Categories for Feature

One way Canada can fight hate, right away

Talk is cheap.

If the Trudeau government is serious about stopping the spread of hate, here’s something they can do this week.

Will they? (Oh, and one Minister was looking at ways to bring back a version of section 13. Guess who she was?)

#LavScam legal: what it means now that PMO has lawyered up

The Globe and Mail has reported that Justin Trudeau and senior PMO staff have now retained independent legal counsel in #LavScam. I’ve helped organizations through legal/comms crises many times. 

I can tell you this is what this latest revelation means:

• their ability to communicate openly about the file comes to an abrupt end

• they now can’t take notes, send or receive email, etc. without disclosing them to the police, Ethics Commissioner, et al. 

• they can’t delete past records without attracting more legal peril

• their lawyers are telling them, over and over, that they should not discuss the case with anyone, including their bosses

• their lawyers are reviewing, in advance, everything they hope to say about #LavScam – which necessarily slows down their responses in what is a fast-moving scandal 

• the Opposition and the media are going to be watching the legal bills like hawks – and publicizing every penny (which the relevant law firms don’t ever like, and which sometimes leads to withdrawal)

• they are getting their legal bills paid by the taxpayer – but there’s usually a dollar limit, and the representation won’t cover wrongdoing done outside their government roles (ie., LPC)

• their legal bills will get very big very fast – which will inevitably create a whole new layer of scandal 

• they may need to hire non-legal representation – comms counsel, for instance – and that inevitably means yet more costs which leads to yet more scandal 

• they may need to start paying for additional legal representation out of their own pockets – which inevitably leads to them going home and their spouse saying: “We didn’t sign on for this. This is bankrupting us. You need to quit.”

And so on, and so on. 

None of this would have happened if any of them had paid heed to the law – for instance, using “jobs” as an excuse to enter into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement is expressly prohibited in bribery cases (as this is) and Article Five of the OECD Anti-Bribery Working Group Convention (which Canada has signed). 

They didn’t talk to any lawyers at the start. Because of that, they’re now going to be talking to lawyers all the time. 

To, you know, keep themselves out of jail. 

Globe: Trudeau, PMO staff hire outside lawyers in case RCMP probes #LavScam


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and senior officials in his office have retained outside legal counsel in case of an RCMP investigation into allegations of political interference in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin Group.

Mr. Trudeau’s communications director, Cameron Ahmad, told The Globe and Mail on Friday that Treasury Board rules allow for hiring of outside counsel when government officials are either sued, threatened with a suit, charged with an offence or under threat of being named in a legal action.

“As per the Treasury Board Policy on Legal Assistance and Indemnification, counsel has been retained to advise on the matter in question,” Mr. Ahmad said in an e-mail.

Mr. Ahmad would not provide further details or reveal the names of the law firms retained by Mr. Trudeau and staff in the Prime Minister’s Office, in response to a formal request last month for an RCMP investigation from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

A senior government official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, said an outside law firm has been hired to represent Mr. Trudeau, and another law firm will handle staff in the Prime Minister’s Office.

The second law firm will act on behalf of Mr. Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, Quebec adviser Mathieu Bouchard and senior adviser Elder Marques, the official said.

The haters and us

When word of the terror attack in New Zealand arrived, I did what many do: I turned on CNN, and I went to social media.

Within minutes, I found the murderer’s “manifesto” and the live video of his killing spree within the mosque. Sleep didn’t come easily after that.

I’ve been researching, and writing about, the racist Right for decades. I have interviewed and exposed many hate movement leaders. There is no doubt, to me, that the mass-murderer was indisputably a neo-Nazi and white supremacist.

His “manifesto” contained the “Fourteen Words,” the haters’ pledge of allegiance, conjured up years ago by one of the jailed members of the neo-Nazi terrorist group, The Order. The Fourteen Words has since been embraced by bigots globally – including Canada’s own Faith Goldy: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

The video, meanwhile, was about fifteen minutes long and showed dozens of Muslim worshippers being murdered in cold blood. It is beyond horrible; don’t go looking for it. What it resembled, to me, is one of those single-shooter video games that are so popular – except that real people were being killed. Over and over.

His weapons were covered with neo-Nazi symbols and references.

The white supremacists and anti-Semites I have tracked over the years are almost always male. They are usually in their teens or twenties. They have been failures in relationships – with their families, with women – and they are failures at life, too. They can’t hold a job, they have little interest in education.

The Far Right offers them a ready-made credo, a new family belong to, a sense of purpose. Sometimes they even get a uniform out of it.

What they all share, however, is this: they are cowards. They strike when those they hate – Jews, women, gays, Muslims, non-whites – are most vulnerable. A daycare in Oklahoma City, a church in Charleston, a synagogue in Pittsburgh, mosques in Quebec City and, now, New Zealand.

Can you imagine anything more cowardly – anything more weak – than attacking people when they are in a place of worship, or children in a daycare or a school? Could there be anything worse than that?

So: don’t utter the cowards’ name. Don’t go looking for the manifesto or the video. They want you to do that.

Pray, instead, for the victims and their families. And resolve to oppose the haters with every means at our disposal – until they are forever gone, never to return.

Your morning #LavScam: March 14 edition

The Liberal majority on the “Justice” Committee again voted to prevent Jody Wilson-Raybould from speaking.

It didn’t go over well. None of it has gone over well.

Toronto Sun Campaign Research poll: “As for Trudeau himself, Yufest says he now stands at just 29% approval compared to 58% who think the PM is doing a bad job. Those numbers says Yufest are close to the unpopularity of former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne who dropped into the 20s and was never able to recover. While just 29% approve of Trudeau’s job performance, 45% approve of the job done by former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould. “The people are with her on this issue specifically and not so much with Justin Trudeau,” Yufest said.

Campbell Clark, Globe and Mail: “Too bad for their party that [Trudeau Liberals] can’t figure out how to rip the Band-Aid off as quickly on the larger SNC-Lavalin affair. Instead, they are fuelling the most potent narrative still giving legs to the story – the idea that they are blocking Ms. Wilson-Raybould, the former justice minister and attorney-general, from revealing something important about the SNC-Lavalin affair…The Liberals say they prefer to discuss such things behind closed doors.But in this case, that’s a crock. This was a simple motion in the most closely watched parliamentary hearings in the country. It was a simple yes or no question. The Liberal MPs voted to adjourn the committee meeting without having it go anywhere. At best, that’s stalling. At worst, it’s obstructionism.”

Lawrence Martin, Globe: “Let’s reject Gerald Butts’s claim in his committee testimony that the Prime Minister’s Office did not pressure Jody Wilson-Raybould on the SNC-Lavalin case. Let’s reject his view that her cabinet demotion had nothing to do with her unwillingness to co-operate on the file. Instead, let’s accept Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s version of events and conclude that she showed courage, not spite; that she stood for high principle, and performed a noble public service….But on the matter of loyalty, a woman from the Indigenous community presents a new dynamic. How different is the loyalty concept to a community betrayed so often through the country’s history? It’s been a community that has stood apart, has been made to feel apart and is apart. That Ms. Wilson-Raybould reacted the way she did should not have come as a surprise to Mr. Trudeau. Her people, with good reason, were never really part of the team. As the Prime Minister is ruefully finding out, they still aren’t.”

Campbell Clark, Globe: “This seems like a pretty self-destructive thing for Liberal MPs to do. It adds fuel to the story, and the same question – whether they will let Ms. Wilson-Raybould come back to the committee to testify again – will come up again next Tuesday. Those Canadians who figured they already knew pretty much what happened in this affair are being invited to ask questions again.”

Konrad Yakabuski, Globe: “The brutality of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s regime has been cited by some legal experts as a possible explanation for why Director of Public Prosecutions Kathleen Roussel refused to negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with SNC-Lavalin. The law forbids Ms. Roussel from entering into such an agreement if she believes a company’s alleged crimes might have caused serious bodily harm or death….SNC-Lavalin had been operating in Libya since the mid-1990s. But its business there took off after [Paul] Martin’s trip. In a 2006 Globe and Mail interview, then-SNC-Lavalin CEO Jacques Lamarre insisted the company was helping to elevate business practices in Libya: “We like win-win situations. We’ve been involved in international markets for over 40 years and have helped many countries to become normal.” By 2011, as Mr. Gadhafi moved to suppress Arab Spring protests in his country, it had become clear the dictator had never given up on repression. SNC-Lavalin found itself having to publicly defend its $275-million contract to build a state-run prison.”

John Ibbitson, Globe: “[The LavScam] affair damaged as well Mr. Trudeau’s reputation abroad. News organizations around the world have reported on the controversy, with “charismatic Trudeau tarnished by scandal” a common refrain. And this week’s statement by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development was devastating. “The OECD Working Group on Bribery is concerned by recent allegations of interference in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin,” the statement read, adding that, under the terms of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention that Canada belongs to, “political factors such as a country’s national economic interest and the identity of the alleged perpetrators must not influence foreign bribery investigations and prosecutions.” To anyone who has been arguing that this controversy was manufactured by febrile media feeding off the actions of misguided or disloyal MPs: The OECD disagrees.”

• Andrew Coyne, National Post, on Twitter: Holy freaking hell. I thought the Libs would try to shut things down, but I didn’t think they’d do so quite so crudely and obviously.”

• Susan Delacourt, Toronto Star, on Twitter: “I was more optimistic about openness than Andrew, so I think I’m more stunned. What the freaking hell indeed….Did the Liberals really shut down the #JUST committee and the motion to recall Jody Wilson-Raybould? Whoa. I’m speechless.”

• Toronto Star editorial board: “Liberals on the House of Commons justice committee are doing Canadians, and their own government, no favours by failing to clear the way for Jody Wilson-Raybould to tell her full story. She wants to speak out and there’s no doubt she should be heard. Trying to prevent that, or even just delaying it in the hope that everyone will lose interest, is both wrong and self-defeating.”

• Christie Blatchford, National Post: “On Wednesday, Liberal MP Francis Drouin took non-Liberal members of the committee by surprise — the opposition had called the emergency session to discuss getting deposed attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould back as a witness and MPs had just started making arguments — when he abruptly moved to adjourn the meeting and the sheep duly followed. To opposition shouts of “This is disgusting!” and “Coverup!”, the Liberal members bravely slipped out back doors. PM Justin Trudeau himself was either in Florida, or heading back to Florida, or heading home again from Florida: For a while there, he was in and out like a sailor on shore leave. He appears to treat that state like he treats question period: It’s there for his convenience.”

• Andrew Coyne, Post: “The irony is suffocating. Concentration of power is very much at the root of this scandal: the assumption of the prime minister and his lieutenants that they were entitled, not only to lean on the former attorney general to decide on a criminal prosecution to their liking, but allegedly to reach down deep into her department. And yet the same concentration of power makes it all but impossible to get to the bottom of it. The public is very much in the same position as Wilson-Raybould: told of her complaints of having been improperly pressured by the prime minister, among others, the prime minister replied that she should have brought her concerns to the prime minister. (She did, of course, but nevever mind.)

• Anthony Furey, Sun: “It was always obvious from the get go that the Justice Committee wasn’t going to be the place where we really got to the bottom of Lavscam. Yes, it’s where the plot first thickened as Jody Wilson-Raybould gave her damning testimony. Yes, it’s where Gerald Butts and Michael Wernick offered their troubling rebuttals. But it looks like that’s all folks. The door has slammed shut, courtesy of the Liberal MPs on the Committee…Back to that reason why we should have known all along this process was bad news: Because it was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s preferred option. He kept telling us trust the committee, to have faith in it. No wonder. Now it’s doing his bidding.”

• Robyn Urback, CBC: “You have to listen to the [Chrystia Freeland] interview to appreciate the full effect, but suffice to say, it was the sort of sycophantic performance characteristic of — and perfected in — the early days of #TeamTrudeau. Freeland didn’t just pledge her allegiance to the prime minister (which, granted, you sort of have to do as a cabinet member), she actually extolled his handling of the affair — as if the conflicting messages, sloppy smear jobs and clumsy attempts at obfuscation never happened. Freeland was gushing over a plate of bones, trying to convince us they still looked tasty. Contrast that with the statement released by Philpott on Monday, when she announced her resignation as president of the Treasury Board and exit from cabinet. Philpott said she had “lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised.” Citing the need for cabinet solidarity, she said it would be “untenable” for her to continue to serve as a minister…A million more Freeland-type ovations can’t undo what Philpott did in a few hundred words: she told the doe-eyed #TeamTrudeau hangers-on that their faith in this government is misplaced. And she said she would not be able to fulfil her duties as a minister if it meant publicly defending the government.

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?


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.


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.