Canada: government & governance 2019

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See SNC-Lavalin 2019
Canada: government & governance 2017-18

4 July
Trudeau defends system for appointing judges after conflict of interest claims
A complaint has since been filed to the ethics commissioner by watchdog Democracy Watch, which is asking for the government to suspend further appointments until an investigation is concluded. Dominic LeBlanc’s family, donors appointed to 5 of 6 recent N.B. judicial vacancies

New concerns over Phoenix pay backlog raised after employees’ compensation gets cut
Workers will be stuck with Phoenix until at least 2023, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said
The federal government has, since August 2017, offered incentives to workers trying to deal with a mountain of problems created by Phoenix, which have included underpayments, overpayments and sometimes no pay at all for thousands of civil servants. But a memorandum that allowed for the incentives, which included cash to recruit and retain pay specialists as well as increased overtime premiums, expired in June with no indications that it would be renewed. That is raising questions about commitments the Trudeau government made to eradicate a massive backlog of improper pay files.

22 June
That did not take long!
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s chief of staff resigns amid appointment controversy
Doug Ford’s chief of staff resigned on Friday after a cronyism scandal that forced the Ontario Premier to abruptly revoke the appointments of two people with close ties to the top adviser and led to a stream of criticism, including concerns raised privately by cabinet ministers.
Dean French, viewed as the most powerful unelected official in Mr. Ford’s orbit, is leaving office after one year in government, the Premier’s office said in a statement on Friday evening.
21 June
Premier Ford revokes two new trade appointments after personal ties to chief of staff revealed
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has revoked two new trade appointments of people with close personal ties to his chief of staff.
Less than a day after they were announced, a government source told The Globe and Mail on Friday that Mr. Ford has revoked the appointments of Tyler Albrecht and Taylor Shields as the new agents general to New York and London, positions that come with salaries of $165,000 to $185,000 plus expenses.

11 June
Cohen: John Turner, at 90, is still first among equals
A celebration of the former prime minister invites reflection. What has become of the principles of high purpose and simple decency in public life?
Six former prime ministers and the current one offered tributes (three of them recorded) at a dinner to honour John Napier Turner, Canada’s oldest living former prime minister. He has just turned 90 years old. Their testimonials were the centrepiece of the occasion… . Four of them were Conservatives. This was an evening of uncommon bipartisanship, witnessed by a galaxy of politicians, journalists, colleagues and friends.
In him, there was a sense of noblesse oblige, an obligation to serve, a faith in public service. Turner brought energy and ideas to politics. This was Turner’s Canada, but it was also that of Louis St. Laurent, Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chrétien. In a different way, it was Joe Clark’s and Brian Mulroney’s, too.

3 May
Jack Mintz: Why Alberta’s discontent with Canada is harder to quell than Quebec’s
Canada is a less stable federation than many observers realize
Canadians are used to taking seriously the threat of separation when it comes to Quebec, but a more serious, less manageable form of conflict may eventually emerge in the federation between Western Canada and the rest of Canada. The Canadian government has been successful so far in managing the “conflict of taste” that has led to Quebec’s historic discomfort in the Canadian federation, because the federal government possesses the tools to address that challenge. But it does not have the same tools to manage the “conflict of claim” that is creating increased dissatisfaction with Confederation in the West.
Conflicts of taste revolve around differences in political preferences between regions within a federation. Quebec is animated by a different culture, history and language than the rest of Canada, which has created a conflict of taste. But legislative mechanisms exist to help mitigate that friction, including: Provincial powers over key cultural institutions such as education and health, special fiscal and immigration arrangements for Quebec, guaranteed bilingualism in federal institutions and tax-collection powers unique to Quebec.
Conflicts of claim are more difficult because they involve disputes over “sharing the wealth” (as opposed to building wealth together). These arise when a smaller, richer region is called on to transfer wealth to larger, poorer regions within a federation. The obvious example is the way that Alberta and other resource-rich parts of the West have been made to subsidize the rest of Canada through equalization, tax and numerous other net contributions to the federal system.
Given the current dissatisfaction the West over the fairness of the federation, it appears all too likely that the upcoming federal election will involve politicians pitting provinces and regions against one another on the question of resource development. That would be a pity. Canada needs federal leadership working with our provincial governments to reduce tensions arising from conflict of claim in Canada, or the outcome could get ugly.

Public servants in Phoenix pay system fiasco offered 1.25 paid days off per year– they said no
(Global) The union that represents the majority of federal employees has rejected the government’s “meagre” offer to compensate public servants who’ve fallen victim to the Phoenix pay system fiasco. The union says a backlog of 240,000 cases is still not resolved and more than 100,000 workers are still waiting to have their last collective agreements implemented.
Aylward said PSAC also found other elements of the government’s compensation proposal to be unacceptable, such as imposing a $1,500 threshold before some compensation claims can be made and preventing members from taking cash in lieu of the proposed paid leave.

26 April
Canada’s carbon fight heats up
(Maclean’s) Premier-designate Jason Kenney has threatened repeatedly that he plans to tear up outgoing NDP Premier Rachel Notley‘s carbon plan as Job One after he takes office. However Trudeau may be spoiling for just such a fight. Citing sources, the National Post‘s John Ivison says there’s an “active lobby” within the Prime Minister’s Office urging Trudeau to block the Trans Mountain Pipeline—which his government bought last year for $4.5 billion—if Kenney scraps a pledge by Notley to cap oil sands carbon emissions.
The idea of holding Trans Mountain hostage was first floated publicly by former Liberal national director Jamie Carroll in a blog post two days ago, though Finance Minister Bill Morneau called it an “absurd proposition.” (National Post)
Of note, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said Thursday he can’t guarantee the federal cabinet will meet its June 18 deadline to weigh in on the fate of the pipeline, or even that a decision would come before the next election. (Canadian Press)

23 April
Poll Confirms Canadians Want Leaders to Think Big About Conservation

17 April
Jason Kenney won big — and the Ottawa-Alberta relationship is about to get unruly
The policies are one thing, but the tone a new government sets can go a long way in determining how it gets along with its neighbours and other levels of government. With Kenney in office, said McGill University political scientist Daniel Béland, expect more confrontation and discord on the federal-provincial scene. “It’s a conflict-based approach to politics where you frame the issue as a strong conflict between your province and the federal government,” he said. “You have to defend the people of your province against the central government, against other provinces and the rest of the country.”
(CBC) Kenney has said the first bill his new government will introduce will be the “carbon tax repeal act.” Once Premier Kenney moves to eliminate the province’s $30/tonne carbon levy, Ottawa will have to respond by imposing a federal “backstop” carbon tax in Alberta, as it has done with Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick.
In his victory speech, Kenney promised to fight “foreign-funded special interests” like the David Suzuki Foundation, LeadNow and the Tides Foundation, which he accused of leading “a campaign of economic sabotage” against Alberta.
Kenney has pitched a number of ideas that could affect how money flows between Ottawa and Alberta. … Finally, there’s the UCP’s most provocative fiscal promise: a referendum on equalization payments — federal money redistributed to provinces to help even out the quality of government services nationwide — to give the province a bargaining chip when pressing Ottawa to approve more pipelines.
He also has said he’ll instruct his new attorney general to launch a formal court challenge to the federal carbon tax if it’s imposed in Alberta.
Kenney has pledged a constitutional challenge of Bill C-69, federal legislation that would change how energy projects are reviewed and approved.
As part of the UCP’s pushback against environmental groups putting pressure on Alberta’s energy sector, its election platform said it will challenge the charitable status of these organizations before the Canada Revenue Agency and appeal to the Federal Court to have their charitable status ended, if necessary.
Finally, there’s the UCP’s most provocative fiscal promise: a referendum on equalization payments — federal money redistributed to provinces to help even out the quality of government services nationwide — to give the province a bargaining chip when pressing Ottawa to approve more pipelines. And the list goes on.
Alberta election 2019: Jason Kenney has won. What happens now? A guide
On Tuesday night, the United Conservatives won a majority government, unseated Rachel Notley’s New Democrats after a polarizing race. Here’s what it means for Albertans and the rest of Canada
Quebec not impressed with Alberta Premier-designate Jason Kenney’s pipeline plea
Politicians at the National Assembly made it clear that they are not interested in what they perceived as thinly veiled threats about Alberta’s contributions to the equalization payments — where the federal government distributes payments to less wealthy “have not” provinces in order to equalize the provinces’ “fiscal capacity.”

5 April
Could an apology have quickly contained the SNC-Lavalin scandal? | At Issue
Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott are no longer members of the Liberal caucus. And now the former Liberal MPs say this could have all been avoided had the prime minister apologized nearly two months ago. So does this all come down to that? And where do the government and the opposition go from here?

3 April
Wilson-Raybould set multiple conditions for ending the rift with Trudeau, say sources
Weeks of tense negotiations preceded the PM’s highly controversial decision to eject two high-profile MPs
(CBC) Liberal MPs — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — tried for weeks to broker a compromise with Jody Wilson-Raybould over the SNC-Lavalin controversy, but the talks ultimately failed when it became clear they could not reach an agreement with the former attorney general, sources tell CBC News.
Over the course of the secret discussions, it emerged that Wilson-Raybould had a list of at least five conditions that could help end the civil war that has been tearing the government apart, multiple Liberal sources say.
The first three conditions involved staff changes at the very summit of the government. The sources said Wilson-Raybould wanted Trudeau to fire his principal secretary, Gerald Butts, along with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick and PMO senior adviser Mathieu Bouchard.
But Wilson-Raybould’s wishes went beyond a limited housecleaning in the PMO. Sources said she also sought assurances that her replacement as attorney general, David Lametti, would not overrule Director of Public Prosecutions Kathleen Roussell and direct her to give SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement. [UPDATE 5 April: Wilson-Raybould denies trying to hamstring Lametti on SNC-Lavalin file]
Wilson-Raybould also wanted Justin Trudeau to admit — publicly, or to caucus alone — that his office acted inappropriately in its attempts to convince her to consider granting SNC-Lavalin a DPA.
Aaron Wherry: Wilson-Raybould called it a referendum. Liberals saw it as civil war
Trudeau will wear this, even if he believes he had no good alternatives
Nearly everything about Trudeau has been under attack over the last two months. And now Wilson-Raybould has framed her expulsion as confirmation of the worst things Trudeau’s detractors have alleged.
The civil war might be over (or pre-empted). But an election looms. Trudeau and the Liberals have six months to push past Jody Wilson-Raybould’s referendum and find a way to say more about themselves than Wilson-Raybould would have her expulsion say about them.

29 March
Yves Boisvert: Le faux scandale, la suite
La vérité, que personne au gouvernement n’ose dire publiquement, c’est que Mme Wilson-Raybould était loin d’être une grande ministre de la Justice. Bien avant l’affaire SNC-Lavalin, j’entendais des gens du milieu se plaindre de sa gestion du dossier Jordan sur les délais, sur son retard à nommer des juges, sur son attention démesurée pour les dossiers autochtones, sur sa rigidité, etc.
Mais depuis qu’elle a été mutée aux Anciens Combattants, et qu’elle a ensuite démissionné, elle est devenue une martyre, sacrifiée pour favoriser une entreprise corrompue… C’est l’histoire que nous racontent les médias de Toronto inlassablement. Et c’est du bidon.
Oui, à voix basse, des gens à Ottawa parlent contre elle, mais avec trois paires de gants blancs. En vérité, plusieurs étaient incapables de travailler avec elle depuis longtemps.

Listen to Jody Wilson-Raybould’s new evidence in the SNC-Lavalin scandal
(Maclean’s) The former attorney general provided new documents to the justice committee, including emails, texts and an explosive 17-minute audio recording. Listen to the recording and read her full submission here.

22 March
Anne McLellan says she’s keeping an open mind as she reviews role of attorney-general, justice minister
“I was two-hatted,” said Anne McLellan, who was attorney-general and justice minister in a Liberal government from 1997 to 2002, in an interview. “I lived with that reasonably comfortably. Others have for 150 years – but that does not mean circumstances don’t change.” Trudeau appoints Anne McLellan to advise PMO on the role of justice minister, attorney general in cabinet

Reality check: Scheer says Liberals used federal budget as a ‘political prop’
(Global) That raises a question that cuts to the core of this week’s two big national political stories, the budget and the everlasting SNC-Lavalin saga: can the regularly scheduled tabling of a federal budget be described as a political prop?
Financial experts say that while budgets can certainly be used by governments to make political gains, they are an annual ritual of government that are scheduled to take place on dates that are set weeks in advance.
“The content of the budget is the real issue, and here the claim the budget was used as a prop is weak,” said Brett House, the deputy chief economist at Scotiabank. “Though the revenue windfall was spent, and we would have preferred to see it saved, the amount was not large and wasn’t devoted to a big signature project or program.”
Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer, agrees there is no single big initiative in the budget to draw attention away from other issues such as SNC-Lavalin. “Budgets are not mandatory but it is a long-standing tradition and a best practice to table a fiscal plan before the start of the fiscal year,” said Page, the president of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa.

18 March
Liberals on justice committee say it’s time to end SNC-Lavalin probe
‘Canadians now have the necessary information to arrive at a conclusion’
Trudeau appoints Joyce Murray as Treasury Board president and Minister of Digital Government
He welcomed Murray to cabinet on Twitter, calling her a “trusted voice for her community” and noting she has spent 25 years as a successful businesswoman and environmental advocate.
Treasury Board isn’t a very public role, but it oversees accountability and ethics, financial, personnel and administrative management, controllership, approval of regulations and cabinet orders. The president oversees management of the public purse and ensures government is well managed.
Whatever your views about his role in the SNC-Lavalin affair, the optics of this move are really poor.
Michael Wernick retiring as clerk of the Privy Council
(CBC) The Prime Minister’s Office made the announcement in a statement Monday.
Wernick, a longtime public servant, has been heavily criticized in recent weeks for his involvement in the SNC-Lavalin affair.

5 March
‘Ministers gone rogue’: Ex-deputy PM chalks SNC-Lavalin affair up to Wilson-Raybould’s inexperience
Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould and ex-Treasury Board president Jane Philpott “have never been in heavy politics,” former deputy prime minister and ex-MP Sheila Copps told Global News on Tuesday.
“Sometimes, when you don’t have a lot of political experience, the pressure gets too hot for you. And I think that pressure has probably gotten to them, unfortunately,” she said.
Anonymous insiders told the Canadian Press in early February that Wilson-Raybould “had become a thorn in the side of the cabinet” and was “difficult to get along with, known to berate fellow cabinet ministers openly at the table and who others felt they had trouble trusting.”
“She’s always sort of been in it for herself,” one insider told the Canadian Press. “It’s never been about the government or the cabinet. Everything is very Jody-centric.”

4 March
How deep a political crisis is the SNC-Lavalin affair? | At Issue (video)
Jane Philpott resigns, saying she has lost confidence in Liberal cabinet over SNC-Lavalin affair
Treasury Board president leaves as controversy over political interference in criminal case intensifies
The Liberal government lost a second high-profile cabinet minister on Monday when Jane Philpott abruptly resigned as Treasury Board president, citing “serious concerns” about the political pressure exerted on former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould to abandon the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.
Ms. Philpott, who was widely regarded as one of the most competent Liberal ministers, said she has lost confidence in how the Trudeau government has handled the matter.
“I have been considering the events that have shaken the federal government in recent weeks and after serious reflection, I have concluded that I must resign as a member of cabinet,” Ms. Philpott said in a letter to the Prime Minister.
Ms. Philpott, like Ms. Wilson-Raybould, said she felt obliged to stand up for principles such as the rule of law and the integrity of the justice system even if it hurt her politically.
“There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them,” Ms. Philpott said on Twitter.
Campbell Clark: The loss of Philpott has turned the SNC-Lavalin controversy into a crisis
If any other cabinet minister had quit Justin Trudeau’s cabinet after Jody Wilson-Raybould’s stand in the SNC-Lavalin affair, it would have been bad. When it is Jane Philpott, a paragon of principle who is no pie-eyed dreamer, it is Mr. Trudeau’s government falling apart from the inside.
The second resignation will be worse than the first. … She’s no ivory-tower sentimentalist. If some wondered whether Ms. Wilson-Raybould was simply angry at her demotion, no one can think that’s the case for Ms. Philpott. She was just promoted. And her resignation is an implicit endorsement of Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s version, and an explicit condemnation of Mr. Trudeau’s.
Our top public servant should not be wearing so many hats
By Donald J. Savoie, Canada Research Chair in Public Administration and Governance at the University of Moncton.
(Globe & Mail) Since the 1990s, the clerk is asked to wear three hats: Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, head of the Public Service of Canada and deputy minister to the prime minister. The clerk was formally recognized in 1992 legislation as head of the Public Service.
Mr. Wernick, like many of the clerks since the early 1990s, wears the hat that gives him more influence and one that he wears nearly all of the time – deputy minister to the prime minister.
If we believe the testimony of former minister of justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, it is the hat that he wore in assisting the Prime Minister manage the SNC-Lavalin file. In his testimony before the parliamentary committee, Mr. Wernick said that the file was “never discussed at cabinet, never.” As head of the public service, Mr. Wernick’s responsibility is to represent the values of a non-partisan public service and to present evidence-based advice to the Prime Minister and cabinet. Ms. Wilson-Raybould testified before the House of Commons justice committee that Mr. Wernick said the Prime Minister was quite determined to go the route of a deferred prosecution agreement for SNC-Lavalin, and that the PM was “gonna find a way to get it done one way or another.” The perception, at least, is that the clerk gave more weight to the partisan political interest of the Prime Minister than to the advice provided by a senior public servant – the director of public prosecutions.
Accountability requirements in government are akin to market forces in the private sector. Accountability in government, however, becomes murky when individuals wear more than one hat. The minister of justice wears two hats, while the clerk of the Privy Council wears three. If members of the House of Commons justice committee are truly concerned about the health of our political and administrative institutions, they should focus on this issue rather than trying to score or, conversely, deflect partisan political points.

2 March
SNC-Lavalin affair: Splitting AG role from the justice file is worth considering, say former AGs, experts
‘Real discussion’ needed about whether dual AG-justice minister role is still sustainable, associate dean says
in England and Wales today the post of attorney general and the minister of Justice does not exist as it does in Canada. There the roles are divided between two people, as they are in Australia and New Zealand. But here the political role of minister is sewn into the objective task of being Canada’s attorney general.
“I think it would be a lost opportunity not to have a real discussion about whether this dual role is still sustainable,” Trevor Farrow, associate dean at Osgoode Hall Law School, told CBC News.
Farrow says that he thinks the country can easily continue on with one person doing both jobs. But should they, knowing what we know now?
One voice that is in favour of the move is former Liberal attorney general and justice minister Irwin Cotler, who held the post from 2003 to 2006 and advocated before he left office that the job be split between two people.
Cotler said that splitting the position would help to eliminate “the inherent tension between the dual responsibilities of being a minister of justice and attorney general.”
Another former justice minister and attorney general, Anne McLellan, who held the post from 1997 to 2002 under former prime minister Jean Chrétien, agrees with Farrow that studying the possibility is a worthy endeavour. … A way to do that, she said, is to make the attorney general post akin to the position the Speaker has, where they are an elected MP that is engaged in politics and is answerable to a constituency.
While this discussion is important in the context of the SNC-Lavalin controversy, Farrow said it is also important to address the issue if the Trudeau government remains intent on playing a leadership role internationally. …  Farrow said it will be important for the government to make sure it has Canada’s trust, as well, not only with the attorney general’s role, but also with “how the rule of law operates in our modern society.”
David Lametti dit réfléchir à la séparation du ministre de la Justice et du procureur général

22 February
The impossible position: Canada’s attorney-general cannot be our justice minister
(Globe & Mail) The arcane details and nuances of Canadian law rarely become the matter of national debate. But legal terms of art such as deferred prosecution agreements, solicitor-client privilege and the Shawcross doctrine have become instruments of political analysis and rhetoric amid reports that Jody Wilson-Raybould, then the justice minister and attorney-general of Canada, was pressed by the Prime Minister’s Office to resolve criminal charges against Montreal firm SNC-Lavalin.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould was placed in an intolerable conflict the moment she was sworn in as both minister of justice, a political role charged with developing policy and drafting legislation for the Justice Department, and as the attorney-general of Canada, responsible for providing legal advice to Canada’s executive branch and representing the government in legal proceedings.
Bluntly, this is a clash of loyalties and a conflict of interest. How can the minister and attorney-general provide legal advice on their own policies or legal advice that they have a political interest in promoting? How can they then fulfill their duty to the House of Commons to report any inconsistency under the Charter?
We need to have a minister of justice who is responsible for justice policy in the same way that the minister of health is responsible for health policy. But it is not apparent that we need a lawyer in this role any more than we need a doctor as minister of health, a farmer as minister of agriculture or a teacher as minister of education. To many lawyers, this statement will be viewed as sacrilegious if not treasonous, but if we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that we lawyers simply have not done a good job creating a justice system that is accessible for Canadians. We certainly do not have a monopoly on good ideas for the justice system.
We also need an attorney-general who is the legal adviser to government. This person does need to be a lawyer, but she does not necessarily need to be in cabinet. Again, this may sound offensive to Canadian ears but it is the standard operating principle in Britain: the attorney-general is an elected MP who advises and attends cabinet as necessary but is not a member of cabinet. The attorney-general oversees prosecutions and provides legal advice.

Adam Dodek is the dean of the Common Law Section of the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, a founder of its Public Law Group, and was the chief of staff to former attorney-general of Ontario Michael Bryant. He is the author of The Canadian Constitution, second ed. (Dundurn, 2016).

David Lametti dit réfléchir à la séparation du ministre de la Justice et du procureur général

18 February
Justin Trudeau’s top adviser Gerald Butts resigns amid SNC-Lavalin affair
(Global) Gerald Butts, Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary and senior political advisor, has resigned amid allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office tried to prevent the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Butts denied accusations that he or anyone else in the PMO improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help the Montreal engineering giant avoid prosecution on corruption and bribery charges related to contracts in Libya. [So why was it necessary for Butts to quit?]
A motion has been put forward in the House of Commons to allow Wilson-Raybould to testify, though the Liberals have the power to defeat it. Both Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer and New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh have also called for Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, as well as an inquiry into the PMO’s involvement in the SNC-Lavalin case.
An internal probe has already been launched.
Full text of Gerald Butts’s resignation statement
A comprehensive look at the compounded communications errors committed by the PMO/Trudeau from one who has ‘been there and done that’ as Stephen Harper’s Director of Communications
Are these the ‘answers’ of a Prime Minister who’s done nothing wrong?
Andrew MacDougall: Sloppy misdirection, anonymous hit jobs. The response to the Lavalin affair shows a PMO that’s scrambling and caught.
(Maclean’s) When ace reporter Bob Fife rings you at 9:30 in the morning to get a comment for an exclusive in the next day’s paper it’s time to cancel your plans. Believe me, I know from experience. It means something big— something painful—is in the offing.
And while I’m not privy to the PMO discussion following Fife’s Feb. 6 call, I can say the carefully-crafted response which appeared in the Globe and Mail’s exclusive the next morning did nothing to kill the story. Au contraire, it has produced a series of shifting explanations over subsequent days for something Trudeau’s office insists never even happened.
Gerald Butts: If thy right hand offend thee, pluck it out
Paul Wells: The Prime Minister will now have to find out if he can work without Butts. In a crisis, in an election year. The timing isn’t great.

16 February
Andrew Coyne: What could Trudeau properly have discussed with Wilson-Raybould about SNC-Lavalin?
Whether the PM or his officials crossed the line, or just tiptoed up to it, isn’t really the issue: they shouldn’t have come anywhere near it

Adam Radwanski: SNC-Lavalin mess casts Trudeau’s inner circle in a different light
…if a Prime Minister’s Office is going to assert itself as supreme to cabinet and caucus, as Mr. Trudeau’s has, the PMO’s end of the bargain is to maintain cool-headed competence, continually demonstrate adaptability to challenges as they arise, play the long game with an eye toward the next election.
Just 10 days ago, Mr. Trudeau’s shop didn’t appear to be failing that test. There were Liberals who would grouse that Mr. Trudeau’s top officials, especially his principal secretary, Gerald Butts, and to a somewhat lesser extent his chief-of-staff, Katie Telford, were overweening. For the most part, there was also admiration for their skills in building and maintaining the brand of the most successful Liberal politician in a generation.
Pretty much from the moment that The Globe and Mail reported this month that Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s ouster from Justice had followed resistance to PMO pressure to cut SNC a deal on corruption charges, Mr. Trudeau’s inner circle has been cast in a different light. Now, it looks impetuous and short-sighted.

Wilson-Raybould challenged Trudeau on SNC-Lavalin, Prime Minister concedes
(Globe & Mail) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed Friday that former justice minister and attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould had approached him to clarify whether he was in fact ordering her to make a particular decision on the bribery and fraud prosecution of SNC-Lavalin Group.
He said her question, in September, 2018, came amid a major lobbying campaign on the matter.
Also, Friday, Mr. Trudeau told media that he only removed Ms. Wilson-Raybould from her job as justice minister and attorney-general because a surprise departure from cabinet triggered a shuffle.

How is the SNC-Lavalin affair impacting the Liberal Party brand ahead of the election? | At Issue

Did Wilson-Raybould lose her job because she doesn’t speak French?
(Globe & Mail) Anthony Housefather, the Liberal MP who will chair hearings into the Jody Wilson-Raybould affair, told a Montreal radio station today that Ms. Wilson-Raybould might have been moved out of the roles of attorney general and justice minister because she does not speak French. … He said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has the right to choose who is in what cabinet post and there could be several reasons why people are shuffled. “For example … there’s a lot of legal issues coming up in Quebec and the Prime Minister may well have decided he needed a justice minister that could speak French.”

The shameful mistreatment of Jody Wilson-Raybould on full display
(Globe & Mail) Ms. Wilson-Raybould is a powerful, experienced political and professional actor in her own right. She is one of many illustrious politicians from the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation. She has been a Crown prosecutor in British Columbia, a treaty commissioner and regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, posts in which competence and political acumen are essential. She is nobody’s symbolic trophy, lending legitimacy but never taking an opposing view.
Wilson-Raybould’s resignation prompts Trudeau to say she failed in duty to voice SNC concerns
…Mr. Trudeau repeatedly stated that Ms. Wilson-Raybould had never complained to him about political pressure from his office.
However, senior government officials told The Globe in recent days there was vigorous debate among Mr. Trudeau’s staff and other government officials, including cabinet ministers, involving Ms. Wilson-Raybould, over the SNC-Lavalin prosecution, but they argued it should not be construed as pressure.

13 February
John Ibbitson: Wilson-Raybould’s departure is a calamity for Trudeau’s Liberals
…her departure is politically damaging. …
For one thing, her decision appears to confirm that officials in the Prime Minister’s Office put pressure on her to cut a deal with SNC-Lavalin, which faces corruption charges, and then removed her from the Justice portfolio when she refused. This from a government that trumpets its scrupulous observance of the rule of law.
The fact that she stood up to the Prime Minister’s advisers, and was punished for it, undermines Liberal claims that women are equal and respected within the government. The resignation of the first Indigenous person to serve as justice minister also tarnishes the government’s record on Indigenous issues.
And perhaps the saddest thing of all: The next Minister of Veterans Affairs will be the fourth appointed by this government, underscoring the low value placed on the portfolio, and on the needs of veterans.
Jody Wilson-Raybould resigns from federal cabinet amid SNC-Lavalin controversy The text of Her Resignation letter

12 February
Nine subtle (and not-so) signals in Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation letter
Anne Kingston: The letter from the former cabinet minister is a masterclass in how to communicate volumes between the lines

8 February
Andrew Coyne: Hard to overstate seriousness of SNC-Lavalin allegations
Will the pattern be repeated? We’re about to find out whether this really is a country governed by the rule of law at all
At the very least, for the PMO to have intervened in the way alleged would display appalling judgment; at the worst it may count as obstruction of justice. … Certainly it calls into doubt the government’s protestations, in the controversy over the extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, about its devotion to the “rule of law.” It also possibly sheds new light on the murky dealings surrounding the dismissal and prosecution of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman for allegedly leaking cabinet secrets.
Billions at stake for SNC-Lavalin — corruption conviction would bar firm from federal contracts for 10 years
A looming criminal trial could sideline SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. on billions worth of federal contracts, removing a key player in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s infrastructure ambitions and possibly risking a number of Quebec-based jobs, analysts say.
SNC has a long history of building major infrastructure projects in Canada, including the $6.3-billion REM rail line in Montreal currently under construction. That rail project remains the sole investment made thus far by the Canada Infrastructure Bank, a body introduced by the Trudeau government in 2016 that aims to funnel $35 billion into various infrastructure projects over a 10-year period. SNC is also on the short list to build the $3.6-billion expansion of Ottawa’s light rail system.
But financial analysts and legal experts say that a bribery and fraud conviction against the company would bar it from bidding on any federal contracts for 10 years, and would even allow federal authorities to cancel the company’s current infrastructure contracts, if deemed necessary.
Chris Selley: Tale of prosecutorial interference a mortal threat to the Trudeau brand
It would be perfectly emblematic of a government that promised a new way of doing things, but is capable of cynicism that could make Jean Chrétien blush
In a Thursday press conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denied that he or anyone from his office directed Justice Minister (as she then was) Jody Wilson-Raybould to abandon the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin over some funny business in Libya, and instead pursue a friendlier so-called “remediation agreement.”
Interestingly, no one had alleged what he denied
PMO pressed Wilson-Raybould to abandon prosecution of SNC-Lavalin; Trudeau denies his office ‘directed’ her

15 January
Bureaucrat in charge of Phoenix pay system being replaced
[Marie]Lemay, a former CEO of the National Capital Commission, joined PSPC in April 2016, as the new pay system for civil servants was first rolled out across government. Since coming online, Phoenix has botched paycheques for thousands of civil servants, souring the relationship between the Trudeau government and the public service unions.
The Senate finance committee estimated in a report last summer it would cost Ottawa $2.2 billion to fix the system by 2023, reports the Globe and Mail. The Trudeau government pledged an additional $431 million in the 2018 budget to fix it, and $16 million to begin replacing it.
As deputy minister, Lemay was the top bureaucrat working on Phoenix. She will be replaced by Bill Matthews, currently the senior associate deputy minister of National Defence. [The Phoenix pay system is a payroll processing system for Canadian federal government employees, run by Public Services and Procurement Canada. After coming online in early 2016, Phoenix has been mired in problems with underpayments, over-payments, and non-payments.]

14 January
Wilson-Raybould moved to Veterans Affairs, Lametti named justice minister in Trudeau cabinet shuffle
Jane Philpott named Treasury Board president, while Nova Scotia MP Bernadette Jordan takes on new rural post
Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott has been chosen to fill the cabinet vacancy as president of the Treasury Board, and Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan replaces Philpott.
Nova Scotia MP Bernadette Jordan was appointed minister of Rural Economic Development.
According to a news release from the Prime Minister’s Office, Jordan will be tasked with developing a new rural development strategy to “spur economic growth and create good, middle-class jobs in rural Canada.” She will also work to bring high-speed internet to rural homes and businesses, and work with municipalities, provinces, territories and Indigenous partners to meet infrastructure needs of rural communities.
Canada’s new justice minister is a Montrealer: Meet David Lametti
Colleagues of Canada’s new Justice Minister David Lametti say that, before his career in politics, he was known for his generosity and mentorship as a law professor at McGill University.
At McGill, Lametti focused his academic work on intellectual property, even pioneering it as a field of research in law at the university, according to Richard Gold, the associate dean of the McGill Faculty of Law graduate studies program. Gold says he and Lametti co-founded McGill’s Centre for Intellectual Property Policy (CIPP).
After being removed as justice minister, Wilson-Raybould defends her performance
Shortly after Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister and attorney general was moved into the less prestigious position of veterans affairs minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould took the unusual step of issuing a public defence of her performance.
That defence came in the form of a 2,000-word post on her MP website in which she lays out her approach to her former job, her legislative and even non-legislative achievements while holding one of Canada’s top cabinet positions.
John Ibbitson: Brison’s exit does not bode well for fiscal caution in Liberal cabinet
(Globe & Mail) As President of the Treasury Board, which is responsible for the administration of the federal government, Scott Brison was seen as a voice of fiscal caution. Though loyal to his Prime Minister in private as well as public, anyone drawing up a list of members of the Liberal caucus who might be least comfortable with the government’s unending string of budget deficits would probably put his name at the top.

10 January
Scott Brison resigns from federal Liberal cabinet
Scott Brison is resigning from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s cabinet after deciding he won’t run for re-election this fall.
After 22 years representing the Nova Scotia riding of Kings-Hants, Brison says he’s ready for a change and looking forward to spending more time with his four-year-old twins.
“I’ve informed the Prime Minister of my decision to not seek re-election in 2019. ” Brison said. “As such, I’ve decided to step down from my role as President of the Treasury Board and will work with the PM [prime minister] to ensure a smooth transition.”

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