It keeps pulling you back, you try to get out, and it just pulls you back in again, a sucking vortex of palace intrigue. An Ottawa drama, part Downtown Abbey, part the Office; backroom politics on full enticing display. Throw in the ridiculous opposition parties with over the top hyperbole and a salivating ‘breaking news’ media, and admittedly it makes for a delicious soup for the political junkies. We all know, or at least presume, that behind these syrupy politicians there is often a hidden counter message, but we are not often given a glimpse of the nuances, the real dialogue, where honesty often hides behind the curated media releases.
Trudeau’s gossamer world of appointments based on identity politics and minimal merit are now crashing head long into reality, a reality played by a group of less than pure politicians. The Liberal policy planks of women advancement and Indigenous reconciliation are being gutted– ripped from their promised platform by a woman who maybe should be identified as more Louis Riel than a Federalist Trudeau Liberal.
We have now learned that Ms. Raybould was audio recording her meeting with Michael Wernick and has now provided a 17 minute tape to the Justice Committee, unbeknownst to Mr. Wernick. So, it would appear that JWR (as the fawning press like to call her) has more in common with Michael Cohen, the greasy lawyer for Trump than any of us would have thought, or has been written in a previous blog where we compared the two. Cohen recorded Trump during the time he was negotiating with the ‘affair’ girls. Cohen wanted Trump on the record, for blackmail or for just covering his posterior, it is not quite clear.
So we would be remiss if we didn’t ask Ms. Raybould as to why she was recording her discussion with Michael Wernick? What was her intent?
Having been around for a few years in policing, this writer dealt with wiretaps, interview recordings, and the surreptitious recording of suspects. It becomes very clear if operating in this world, that if one is recording someone else, unbeknownst to that party, they are hoping for one of two possibilities. That the recorded person says something out of the ordinary, or, they are hoping to entice that recorded person into saying something out of the ordinary. In other words, there is a singular purpose to the effort. Was Ms. Raybould recording this conversation as possible “evidence” of wrong-doing, or is it a little more sinister, something that she could use as a weapon against the powers to be, especially if they tried to get rid of her.
“it is better to be feared than loved, if you can not be both” – Machiavelli
The questions that this recording and its content engenders are numerous. Remember that she never mentioned having a recording of Wernick when she testified for 4-5 hours. Did it slip her mind? Did she not see it as relevant at that time? What changed? Did she record anyone else? Are there other recordings that she doesn’t think are relevant at this time?
The recording basically covers the same territory as has been outlined by JWR and Wernick. There is nothing earth shattering in it. It is clear that the Liberals were putting pressure on her, and it was equally clear in what she said and how she said it, that JWR was adamant and somewhat belligerent about having made up her mind. Wernick says the Prime Minister is concerned that they are not considering a DPA (Deferred Prosecution Agreement) even though it is a tool that is open to them, and the loss of jobs for SNC should be a consideration. Wernick on a couple of occasions argues with her about it constituting in undue pressure saying “I’m not seeing anything inappropriate in it”. This of course fits with what he said during his appearance before the Justice committee.
There are some other tantalizing clues in the audio recording.
Wernick expresses concern that it is not good that the Prime Minister and his Justice Minister are at “loggerheads”. Clear indication that this is not the first disagreement which has occurred between JWR and JT.
Ms. Raybould is clearly agitated in this conversation. She in clear and no uncertain terms says that she believes that this is “interference”…that they are “politically pressuring me”. Was she speaking to the recording? It was a very clear and concise choice of words, somewhat out of sync, but deliberate in their delivery.
She is also clearly agitated by the fact that Wernick tells her that the PM may get some advice from Beverly McLaughlin, the former Supreme Court Chief Justice. You don’t have to read too far between the lines to see that they are questioning her competence, and she does not like it.
She even misstates during the phone call that she has “evidence” of a copy of the Section 13 being sent early in September to the PMO; then quickly changes it to having notes of it being sent to the PMO. This slip in language is further evidence that this phone call, her note-taking, her direction to her staff to take notes on this matter, is clearly indicative that Ms. Raybould was in the stages of preparing her personal case. She felt the need to prepare a case against her leader and his minions, but is she preparing this case because of her ‘principles’ or is this because, as she states in this very conversation that she is waiting “for the other foot to drop”? Her “dream job” after all (at least in her mind )was in jeopardy. So was this plotting and framing a case about her job security or was it for standing up for prosecutorial independence?
It is this writer’s belief that JWR was not taking this stance because of the SNC-Lavalin affair. What has often been largely ignored in the reporting to date is the fact that JWR has shown no previous problem with interfering in the judicial process– she has in fact interfered in a direct way on more than one occasion. Whether it be the Colten Boushie trial in Saskatchewan, or in the Restoule case, which has been outlined by former Judge Brian Giesbrecht of Manitoba in his article in the CTC Journal.
In the Restoule case, Indigenous lawyers argued that treaty annuity payments in the Robinson treaties (covering the Northern Great Lakes) should be retroactive for the last 150 years. A “practise directive” was issued by JWR’s office which deliberately weakened the Crown case making it inevitable that the Judge would “find for the plaintiff”. In effect the Minister “threw the game”. Other indigenous groups are now lining up to try and get the same rulings in their cases. This could cost in the “billions of dollars” and an anonymous Crown stated at the time and that if “these directives are not reversed there will be huge financial consequences for taxpayers”.
How this is not a conflict of interest should be the first question. When the Justice Minister, a former Assembly of First Nations Executive, is making policy and issuing directives directly affecting the Indigenous and their future claims. (Do you remember the furor by the opposition when Morneau was involved in legislation affecting the insurance industry) But besides being a clear conflict, it is also clear evidence that JWR has no compunction in interfering in the judicial process. She just doesn’t want to interfere for SNC Lavalin.
One of her last acts as the Justice Minister, after being demoted, was to affirm her Practise Directives to the Justice Ministry where it was stated that they should cease “adversarial” arguments in all litigation involving “indigenous claims”. In other words, find a settlement with the Indigenous claims, do not take them into court.
In this audiotaped phone call it starts with Wernick saying that he is “not calling you about the litigation directive”. Was there a previous dispute about the litigation directives? Were her directives which could effectively cost the taxpayers millions if not billions of dollars maybe being seen as a cause gone too far, even for the Liberals?
We have also now learned, apparently by a Liberal leak, that Ms. Raybould was trying to have a Manitoba Justice, Justice Glenn Joyal elevated to the head of the Supreme Court of Canada. An unusual move as Joyal was not already a member of the Supreme Court of Canada. The credentials of Mr. Joyal aside, apparently Ms. Raybould planned to then move an Indigenous judge into the vacated Manitoba Court of Queens Bench. Apparently, Trudeau did not go along with this recommendation and instead appointed Richard Wagner.
The leak itself has caused consternation among the Conservative and NDP pundits (although they had no concerns about the original Globe and Mail leak–which clearly pointed at Raybould’s office), but the fact that Ms. Raybould’s was maybe orchestrating another pro- Indigenous political move, seems to be secondary to the partisan commentaries.
It is mesmerizing that Ms. Raybould is escaping close scrutiny of her motivations and tactics. Is it possible that our level of political correctness does not allow for the same scrutiny for a woman, and that an indigenous woman is somehow fireproof? Is it possible we overlook a clear conflict of interest, a single issued focused minister, who is in the habit of recording her colleagues, and instead want to believe her to be some form of principled Mother Theresa?
This blog would never be judged a supporter of Justin Trudeau and this group of Liberals. They have brought this on themselves. But they are awakening now to the fact that there was a Machiavelli in their midst, someone capable of deceit who was prepared, if scorned, of taking all of them down.
In July 1974 Richard Nixon went down in flames over a recorded conversation, the infamous “smoking gun” tape that had been exposed by Alexander Butterfield. Ms. Raybould’s tape may also be her downfall, as the element of mistrust of her is now forefront in Liberal caucus minds and the cracks in her armour are beginning to appear.
Does Ms. Raybould have an agenda? There should be little doubt.
She clearly has designs on being a power player in the Liberal party in the future. That is why she has not left the Party, which seems counter-intuitive in light of her slagging of Justin. How could one possibly argue their personal “principles”, say you have no confidence in the leader of that party, while at the same time stay in the Liberal party?
Today as this is being written she is arguing that she should be allowed to remain in caucus. She clearly wants to stay and take advantage of being in the Liberal circle. One can only wait and see if the Liberal caucus will be swayed by her claim of pure intentions and that she is doing the “best job she can” as she told Global News in a somewhat arrogant and testy reply as to whether she should resign.
In her public posture she will keep polishing the teller of truths narrative. She has no other choice, but one wonders if the recording was a step gone too far in terms of her political agenda. Whether it was a mistake or not, it clearly was a revelation of her true character.
During a recent feast hosted for her in Campbell River on Vancouver Island her tried and true repetitive theme came through– “I come from a long line of matriarchs and I am a truth teller in accordance with the laws and traditions of our Big House…”.
One has to wonder whether “her truth” is actually the same as our truth and whether the “Big House” includes the Houses of Parliament.
Photo courtesy of Jody Wilson-Raybould via Twitter