Musings —01.21.2019 08:59 AM—
From former Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps, in today’s Hill Times:
On the cabinet shuffle, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demoted a female aboriginal star when he shuffled Jody Wilson-Raybould out of the Justice portfolio. Wilson-Raybould, an articulate former chief, was actively courted by the Liberals because of her reputation in legal and aboriginal circles. The Justice portfolio was especially tricky because of her Indigenous roots. As witnessed in the numerous western pipeline protests, the aboriginal community is split in its view of consultation and pipeline location…
Wilson-Raybould navigated those murky waters very capably, privately pushing the government to move more quickly while publicly remaining on board in cabinet solidarity.
The prime minister’s explanation for why she was moved did not ring true. The notion that the veterans’ file needed a steadier hand was contradictory because the outgoing minister, Seamus O’Regan, was tasked to work on aboriginal issues.
The prime minister has repeatedly stated the top government priority is reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. That should have been more important than dealing with the challenges facing veterans. Wilson-Raybould was right to be irked about the move. As a good soldier, she said all the right things about her new portfolio but her body language made it very clear. This was neither a welcome, nor a lateral move.
This is the second time a Liberal Indigenous minister has been downgraded.
The last was when Hunter Tootoo left cabinet and caucus to deal with a substance abuse problem coupled with an inappropriate staff relationship. That occurred almost two years ago. Since then, he has cleaned up his act, but repeated attempts to rejoin the Liberal caucus have been spurned.
Seamus O’Regan successfully underwent treatment for substance abuse and was rewarded with a cabinet position. Tootoo is still lingering in limbo. Both have much in common. They have struggled with the demons of alcohol. But O’Regan has been rewarded for coping while Tootoo has been shunned.
Prime ministerial insiders were spinning that Raybould-Wilson was hard to get along within cabinet. When her people have expectations that have been stoked by government, she had no choice but to fight harder for change.
Trudeau’s cabinet shuffle was based on bad advice. Whoever recommended the demotion of Raybould-Wilson should bow out. Trudeau made the decision but, ultimately, hubris on the prime minister’s team is costing him.