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KNIGHT: All roads lead to the PMO

Blaming, bullying, attempting to cover up and attempting to smear women and jurists is not a recipe for success.

During the Roman Empire it was said that all roads lead to Rome. In federal politics these days it seems that all roads lead to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

The handling of the SNC-Lavalin scandal has been incompetent at worst and amateurish at best.

What started as the Prime Minister trying to bully his Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to abandon a corruption prosecution amid bribery and fraud allegations arising from its attempts to get construction contracts in Libya has morphed into the shutting down of two committees so that two strong, female former Cabinet Ministers couldn’t testify. It’s shameless really.

I’m not sure that Justin Trudeau can still describe himself as either a “feminist” or transparent given everything that’s gone on.

But what it really shows is a complete disrespect for the rule of law. The leaked suggestion on Tuesday that the real issue between the PMO and the former AG was her nominating the Chief Justice of the Manitoba Supreme Court, Glenn Joyal, for the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2017.

To add fuel to the fire, Sheila Copps, a former Liberal Cabinet Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, chimed in on Twitter accusing Joyal of being homophobic and anti-abortion. This prompted the president of the Manitoba Bar Association to call the remarks “appalling” to suggest that Joyal’s conservative views could result in decisions “that would undermine the rights of women and the LGBTQ2S community.”

Indeed, a little research into his decisions and writings show him to be a staunch supporter of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Why Copps would weigh in on any of this is another question. She has been removed from politics for more than a decade. Was she just freelancing, trying to make herself relevant again or was she asked by the PMO to help with damage control?

Whichever, she isn’t helping.  The way the PMO has handled all of this, and continues to handle it, should be a lesson for the leaders of any organization in how not to do crisis communications.

Blaming, bullying, attempting to cover up and attempting to smear women and jurists is not a recipe for success.

Meanwhile, the trial of former Vice Admiral Mark Norman on a charge of leaking confidential information is just getting underway in Ottawa.

This is yet another case of a company friendly to the Liberals lobbying for government business in a procurement process it did not win.

In this case, Norman as the second-in-command of the Canadian Armed Forces was responsible for major procurement projects. At the time Canada had lost both its naval supply ships for different reasons and the navy was leasing a ship from the Chilean navy on a limited basis as it worked to fill the gap.

A contract was awarded to Davie Shipbuilding in Quebec. Then once the Trudeau government was elected in 2015, their friends and major donors from the Irving group of companies began their lobbying efforts.

However, the contract awarded to Davie was cancelled and a contract awarded to Irving. Norman was seized with the urgency knowing what it meant to the operational capabilities of the Royal Canadian Navy. It is alleged he leaked high-level government communications to the media to expose the political corruption.

Whether he did or not, we don’t know. But considering leaking is the coin of the realm in Ottawa it’s hard to know how this rises to criminal behaviour given the leak about Joyal and its interference in the justice system.

Norman’s legal team has petitioned the court for records, emails and other communications from the PMO and senior staff, which naturally, is being resisted.

To add insult to injury Norman’s request for public funding of his defence team has been refused by the Treasury Board. His supporters have been raising money for his defence with a GoFundMe page. Lawyers are really expensive for a career sailor.

However all of this plays out remains to be seen. But what is clear is the PMO is engaged in all manner of ethically-challenged behaviour for its friends and major donors. It also throws under the bus anyone who won’t play along.


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