I’ll be on CTV Your Morning today around 7, after Trudeau speaks this morning, and also doing the radio tying over on the mighty Newstalk 1010.
This is the sort of thing I’ll be talking about: it didn’t go well, yesterday. At all.
- Editorial board of the New York Times: “OH, TRUDEAU. CHARM WILL NOT EXTRICATE CANADA’S JUSTIN TRUDEAU FROM A SPREADING POLITICAL MESS. ONLY HONEST ANSWERS WILL….With seven months to go before Canada’s next national election, the prime minister is embroiled in a political scandal that his charm cannot wipe away. Two members of his cabinet, both prominent women, have resigned, as has his closest adviser, and unless he can convince the public — and do so soon — that he really did nothing wrong in trying to head off the criminal prosecution of a big Montreal-based company, the damage will only get more serious….in Canada, the tangled SNC-Lavalin affair is unavoidably measured against the expectations Mr. Trudeau raised and the standards he set. For him to be accused by two prominent women from his team of violating the high ethical bar he himself set is a major blow.”
- Andrew Coyne, National Post: “Butts offered little that contradicted what she had earlier told the committee — that she was pressured to overrule the decision of the director of public prosecutions to proceed with charges of fraud and corruption against SNC-Lavalin, rather than to offer it the remediation agreement it had sought…It was Wilson-Raybould’s decision to make, as long as she decided it their way.”
- John Ibbitson, Globe and Mail: “The testimony of the former principal secretary to Justin Trudeau left so many questions unanswered that the committee will need to examine other witnesses – perhaps including the Prime Minister – ensuring front-page headlines for weeks to come. But what matters politically is that we have passed a tipping point. Mr. Butts’s testimony was just another episode in a political melodrama that will run till election day in October. It has become for the Liberals what the Senate expenses scandal was for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.”
- Konrad Yakabuski, Globe: “Mr. Butts presented himself as only a tangential actor in the whole SNC-Lavalin saga. That is hard to believe, given the pivotal role he played in every major decision taken by this government until his Feb. 18 resignation. It is even harder to believe that his staff in the PMO were not acting on his explicit direction in making pleas to Ms. Wilson-Raybould, even invoking, according to her testimony, the electoral consequences in Quebec of failing to offer SNC-Lavalin a deal to avoid prosecution on fraud and corruption charges involving its Libyan operations. Mr. Butts more than once described protecting the 9,000 Canadian jobs at SNC-Lavalin as “a public-policy problem of the highest order.” Yet, we are supposed to believe that the Prime Minister’s top adviser, one with his hands in every other file, barely played a role in this one?”
- John Ibbitson, Globe: “Ms. Wilson-Raybould has a right to respond to contradictions between her version of events and Mr. Butts’s – especially concerning the cabinet shuffle that removed her as attorney-general. Most important, Mr. Trudeau has never offered direct answers to direct questions on what he said to Ms. Wilson-Raybould, or what directions he gave his senior staff regarding the prosecution. He needs to provide those answers…But there are no good options for the Liberals. Either the justice committee will continue to hear evidence from witnesses in the coming weeks, further fuelling this five-alarm controversy, or the Liberal majority on the committee will prevent further testimony, which would be the contemporary equivalent of the St. Laurent government imposing closure during the Trans Canada Pipeline debate in 1956. That cost the Liberals the next election.”
- Toronto Star editorial board: “Trudeau should own his role in SNC-Lavalin mess…the testimony by Butts and the return appearance by the Clerk of the Privy Council, the pugnacious Michael Wernick, begs a host of questions…the Prime Minister should not simply exhale and go back to fronting jobs-and-climate rallies. His cabinet and caucus may be gathering around, but he and his government have taken a real hit in the country. He should step up and tell his own story. There were clearly missteps along the way, in particular the loss of Wilson-Raybould, who played a key role in the government for a host of reasons both substantive and symbolic. She signalled her misgivings over how the SNC-Lavalin issue was being handled to numerous people in government…Trudeau and the PMO should have been more attuned to what she was saying, not just fault her for what she didn’t. And they certainly should have known better than to try and make her serve as Indigenous services minister, an impossible position for someone with her background. Much was mishandled here and the government has been badly wounded. The prime minister should own up to his role in this fiasco.”
- Terry Glavin, National Post: “The bigshots in Trudeau’s inner circle do not hold the foundational democratic principle of the rule of law to be especially sacrosanct after all. With all the cabinet resignations and committee-hearing drama, and the public astonishment with the creepiness of the whole thing, 73 per cent of Liberal voters, even, say the RCMP should be brought in to sort things out…Liberal party rhetoric is increasingly and predictably taking on exactly the tenor and tone you’d expect of a personality cult. This is why it’s been so exceedingly difficult to make sense of whether there’s any merit in Team Trudeau’s sketchy and inarticulate answers to the more important questions at hand. Was the persistent hounding of Wilson-Raybould really within the bounds of collegial cabinet issue-probing?”
- John Ivison, National Post: “One senior MP, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the overriding mood is of disappointment in the prime minister’s leadership. “The caucus is united in a desire to get re-elected. It is not necessarily united in a desire to be elected behind him,” they said…More importantly for the Liberals, Trudeau needs to demonstrate to his caucus and the country that he can handle a crisis he has helped to agitate. The recurring complaint in caucus is that Trudeau doesn’t ask MPs what they think, beyond the “cool crowd” of personal friends in cabinet or the “Praetorian guard” in the PMO…We are at a defining moment in Canadian politics and, even if he survives, nothing will be the same again for Trudeau. The spell has been broken and the idea that he could be a one-term wonder is no longer implausible. “The disappointment is palpable,” said one Liberal MP. “This is a crisis and he’s been found wanting.”
- Brian Lilley, Sun: “If Gerry Butts went to the House of Commons justice committee hoping to help his best friend and former boss, he failed…he essentially used the same excuse that Trudeau had used to explain away groping allegations that plagued him last summer. Why wouldn’t these frat boys return to the same excuse? It worked last time! The testimony from Butts was in many ways a repeat over and over again of Liberal talking points on why there was no inappropriate pressure on the attorney general.”
- Neil Macdonald, CBC: “Trudeau’s verbal porridge and serene smile have carried him along. Until now. He either doesn’t think the public deserves a straight answer, or just isn’t capable of delivering one…With his government sinking into a self-inflicted crisis, it’s beginning to appear that Justin Trudeau simply doesn’t have the intellectual acuity to cope. Look at his response to the testimony of Jody Wilson-Raybould last week. She had just finished delivering a measured, unambiguous indictment, accusing him and his staff of attempting to pervert justice for political gain. He could have answered his former justice minister fact for fact. Instead, Trudeau appeared a few hours later in Montreal, two rows of nervously smiling party volunteers arranged behind him, a newly elected MP standing haplessly to the side. His statements were as stilted and contrived as the optics. And so on. Not a spontaneous syllable, not a second of candour or actual reflection. Certainly no substantive reply to Wilson-Raybould’s remarkably serious accusations. Trudeau could have talked about the difficulty of having one member of cabinet coexisting as both a political minister and attorney general, a problem Wilson-Raybould herself addressed, but no. He could have given his own version of discussions with her. But no. This is a man who either doesn’t think the public deserves a straight answer, or just isn’t capable of delivering one.”