Who will WE always be?
By Jim Poling Sr.
Published March 7, 2019
It seems ludicrous that any political moment these days could make you proud to be a Canadian. But there was one last week when pride swelled in my chest.
It came watching Jody Wilson-Raybould, Vancouver Liberal member of Parliament, testify before the House of Commons justice committee about her role in the SNC-Lavalin affair. Wilson-Raybould is the former justice minister and attorney-general demoted to veterans affairs minister, a portfolio she resigned soon after.
She appeared before the committee the same day that Michael Cohen, former Trump fixer, appeared before Congress in Washington to call President Trump a con man, a cheat and a racist.
It was yet another bitter, snowy winter day, so I flopped in front of the television and flipped between the Canadian and U.S. hearings. It was educational to see the sharp differences.
The Congressional hearing presumably was held to sweat Cohen for information that might help determine whether President Trump did or did not collude with Russia and obstruct justice. In fact, it was just another political cockfight staged to win fans, also known as voters.
There were few serious attempts to dig out real facts – certainly none by bullying Republican supporters of the president. It was a political circus of pathetic clowns and barking seals.
Some media reports compared it to the television drama The Sopranos. More frightening, it prompted a flashback to historical reports about the collapse of Congress during the lead up to the U.S. Civil War.
Over in Ottawa, Wilson-Raybould testified there was consistent and sustained pressure from the prime minister and others to have her shelve prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, the Quebec engineering firm facing corruption charges.
The prime minister worried that following through with prosecution would hurt the company and lead to job losses, which would be bad for the economy. The prime minister’s office wanted a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) in which the company would not be prosecuted if it agreed to remediation measures, fines or other undertakings.
The Ottawa hearing was more civil and respectful than the Washington spectacle, however not without moments tainted by political duplicity. There was some pride in seeing that we have not slid as far into the political sewer as the Americans. Not yet.
But the real pride came in watching Wilson-Raybould. She gave us all a clear reminder of the importance of standing up for what you believe, no matter who tells you otherwise. And, no matter what it costs you personally.
She reminded me of my mother, despite the fact that she is the same age as two of our daughters.
Our mothers teach us who we are and what we should stand for. They teach us to conduct ourselves with conviction and dignity. They teach us to consider carefully what we say because words that fly past our lips cannot be taken back.
The SNC-Lavalin affair has developed into a very dirty and nasty fight, and it is not over yet.
Pressure tactics by Justin Trudeau and his people to get Wilson-Raybould to give SNC-Lavalin a pass on criminal charges were not illegal. Wilson-Raybould has said that herself. That does not mean that they were ethically acceptable or the right thing to do.
Trudeau says they were appropriate tactics. Wilson-Raybould says they were not.
This is a fight the honourable lady cannot win. Power and politics, jobs and money, trump honour and higher principles.
One would have thought that rational and intelligent people could have found a way early on to prevent this affair from morphing into the mess it is. That is too much to expect in the politics of today.
The best solution now is for Wilson-Raybould to walk. Quit the Liberal party, quit Parliament and accept that there is not room for higher-minded people in the politics of today.
She is an intelligent, principled person with strong core values. What she has to offer is wasted on political life but of great value to other parts of Canadian life.
Her most important words to Parliament are contained in the final paragraph of her closing remarks to the justice committee:
“This is who I am and who I will always be.”
Canadians need to think hard about who we are and who we will always want to be.