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In today’s Sun! Trudeau’s train-wreck #LavScam press conference

It was vintage Justin Trudeau.

There he stood at the prime ministerial podium at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa, a battery of Canadian flags behind him, a throng of journalists in front of him. He blinked, all dewy-eyed sincerity.

It was Thursday morning, early. He’d just been asked if he planned to apologize for the metastasizing Lavscam scandal. It wasn’t a crazy question: Trudeau’s own press minions had been leaking that the prime minister was considering doing precisely that.

But, no. Said Trudeau: “I will be making an Inuit apology later today,” he said. Blink, blink.

And so it went. Not the worst press encounter of the week — R. Kelly won that prize, hands down — but close. Made a bad situation way, way worse.

Here’s why.

For starters, as noted, the Liberal leader didn’t apologize — for what he had done to Jody Wilson-Raybould. For trying to cook up a sweetheart deal for a rotten Quebec engineering firm. For wiping his feet on the rule of law.

Apologies cost nothing, Justin. If done right, they pay lots of dividends.

That’s not all: The Deflector-in-Chief didn’t take responsibility. Not even a bit.

Even if you don’t apologize, Justin — even if you don’t express the smallest amount of regret, which you didn’t do either — it’s important that you accept that the proverbial buck stops with you. Instead, you whinged (yet again) that it’s all Wilson-Raybould’s fault.

“She didn’t come to me,” you wheezed. (Actually, she did. You just wouldn’t listen.)

The worst of it: Trudeau sounded as sincere as a two-bit carnival barker.

That’s a surprise. Trudeau’s greatest talent, you see, is acting. He is an expert at radiating sincerity and emotion. But at his press conference, he had all the conviction of an al-Qaida hostage reading a statement about the evils of the West. This was a historic moment, and Trudeau needed to convince us. He didn’t.

He didn’t acknowledge the seriousness of this scandal, either. Lavscam is a raging five-alarm fire; Trudeau brought a squirt gun. He said nothing that will extinguish Canadians’ growing belief that Trudeau and his staff may have obstructed justice.

Also: Trudeau didn’t rebut the allegations that have been made against him. In fact, he did the reverse. He confirmed all of Wilson-Raybould’s evidence: That she was pressured to give SNC-Lavalin a judicial high-five. That he and his officials — 11 of them, more than 20 times, over a four-month period in fall 2018 — did what the former attorney general said they did. Guilty as charged, Your Honour.

At one point, Trudeau looked up from his focus-grouped talking points. He looked a bit weepy. Was an apology about to arrive?

Nope.

Instead, Trudeau gave us every indication that the pressure is getting to him. Without warning, he launched into a bizarre exposition about his dead father. How he and Pierre liked justice. And stuff.

Pro tip, Justin: Hauling dead relatives out of the crypt to buttress your argument isn’t convincing. It’s creepy.

And so it went. Trudeau just didn’t get how bad this is. You know: That, in a functioning democracy, politicians cannot ever, ever tell judges and prosecutors what to do. When that happens enough, you are a democracy no more. You’re a banana republic.

As he departed to “make an Inuit apology,” he was right about one thing, however. An “erosion of trust” had happened, as he said.

But the “erosion of trust” wasn’t between him and Wilson-Raybould.

It’s between him and us.


“Dear Ottawa Citizen” – with an update

In today’s Citizen, Andrew Cohen states:

“Critics note that Wilson-Raybould is applauded – perhaps advised – by the perfervid Warren Kinsella and his wife, Lisa; the latter hugged Wilson-Raybould after her testimony to the justice committee. Warren Kinsella, a Liberal and a consultant, despises Trudeau for blocking his nomination in Toronto in 2014.”

I can make the following comments about Cohen’s published statement:

  1. I do not advise Jody Wilson-Raybould in any manner whatsoever.  She is not a client of my firm, paid or otherwise.  I have never even met Ms. Wilson-Raybould.
  2. My wife Lisa, who can certainly speak for herself, will equally tell you that she does not advise Ms. Wilson-Raybould in way, shape or form.  Lisa has lobbied Ms. Wilson-Raybould in her previous ministerial capacity, and is friendly with her.  That is all.  Her email is attached; you can contact her.  Cohen certainly did not even attempt to do so.
  3. Cohen’s statement that we “perhaps advise” Ms. Wilson-Raybould is dishonest, innuendo, and, as noted, false.  We could have easily so advised this erstwhile professor of journalism had he bothered to pick up the phone, or written to us.  We are easily found.  It would have taken mere moments.
  4. Equally, Cohen’s statement that I “despise” Justin Trudeau is something he cannot hope to know without first making an effort to contact me.  He did not do so, not once.
  5. I did not have a nomination “blocked” by Justin Trudeau in 2014 or any other relevant year.  In fact, I did not even submit the requisite paperwork for a Liberal nomination.  Cohen’s error here, too, is significant and could have been easily avoided.  It does a disservice to Citizen readers.
  6. I am not a member of the Liberal Party or any other party.  That, too, requires a correction.

I will resist noting that even a first-year Carleton journalism student would have not made these errors of fact.  I will say, however, that I insist upon a correction statement in respect of the above-noted.  I expect that it will be published sooner than later.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

UPDATE: Without providing us with the courtesy of a response, they’ve posted this below Cohen’s column:

Not good enough.

I’ve written to them again:

I have received no reply from you but have noted this below Cohen’s column:

Correction: An earlier version of this column mischaracterized the relationship between Jody Wilson-Raybould and Lisa Kinsella, and misstated Warren Kinsella’s party status. 

 I state:

  1. There has been no correction of the false innuendo that I, Warren Kinsella, represent or “perhaps advise” Ms. Wilson-Raybould.
  2. There has been no correction made in respect of the completely false statement about (a) my views regarding the Prime Minister and (b) “blocking my nomination.”

I again insist that the correction address the above-noted.

I’ll let you know what happens next.


Ten things Trudeau did wrong at his #LavScam press conference

How bad was Justin Trudeau’s early-morning LavScam press conference?

So bad CTV Your Morning’s Ben Mulroney asked aloud if the Liberal Prime Minister had made things worse for himself.

So bad Bell Media radio host Evan Solomon called Trudeau’s statement “a word salad.”

So bad I played a tape of Trudeau’s press conference for students in my University of Calgary Faculty of Law crisis communications course – as a sterling example of how not to do crisis communications.

Trudeau made many mistakes in Parliament’s press theatre. Here are ten.

1. He didn’t apologize. After Trudeau’s office leaked that the beleaguered Liberal leader was deliberating about an apology for the SNC-Lavalin scandal, we all kind of expected one. We didn’t get one. And when Trudeau was asked why, he blinked and stammered and looked offended. Dumb. Apologies cost nothing, Petit Justin. But if done right, they pay many dividends.

2. He didn’t take responsibility. Even if you don’t apologize – even if you don’t express the smallest amount of regret, which Trudeau didn’t do either – it’s important that you accept that the proverbial buck stops with you. Trudeau (again) said that it’s all Jody Wilson-Raybould’s fault. “She didn’t come to me,” he wheezed. Well, actually, she did. You just wouldn’t listen.

3. He didn’t sound sincere. Justin Trudeau’s greatest strength is his acting ability. He is an expert at radiating wet-eyed sincerity and emotion – kind of like our Labrador retrievers, when we come home and discover they’ve eaten an entire living room sofa. At his press conference, Trudeau had all the conviction of an ISIS hostage reading a statement prepared by his captors. This was a truly historic moment, and Trudeau needed to convince us. He didn’t.

4. He didn’t acknowledge the seriousness of this scandal. LavScam is a raging five-alarm fire; Trudeau brought a squirt gun to the blaze. He did and said nothing that will extinguish Canadians’ growing belief that Trudeau and his staff may have obstructed justice.

5. He didn’t rebut the allegations that have been made against him. In fact, he did the precise reverse. Trudeau confirmed all of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s evidence: that she was pressured to give a sleazy Quebec company a sweetheart deal. That he and his officials – 11 of them, more than 20 times, over a four-month period in Fall 2018 – did what the former Attorney-General said they did. Guilty as charged.

6. He didn’t make us feel he understands it. In fact, Trudeau gave us every indication that the pressure is getting to him. At one point, the Deflector-in-Chief looked up from his focus-grouped talking points and launched into a bizarre exposition about his dead father. Pro tip: hauling dead relatives out of the crypt to buttress your argument isn’t convincing. It’s creepy.

7. He didn’t provide a compelling narrative. People get bombarded by millions of words and images every day. It’s data smog; it’s hard to keep up. So, it’s critical that you provide a narrative – a story. (Because while facts tell, stories sell.) At the conclusion of Trudeau’s windy word salad, we still didn’t know why he fired Jody Wilson-Raybould. Because she didn’t speak French? Because she was “difficult”? Because Scott Brison? We don’t know.

8. He didn’t sound like a Prime Minister. Sure, he used an official-looking podium. Sure, there was a battery of Canadian flags arrayed behind him. Sure, he can wear a pricey suit. But, with the sound off, Trudeau looked like he was irritated that he was being forced to answer tricky questions from the wretches in the Press Gallery. He looked like he was pissed off. Not penitent.

9. He didn’t get it. The seriousness of it all, that is. Over and over, Trudeau gave us every indication that the whole mess was simply a case of broken telephone. When, in fact, it was about how he and his senior staff – not one of them a lawyer – repeatedly tried to tell the lawyers what to do. The decision was all Wilson-Raybould’s, he said – as long as, you know, she made the decision he wanted her to make.

10. He didn’t remember the cardinal comms rule. Which is: don’t repeat the main allegation against you. Instead, Justin Trudeau acknowledged, over and over, that there had been “an erosion of trust” between him and his former Attorney-General. He said it so much, even the New York Times put it in a big headline.

No, Justin, the “erosion of trust” wasn’t between you and Jody Wilson-Raybould.

The erosion of trust is between you and us.


The “feminist” PMO wouldn’t be stupid enough to force female Liberal MPs to publish identical “personal” messages of support, would they?

Well, actually, they would be that stupid.  They are that stupid.

Spotted by my sharp-eyed pal Sean Craig: PMO told female Liberal MPs to post personal messages about what a swell feminist he is – presumably to offset this growing controversy.  Except a couple of the MPs just did a cut and paste.  Oops!

The next thing you know, they’ll be lining up all kinds of people to write op-eds!



Your Saturday #LavScam roundup: Trudeau’s coddling of “ordinary evil”

  • National Observer: “…the most depressing spectacle of the entire affair is watching Justin Trudeau, a man who clearly aspires to greatness, debase himself and this nation, by begging, pushing, imploring Canada’s attorney general to let this company off the hook. Then effectively firing her when she wouldn’t comply, and allowing her credibility to be undermined.”
  • National Observer: “A Canadian company is charged with bribing a family infamous around the world for murder, torture, rape, abductions, and widespread human rights abuses, and doing it for its own profit. They didn’t stop until the regime collapsed in 2011 and Swiss authorities came knocking. Charges were laid in April 2015. Because of corruption’s profoundly oppressive impact on the Libyan people, the SNC-Libya charges are vastly more serious even than the McGill hospital bribery scandal, in which SNC paid bribes of $22.5 million to secure the contract. Yet repeatedly and overwhelmingly from the prime minister and his advisors, the hand-wringing has focused on Canadian jobs, without substantiation of what the real job losses might be. Not a whisper for the innocent civilians trampled under a dictator’s boot. The kind of people who don’t have Michael Wernick’s mobile number.”
  • National Observer: “SNC knowingly enabled and overlooked monstrous tyranny and abuse. The company cannot pretend it was unaware of Gaddafi’s vicious cruelty while expensing his son Saadi Gaddafi’s prostitutes, lavish lifestyle, and showering him with millions of dollars a year. The company financed his soccer aspirations and sponsored his team despite widespread reports that, just a few years earlier, his bodyguards had opened fire on soccer fans for booing a referee favouring him. Between 20 and 50 were killed in the ensuing chaos.”
  • Susan Delacourt, Toronto Star: “International Women’s Day came and went in Canada on Friday without much fanfare by Justin Trudeau, who normally uses the occasion to burnish his feminist brand. That brand, like everything else around Trudeau this past month, has been tarnished by the ongoing SNC-Lavalin saga, which has cost the prime minister two strong women ministers and raised questions about whether he really walks the talk of new-style, female-friendly politics.”
  • Andrew Coyne, National Post: “WHY FIGHT CRIMINAL CHARGES IN COURT WHEN YOU CAN LOBBY? SNC-Lavalin chose to fight the charges in government, rather than court. They did so, we may conclude, because they were given reason to believe it would work…At last the Liberal government has that outside legal opinion it was seeking. A federal court judge has ruled the director of public prosecutions’ decision to bring SNC-Lavalin to trial on charges of fraud and corruption, rather than to negotiate a “remediation agreement” as the company preferred, was a proper exercise of her prosecutorial discretion. By extension she has endorsed the former attorney general’s refusal to overrule that decision. For the flipside of prosecutorial discretion is prosecutorial independence, hallowed by centuries of common law and, as the judge wrote, “essential and fundamental to the criminal justice system.”
  • Colby Cosh, Post: “As we all dissect the Liberals’ SNC-Lavalin scandal, it is hard to even keep track of the multiple injuries to the Liberal party’s image and to Justin Trudeau’s. I am seeing a lot of remarks and jokes about Trudeau’s performative commitment to equality of the sexes, or about how serious evidence-based policy-making takes a back seat so quickly to a contrived panic about jobs….if you compound enough hypocrisy, shovel it into a big enough pile, it just becomes ordinary evil, doesn’t it?”
  • Andrew Coyne, Post: “The prime minister’s people seem to have reached down even further into the prosecutorial ranks. Bouchard allegedly told her chief of staff he understood “that the individual Crown prosecutor wants to negotiate an agreement, but the director does not.” As Wilson-Raybould mused to the committee, “I can’t help but wonder why he would bring that up. How he would know that. How he garnered that information.”
  • Christie Blatchford, Post: “A month to the day that the scandal first broke, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has managed the improbable — both confirming key details of the deposed attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould’s testimony (i.e., she was telling the truth) and revealing his own shallow grasp of what constitutes improper interference with the justice system and its highest officers…The justice system depends upon a criminal case — every criminal case, from sexual assault to burglary to home invasion to corporate wrongdoing — being decided by someone who takes into account only what is legally appropriate. That’s what JWR’s director of public prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel, did, and it was for JWR alone to decide if she should interfere with that decision. The PM’s insistence, in the face of this simple proposition, that what really mattered were the jobs of SNC workers, pensioners and suppliers shows his failure to grasp the meaning of prosecutorial independence and the proper separation of powers.”
  • Globe and Mail editorial board: “If members of a government are free to approach an attorney-general on other criminal cases – not to lobby, but just to, you know, share their thoughts – we are no longer living in a rule-of-law country. Repeatedly providing the attorney-general with “information” and “context” about a how to resolve a case is highly problematic, especially when that “context” is coming from the Prime Ministers’ Office…If the government encouraged the attorney-general to intervene in the case of SNC-Lavalin, then any misunderstanding that resulted was not because of Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s state of mind, but rather the government’s misunderstanding of the law.”
  • Lorne Gunter, Sun: “Trudeau is a fake feminist. When push comes to shove, Trudeau’s feminist behaviour disappears. Before the recent resignations from his cabinet of two of its most prominent female ministers – Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott – the most famous example of Trudeau’s superficial feminism surrounded his “Kokanee Grope.” Back in 2000, long before he entered politics, Trudeau was attending a music festival in the B.C. Interior and being interviewed by a female reporter who he “inappropriately handled.” When this incident resurfaced last summer, Trudeau’s feminist piety abandoned him. Women never lie about sexual assault (a common feminist mantra) became, for Trudeau, “the same interactions can be experienced very differently” by men and women. This was the same political leader who had Canada’s sexual assault laws changed to severely restrict the ability of an accused man to defend himself in court because Trudeau didn’t like the outcome of the Jian Ghomeshi trial and said his government was going to stand with the victims and their stories. But not, apparently, when that standard applied to him.”
  • Toronto Sun editorial board: “On Thursday, the PM gave a press conference that was expected to be something of an apology. It was not. It was the defiant golden boy digging in his heels, insistent he had done no wrong. Like Gerald Butts and Michael Wernick before him, he threw Jody Wilson-Raybould under the bus. The fault? An “erosion of trust.” And he made it clear the fault for this erosion was hers. Nobody was buying it. Not the reporters on hand. Not the public, weighing in with frustration on social media. Perhaps not even the PM himself – although he did manage to keep a straight face while uttering some of his less believable remarks.”

“[Trudeau] was yelling. He was yelling that I didn’t appreciate him, that he’s given me so much.”

That’s a female Liberal MP talking about Justin Trudeau.

The Globe and Mail just broke this incredible story. And, on International Women’s Day – on any day – it’s not a good look for the self-professed “feminist.”

I guess he could again say that we should believe women when they come forward. And then he could dismiss them. Again.

He’s done that a lot, hasn’t he?

The Globe story, here.

Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes says she was met with hostility and anger from Justin Trudeau when she told him she was leaving politics, prompting her to speak out about the Prime Minister’s behaviour.

A source with the Prime Minister’s Office who was not authorized to discuss details on the record said Mr. Trudeau was concerned that her decision would be associated with the SNC-Lavalin affair, but did not raise any concerns about race.

Ms. Caesar-Chavannes said she told him that she hoped he could one day understand the impact that political life has had on her family. She said threats to her safety have been made against her in the past.

“He was yelling. He was yelling that I didn’t appreciate him, that he’d given me so much,” Ms. Caesar-Chavannes said.

A week later after a caucus meeting, Ms. Caesar-Chavannes said she approached Mr. Trudeau to talk about their last interaction.

“I went to him, I said, ‘Look I know our last conversation wasn’t the greatest but …’ And at that point I stopped talking because I realized he was angry,” she said.

“Again, I was met with hostility. This stare-down … then him stomping out of the room without a word.”


Your morning #LavScam: the Imposter has a bad, bad press conference

The Imposter’s non-apology apology didn’t go so well.  A summary of the commentariat, below:

  • John Ibbitson, Globe and Mail: “At Thursday morning’s news conference, an unrepentant Justin Trudeau described the political crisis that has consumed his government as a failure to communicate. It was not. This crisis is about his failure to lead. And the news conference offered further proof of that failure. In his prepared remarks, and in answer to questions from reporters, the Prime Minister confirmed every allegation levelled against his government in the SNC-Lavalin affair.”
  • Martha Hall Findlay, Globe and Mail: “Both former ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott have made significant and potentially seriously career-limiting moves based, they have said, on their principles. Doing so suggests a level of integrity that, as amply demonstrated by the shock value of their recent resignations from cabinet, is all too rare in politics…I prefer to believe that they did not resign because they are women; rather, because they are people with principles, which in turn guided their actions.”
  • John Ibbitson, Globe:  “[Trudeau’s excuse is] a crock because Mr. Trudeau assumes no responsibility for a crisis that is entirely his fault. A good leader would be appalled that he had created a work environment so dysfunctional that a critical situation spun completely out of control without his even being aware of it.  It’s a crock because the Prime Minister tacitly admitted at the news conference that he was willing to let economic and partisan political considerations influence the SNC-Lavalin prosecution – a blatant violation of the rule of law. And it’s a crock because Mr. Trudeau’s arrogance masquerading as humility throughout the news conference was so unconvincing. His unwillingness to apologize.”
  • Konrad Yakabuski, Globe and Mail: “Trudeau’s foreign fan club isn’t cheering any more…Mr. Trudeau’s global fan club has had a hard time processing the [LavScam] news.”
  • Campbell Clark, Globe: “Canadians were waiting to hear Trudeau’s full explanation on SNC-Lavalin – and they didn’t get it…Not an apology. Not really an act of contrition. Not a full-throated defence. Not a detailed accounting of events. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s press conference on the SNC-Lavalin affair included an assertion that there were lessons learned although he wasn’t terribly specific about which ones. So what was that?”
  • Gary Mason, Globe: “There was certainly some contrition – he wished things could have been handled differently, it’s an unfortunate situation from which he hopes to gain knowledge and perspective – but there was a disturbing lack of personal accountability. The whole matter seems to have been an unfortunate misunderstanding, if you believe the Prime Minister…he wants us to believe he was oblivious to any angst on her part until the cabinet shuffle in January. And not until then did he grasp the full extent of her enmity toward him and his coterie of advisers.  Not a chance.”
  • Tanya Talaga, Toronto Star: “At first glance, there seems little to compare between the bullying of former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould by the prime minister and his staff and the treatment of Inuit by the Crown during the tuberculosis crisis. But both speak to a persistent colonial mindset, the kind of thinking that is a blight on our history and still pervades our government. On Thursday, Trudeau was to apologize to Inuit. He ought to do the same for Wilson-Raybould.”
  • Thomas Walkom, Star: “Justin Trudeau’s explanation of the SNC-Lavalin affair has explained little. The prime minister was supposed to put the issue to bed at an early-morning press conference Thursday. He did not succeed.”
  • Lorne Gunter, Sun Media: “Trudeau apologizes for everything except his own failings…Funny, isn’t it, how Justin Trudeau is sorry about anything – everything – that happened before he became prime minister. Every other week he seems to be off apologizing for some perceived wrong that happened 80 years ago, 100, 150 years ago. But does he ever apologize for any of the flubs and blunders (or worse) that he is responsible for? In other words, he only every apologizes for the easy stuff; for the stuff that will make him look good with no skin off his nose. So it was no surprise Thursday when Trudeau held a news conference over the SNC-Lavalin scandal and never once said “sorry.”
  • Toronto Sun editorial board: “Today we join the growing list of Canadians using the hashtag LetJodySpeak to demand former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould be recalled to testify at the Commons justice committee hearings into the SNC-Lavalin scandal. The Liberal majority on the committee Wednesday rejected an opposition motion for Wilson-Raybould to be recalled, after some of the testimony by Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former principal secretary, diametrically opposed her version of events…The entire process has already been unfair to Wilson-Raybould. The committee has already called Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick twice, before and after Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, the second time because his initial testimony disagreed with hers on key points. Wilson-Raybould deserves the same opportunity.”
  • Jorge Barrera, CBC News: “Trudeau’s offer of Indigenous Services to Wilson-Raybould like ‘asking Nelson Mandela to administer apartheid’…The prime minister’s attempt to move Jody Wilson-Raybould to the Indigenous Services portfolio was a “deeply humiliating” proposal and shows a lack of understanding and disconnect from First Nations’ world view, say Indigenous leaders and analysts…Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, director of the University of British Columbia’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, said offering Wilson-Raybould the Indigenous Services portfolio was inappropriate. Over its 140 years, the Indian Act has been used to force children to attend residential schools, outlaw religious practices and forbid First Nations people from leaving reserves without a permit. “Any person that had any kind of understanding, even a basic understanding of Indigenous relations with the Crown, would know that the most offensive and indeed racist legislation on the books is the Indian Act,” she said. “Asking her to administer the Indian Act is not only inappropriate, it is deeply humiliating.”
  • Anne Kingston, Maclean’s: “If the presser was intended to quell the controversy, it failed…Instead of showing humility or contrition over a now-seismic situation, Trudeau lectured…A befuddled press corps called for clarity: “Just to clarify, are you apologizing for anything today?,” one reporter asked. “I will be making an Inuit apology later today,” Trudeau answered without apparent irony. And with that, the PM who had just said he doesn’t want to look back, but wants to look ahead, boarded a plane to apologize for long-ago wrongs, leaving a sorry, muddled present in his wake.”