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All About Justin / The good, the bad and the ugly

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‎February ‎19, ‎2019, ‏‎7 minutes ago

 

Andrew Coyne : The SNC-Lavalin affair is made for Hollywood, shot in Ottawa

 
‎Today, ‎February ‎19, ‎2019, ‏‎12 minutes ago | Andrew Coyne

To quote the late William Goldman, nobody knows anything. The last twenty-four hours are proof enough of that. Whatever is going on behind the scenes between Jody Wilson-Raybould, Justin Trudeau and Gerald Butts is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a clown car.

We can attempt, however, to draw reasoned inferences from the known facts.

On Monday, several generations ago, Butts, the prime minister’s principal secretary, closest adviser and best friend, resigned, without apology or explanation, insisting he had done nothing wrong but did not wish to be a distraction. Speculation immediately turned to why: was it because of what had already happened, or what was about to happen?

The first seemed unlikely: as badly as the prime minister and his staff have handled the SNC-Lavalin affair, the crisis had not yet reached the level that would require jettisoning someone so central to the government and so close to its leader. There had been no public calls from within the party for Butts to quit before he did, and few outside it.

So it must have been something yet to come — something dreadful — something, to judge from his letter of resignation, that involved Butts. Three lines in the letter stood out in this regard.

The first was his declaration that he had personally been accused by “anonymous sources” of having pressured Wilson-Raybould, when she was attorney-general, to lean on prosecutors to settle out of court with SNC-Lavalin rather than pursue criminal charges. This was news. To my knowledge there had until then been no specific allegation about him: rather, unnamed officials in the prime minister’s office were said to be involved.

Second, he went out of his way to mention his respectful and supportive relationship with Wilson-Raybould. This, too, was noteworthy, as there has been no specific evidence that she was the source of the allegations, even if it seems logical to assume it must have been her, or someone close to her.

Third, he categorically denied the allegation against him — the one that until then had not been made — and said that he intends to defend his reputation.

From which it would seem reasonable to conclude that he anticipated being named by Wilson-Raybould as one of the officials who had pressured her, notwithstanding his protestations of innocence.

But why quit, even then, if he is as guiltless as he claims? Suppose that’s true: that nothing at all improper happened between them. For the former attorney general to say it did, then — if in fact she did — would mean she was either hallucinating or lying; and not only that, but willing to resign from cabinet in support of this wholly invented account.

To call this unlikely vastly understates matters. And yet that is what the prime minister, in particular, has seemed at times to imply. After first denying that he or his staff “directed” her (avoiding the question of whether they pressured her), he later added that he had told her the decision was “hers alone” to make, albeit (as he admitted still later) in response to her asking him point-blank whether he was directing her.

cpt133-the-canadian-press-3.jpg?w=640

Gerald Butts, principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, looks on during the federal Liberal national convention in Halifax on Friday, April 20, 2018. Butts has resigned amid allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office interfered to prevent a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

He further suggested her continued presence in cabinet, even after her unexplained demotion to Veterans Affair, was proof that she was onside with his version of events; when she resigned the next day, he professed himself at a loss to explain why. If she had felt pressured, he elaborated, it was “her responsibility” to tell him, which he said she had not. Which, if it does not quite come out and say she made it up, at least implies she was negligent in not reporting her “feeling.”

Which in turn keeps open the possibility that the whole thing was just a misunderstanding: someone in the prime minister’s office said something that was not improper, in its intended meaning, but that she mistakenly understood to mean something improper.

That’s certainly possible — that is, it’s possible she could have been mistaken, at the time. But it’s implausible that she would persist in this mistaken belief, months later — to the point of leaving cabinet over it — even after the prime minister and his officials had explained that that was not what they meant.

So if it’s hard to believe she made the whole thing up, and equally hard to believe that she could be labouring, even now, under a misunderstanding, that would seem to leave only one option: that she was indeed pressured, and that this, notwithstanding Trudeau’s professed befuddlement, was the reason she resigned. The refusal of the Liberal majority on the Commons Justice committee to call Wilson-Raybould or any other relevant witness, coupled with Trudeau’s refusal to release her from whatever remaining constraints might be imposed by solicitor-client privilege, seemed to confirm the thesis — with Butts’s resignation as the clincher.

Of course this analysis, which seemed so clearcut on Monday, was thrown somewhat into doubt by Tuesday’s extraordinary performance: Wilson-Raybould’s attendance at a meeting of the cabinet she had just left, the decision of the Liberal Justice committee members to call her as a witness after all (though not Butts or anyone else in thje PMO) and the rest.

What on earth could be going on? Was there, as some speculated, a deal — Butts’s head, in return for Wilson-Raybould’s silence? Had she reassured cabinet that, whatever she said about Butts, she did not intend to implicate the prime minister personally?

She is, after all, a partisan Liberal. Having personally refused to intervene on SNC-Lavalin’s behalf, and paid the price for it, she may be satisfied with the opportunity to state her case, without destroying the government in the process.

As for Butts, was he merely taking one for the team, as others have speculated, so as to divert attention from, or even absolve, the prime minister? But how, given he insists he did nothing wrong? And who believes, whatever he did or did not do, he would have acted without the prime minister’s knowledge?

Who knows? Goldman was talking about Hollywood. But Hollywood’s got nothing on this story.

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From the Beaverton....So close to the probable actual truth it sounds reasonable.. ...

 

“ OTTAWA – Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and completely innocent man Gerald Butts has resigned citing no reason in particular.

The good-natured employee said that his strong ethics, sense of transparency and above-board political strategy had become a distraction in the eyes of the media.

“I have reluctantly accepted the resignation of Gerald Butts,” said the PM. “We have added another name to the long list of political staffers who resigned in the face of a pending investigation and went on to be remembered as just and virtuous.”

No eyebrows were raised about the unusual timing of his resignation, nor was the Liberal government’s reputation tarnished during his tenure with such accusations of obstruction of justice and back-door deals.

The employee, who was hired solely on his outstanding merits instead of a long friendship with the Prime Minister, thanked those who he worked with by reminding them he is completely innocent.

Butts is expected to attend his farewell office party before his subpoena.

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The free speech hammer is about to fall....

“ Minister tasked with safeguarding election calls on committee to look at regulating Facebook, Twitter “

 

If the committee heeds her call and looks at ways to rein in social media in the lead-up to the next election, it'll have to move quickly.”

 

Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould today called on a Commons committee to look at the possibility of the Canadian government imposing new rules on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter in the lead-up to the next federal election.

Testifying before the Procedure and House Affairs committee Tuesday, Gould suggested the committee take a closer look at the role of social media in elections.

"I would encourage this committee to do a study of the role of social media in democracy, if that is something that you think is interesting," she said. "To hold the social media companies to account.

"I would welcome suggestions and feedback in terms of how to appropriately regulate or legislate that behaviour, because I think one of the biggest challenges — and you can see this around the world — is the path forward is not as clear."

Gould cited a public opinion poll prepared by Nanos Research for the Globe and Mail that found that six in 10 Canadians believe Facebook will have a negative impact on the next federal election. She urged MPs to put partisanship aside and work together.

"We want to ensure that we're providing that important public space that social media provides for people to express themselves, but also mitigating some of the negative impacts that can also arise through social media," she said. "And so I think that would be something very interesting for this committee to work on, if you choose to do that."

If the committee heeds Gould's call and looks at ways to rein in social media in the lead-up to the next election, it'll have to move quickly. There are only 12 sitting weeks remaining in Parliament's calendar before it rises for the summer and it may not resume sitting before the next election.

 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/gould-facebook-twitter-election-1.5024900

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RETURN OF WILSON-RAYBOULD

But ex-minister remains silent

  • Calgary Herald
  • 20 Feb 2019
  • JOHN IVISON
img?regionKey=sK82snjZuBdFZOcXvdziNQ%3d%3dCHRIS WATTIE / REUTERS Jody Wilson-Raybould appeared Tuesday on Parliament Hill, where she took her usual seat in the House of Commons, despite quitting her Veterans Affairs portfolio last week.

ALiberal MP said that when a parliamentary colleague from any side of the aisle is in trouble, he flips them a note of support. He said he planned to do the same when he saw Jody Wilson-Raybould sitting on the government front-benches before question period on Tuesday. “But what would I say? I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.

It was another day through the looking glass on Parliament Hill. Last week, Liberal MPs on the justice committee shut down opposition attempts to call the former justice minister as a witness in the SNC-Lavalin affair. Now, one of those MPs, Iqra Khalid, has put forward a motion inviting Wilson-Raybould to appear.

Last week, Wilson-Raybould quit cabinet. On Tuesday, she walked out of the cabinet room and took her place in the seat still assigned to the veteran’s affairs minister in the House of Commons seating plan.

Ambitious backbenchers like Khalid do not immolate their own careers, so there had to be a degree of comfort among the now-depleted ranks in the Prime Minister’s Office that Wilson-Raybould is not going to make incendiary allegations if and when she appears at committee.

It emerged that the former justice minister had asked to speak to cabinet earlier in the day, leading to suspicions among the more cynical that a deal had been struck — Wilson-Raybould’s re-entry to cabinet and the head of Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerry Butts, in return for her going easy with the damaging accusations.

But people who know her better than I do suggest that is not how Wilson-Raybould operates. She has not returned to cabinet and asked everyone to forget that she resigned in the first place.

Rather, she is said to be declaratory by nature and wanted to air her grievances with the cabinet.

Yet, whatever Trudeau heard, it can’t have been too bad or he would not have sanctioned the witness invitation to the justice committee.

Speaking with journalists, Wilson-Raybould said she is still consulting with legal council on what she can say without broaching solicitor-client privilege rules. That seems to me to be a red herring — if there is a suggestion that Butts (or anyone else) pressured her to make a decision, there would be no privilege extended to him and she could talk freely.

Yet she said on Tuesday she remains a Liberal. “I was elected as a Liberal MP and will continue to serve as such,” she said.

Wilson-Raybould strikes me as someone who would like to get things done, and not much can be achieved when you’re sitting so far from the action in the House of Commons, you’re almost in the translation box.

If the Liberals make it back into power, she will want to be in cabinet and it is conceivable that the speech to her former colleagues was the first step in a rapprochement.

The date for her committee appearance has not yet been set but it is the appropriate venue to investigate who said what, when and to whom. The NDP had sponsored a motion in the House calling for a public inquiry, supported by the Conservatives. Lisa Raitt, the party’s deputy leader, called for the 40 lawyers in the Liberal caucus to back the motion, based on the oath they took as solicitors to “champion the rule of law.” “Shine the light on what is possibly a criminal matter and do it today,” she said.

But this is a scandal that looks increasingly unworthy of the “-gate” suffix and a parliamentary committee is the appropriate venue.

As Conservative Michael Chong pointed out, committees have all the powers of a court to compel witnesses, exploding the contention by a Liberal justice committee chair, Anthony Housefather, last week that a parliamentary committee was not the right place to investigate the SNC case.

As Chong said, in 2007, the ethics committee compelled lobbyist and arms dealer Karlheinz Schreiber to tell his story, summoning him from a Toronto jail.

Committees have turned into gong shows, notably the public works committee into the sponsorship scandal in 2004.

But this case promises to be far less complicated. Wilson-Raybould will say her piece — and the Liberals appear to have already concluded they can live with that testimony. Then Gerald Butts, having resigned from the PMO, will be free to defend his reputation.

Unless those two accounts are glaringly at odds, that may well be the end of the matter and we are all going to wonder whether it was worth paralyzing the government of Canada for much of the past month.

In Britain, they are in the midst of a constitutional crisis that has required the health minister to stockpile vaccines and body-bags, in case of a nodeal Brexit.

The most serious political impasse this Liberal government has had to face may all come down to a difference of interpretation between a male political staffer and a female cabinet minister over what constitutes “undue pressure.”

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Hollywood drama on the Rideau

 

  • Calgary Herald
  • 20 Feb 2019
  •  
img?regionKey=D5ImPIN41l%2fY%2fuWC0JfmpA%3d%3dSEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rises during question period in the House of Commons on Tuesday, where he faced questions about the resignation of his aide, Gerald Butts.

I AM STILL CONSULTING WITH MY LEGAL COUNSEL, AS I THINK PEOPLE

CAN APPRECIATE, OR SHOULD APPRECIATE, THE RULES AND LAWS

AROUND PRIVILEGE, AROUND CONFIDENTIALITY, AROUND MY RESPONSIBILITY AS A MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT. — JODY WILSON-RAYBOULD

To quote the late William Goldman, nobody knows anything. The last twenty-four hours are proof enough of that. Whatever is going on behind the scenes between Jody Wilson-Raybould, Justin Trudeau and Gerald Butts is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a clown car.

We can attempt, however, to draw reasoned inferences from the known facts.

On Monday, several generations ago, Butts, the prime minister’s principal secretary, closest adviser and best friend, resigned, without apology or explanation, insisting he had done nothing wrong but did not wish to be a distraction. Speculation immediately turned to why: was it because of what had already happened, or what was about to happen?

The first seemed unlikely: as badly as the prime minister and his staff have handled the SNC-Lavalin affair, the crisis had not yet reached the level that would require jettisoning someone so central to the government and so close to its leader. There had been no public calls from within the party for Butts to quit before he did, and few outside it.

So it must have been something yet to come — something dreadful — something, to judge from his letter of resignation, that involved Butts. Three lines in the letter stood out in this regard.

The first was his declara- tion that he had personally been accused by “anonymous sources” of having pressured Wilson-Raybould, when she was attorney general, to lean on prosecutors to settle out of court with SNC-Lavalin rather than pursue criminal charges. This was news. To my knowledge there had until then been no specific allegation about him: rather, unnamed officials in the Prime Minister’s Office were said to be involved.

Second, he went out of his way to mention his respectful and supportive relationship with Wilson-Raybould. This, too, was noteworthy, as there has been no specific evidence that she was the source of the allegations, even if it seems logical to assume it must have been her, or someone close to her.

Third, he categorically denied the allegation against him — the one that until then had not been made — and said that he intends to defend his reputation.

From which it would seem reasonable to conclude that he anticipated being named by Wilson-Raybould as one of the officials who had pressured her, notwithstanding his protestations of innocence.

But why quit, even then, if he is as guiltless as he claims? Suppose that’s true: that nothing at all improper happened between them. For the former attorney general to say it did, then — if in fact she did — would mean she was either hallucinating or lying; and not only that, but willing to resign from cabinet in support of this wholly invented account.

To call this unlikely vastly understates matters. And yet that is what the prime minister, in particular, has seemed at times to imply. After first denying that he or his staff “directed” her (avoiding the question of whether they pressured her), he later added that he had told her the decision was “hers alone” to make, albeit (as he admitted still later) in response to her asking him point-blank whether he was directing her.

He further suggested her continued presence in cabinet, even after her unexplained demotion to Veterans Affairs, was proof that she was onside with his version of events; when she resigned the next day, he professed himself at a loss to explain why. If she had felt pressured, he elaborated, it was “her responsibility” to tell him, which he said she had not. Which, if it does not quite come out and say she made it up, at least implies she was negligent in not reporting her “feeling.”

Which in turn keeps open the possibility that the whole thing was just a misunderstanding: someone in the Prime Minister’s Office said something that was not improper, in its intended meaning, but that she mistakenly understood to mean something improper.

That’s certainly possible — that is, it’s possible she could have been mistaken, at the time. But it’s implausible that she would persist in this mistaken belief, months later — to the point of leaving cabinet over it — even after the prime minister and his officials had explained that that was not what they meant.

So if it’s hard to believe she made the whole thing up, and equally hard to believe that she could be labouring, even now, under a misunderstanding, that would seem to leave only one option: that she was indeed pressured, and that this, notwithstanding Trudeau’s professed befuddlement, was the reason she resigned. The refusal of the Liberal majority on the Commons Justice committee to call Wilson-Raybould or any other relevant witness, coupled with Trudeau’s refusal to release her from whatever remaining constraints might be imposed by solicitor-client privilege, seemed to confirm the thesis — with Butts’s resignation as the clincher.

Of course this analysis, which seemed so clearcut on Monday, was thrown somewhat into doubt by Tuesday’s extraordinary performance: Wilson-Raybould’s attendance at a meeting of the cabinet she had just left, the decision of the Liberal Jus- tice committee members to call her as a witness after all (though not Butts or anyone else in the PMO) and the rest.

What on earth could be going on? Was there, as some speculated, a deal — Butts’s head, in return for Wilson-Raybould’s silence? Had she reassured cabinet that, whatever she said about Butts, she did not intend to implicate the prime minister personally?

She is, after all, a partisan Liberal. Having personally refused to intervene on SNCLavalin’s behalf, and paid the price for it, she may be satisfied with the opportunity to state her case, without destroying the government in the process.

As for Butts, was he merely taking one for the team, as others have speculated, so as to divert attention from, or even absolve, the prime minister? But how, given he insists he did nothing wrong? And who believes, whatever he did or did not do, he would have acted without the prime minister’s knowledge?

Who knows? Goldman was talking about Hollywood. But Hollywood’s got nothing on this story.

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