Bombshells and byelections

Politics Insider for February 25: Now it’s Wilson-Raybould’s turn to speak, voters in Burnaby have their say on Singh and Liberals make the pitch for Trans Mountain 2.0

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Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould arrives to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

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Big day today on Parliament Hill.

Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould is set to speak her truth about the SNC-Lavalin controversy this week—specifically, tomorrow,* when she appears before a justice committee that’s looking into whether the PMO tried to pressure her into going easy on SNC-Lavalin.

Will she light it up? If the former AG adds credible colour to the story being told by anonymous sources this past week, it will be a devastating day for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, writes Andrew MacDougall: “If you’re Trudeau, it’s hard to envision an appearance in which Wilson-Raybould doesn’t burn everything—Trudeau included—to the ground.  There has been some serious red-on-red action on the nation’s front pages in the past few days, and only one side can survive.” (Maclean’s)

No, no, no: The men who wanted SNC-Lavalin to avoid criminal prosecution engaged in “Grand-Master-Jedi-level gaslighting” of former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould by repeatedly refusing to accept her authority on the file and then insisting she was under no pressure, writes Anne Kingston:

Even before her testimony, however, an eerily familiar tale has unfolded, the last chapter in the spell-binding spiel from [Privy Council Clerk] Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council, this week before the justice committee. And that’s the spectre of powerful men not used to hearing “No,” not willing to accept “No,” doggedly pushing for a “Yes” from the person who ostensibly determines consent, then gaslighting her when they don’t hear it.

Through it all a question emerges: How many times did Jody Wilson Raybould need to say “No” before she was heard? (Maclean’s)

Singh needs this win: Monday is also byelection day. Votes will be counted in three ridings, including Ontario’s York-Simcoe and Outremont in Montreal. But the one everyone will be watching is Burnaby South, where NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh hopes to finally secure a seat in the House. With his leadership in question, and the NDP low on polling and fundraising support, Singh needs victory—and the SNC-Lavalin mess embroiling Liberals can only help “(Singh) may have been handed the gift of some voters as a result of all this,” saysRichard Johnston, a University of British Columbia political science professor. “Although it’s just one thing amongst many, boy, he could use a win right now.”  (Canadian Press, CBC News)

Politics show round-up

Didn’t catch the weekend politics shows? Here’s what you missed:

  • In his testimony to the justice committee Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick attacked the original Globe and Mail story that kicked off the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Bob Fife, one of the journalists who broke the story, made the rounds, and on CTV’s Question Period defended the scoop: “In politics the best defence is often a strong offence, and particularly shooting the messenger, but in his testimony [Wernick] actually confirmed what we reported—we reported Miss Wilson-Raybould was subjected to pressure to cut a deal so SNC-Lavalin would not be prosecuted, would pay a fine. We did not say the Prime Minister directed her to do so. Nobody said that. In fact nobody did do that.” (CTV video tweet)
  • Speaking on Question Period Conservative Justice Critic Lisa Raitt said Wernick’s committee testimony shows lines were crossed with Wilson-Raybould: “Jody Wilson-Raybould told the prime minister and the clerk of the privy council in no uncertain terms she wasn’t going to overrule her deputy on the matter. That’s where it should end. And yet we see time and time again through phone calls through meetings between her staff and the PMO, the prime minister himself, Gerald Butts, and whoever else that we’ll find along the way, all took it upon themselves to go in and check-in with her and see whether or not she’s taken another decision.” (CTV News)
  • Following Friday’s recommendation by the National Energy Board that the Trans Mountain pipeline be approved, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said Ottawa is on track to wrap up consultations with 117 Indigenous committees that would be impacted by the pipeline within the next few months: “The work that we have done so far and the work we will continue to do in the coming months, I can tell you that I feel that we are in a very strong position to conclude these consultations within the next 90 days. But we must get it right.” (Global News)
  • On Trans Mountain, Canada’s fisheries minister Jonathan Wilkinson told CBC’s The House that increased tanker traffic from the pipeline expansion won’t have much additional impact on endangered southern resident killer whales because they’re already being blasted with underwater noise. “It’s important to understand that the plight of the southern resident killer whale has very little to do with the Trans Mountain pipeline, he said. “There are 3,200 large container ships that come into Burrard Inlet every year, there are thousands of ferries…. All of those generate noise. So irrespective of whether Trans Mountain proceeds there’s a need for us to actually address issues around marine traffic.” (CBC News)

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CORRECTION, Feb. 25, 2019: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the date on which Wilson-Raybould will testify at the House justice committee.