seems – ironic, given that the law seems to have been tailored directly for them).
No, those arguments are all red-herrings. They are distractions to send us all down a different rabbit hole and talk about secondary issues. Likewise all of the conversations about the politics of this – whether Trudeau can “turn a page” on this and whether or not he will lose the election because of this scandal. Valid topics of conversation, for sure. But not the main event.
What is the main event? Simple: Did the persistent and aggressive lobbying that Jody Wilson-Raybould received constitute obstruction of justice? Yes or no. Right now, we don’t know. If you take her testimony as the most credible – which it certainly was – then don’t be surprised if the RCMP issue charges in the coming weeks.
It is tough to overstate how bad it is for the integrity of our country if an elected politician wades into a criminal prosecution to save a corporation from prosecution. This is just not the sort of thing that happens in Canada. This is what happens in those Eastern European and South American countries where politicians are routinely sent to the slammer for their political misdeeds.
Maybe you’re willing to cut Trudeau some slack on this one. Maybe you’re willing to give him a pass because this is just one time, right? It’s not like he’s doing this regularly. It’s not like he’s telling prosecutors to go after specific individuals for political reasons, right? Don’t be so sure.
What compounds Lavscam is the Mark Norman trial, also before the courts right now. The former head of the Navy is facing one charge of breach of trust. But his lawyer Marie Henein is trying to get it dismissed on the grounds of political interference. They believe the PMO pushed for these charges and are currently subpoenaing documents to prove their case.
If true, we have a very troubling trend. We have Canada slipping away, undergoing a phenomenon that academics call “democratic backsliding”. We’ve been an example of how things should be done for other countries for years. Instead, we’re now picking up some of the bad habits of those countries.
This is why Lavscam matters so much, why it is a test case for what sort of country Canada wants to be in the decades to come.