Rivers: It would be a truly sad turnaround were the corollary for this unfortunate saga to be that the former AG has to face criminal charges herself.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 8th, 2019



This tempest in a tea pot has turned out to be less about SNC and more about the PM and his inadequate management of his Cabinet. What was reported initially as political interference, wasn’t. The matter was really about a breakdown in communications and trust between the former Attorney General (AG) and her boss, the PM. And clearly, other ministers also have issues with his management style.

Jody-Wilson-Raybould in media crowd

Not the kind of attention she was looking for.

It is clear that, in his eyes, the former AG was not doing her job diligently. So whatever the excuse, he needed to move her to another position or out of Cabinet entirely. Three and a half years is more than the average time for a Cabinet minister in any case, and clearly too long for Jody Wilson-Raybould (JWR). She apparently thought she had an entitlement – to serve at her own whim and not that of the PM. But perhaps he should have been more frank with her.


Reflective …

Trudeau bears much of the responsibility – it is his Cabinet after all. He began his government by declaring ministers would have more autonomy than had been the case since his father first centralized power and control in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Privy Council Office (PCO). But even so, his ministers should never have lost sight of who was the boss, under whose pleasure they serve, who appoints and/or shuffles them, and who calls the shots.

On SNC Trudeau wasn’t satisfied that all of the options, and the implications of each, had been exhausted. He was concerned that due diligence hadn’t been done, particularly in the case of the new law concerning remediation agreements (DPA). Nobody should argue that it is inappropriate for the CEO of Canada Inc. to be saying – let’s just make sure.

Jody - glare


Clearly JWR took that personally, got annoyed and internalized her resentment at being challenged. There is no non-verbal paper trail that she ever took the professional step of communicating her frustration to her management.

Regarding SNC, they have been charged with bribing Libyan officials $48 million for construction contracts including building a prison. But it was another Canadian company whose bribe to the Gaddafi clan made SNC’s corruption in Libya look like chump change. Petro-Canada paid a whacking billion dollar bribe to get access to offshore oil fields.

The opposition parties claim with outrage that SNC’s money went to buy sexual services for the Gaddafi family. Yet Petro-Canada’s money enabled the Colonel to compensate victims of the terrorist bombing of an airline over Lockerbie Scotland, which he had masterminded. And it is interesting that Montreal based SNC, and not Calgary based Petro-Can, became the priority for corruption investigation and prosecution during those last Harper years.

This story came to life with leaked Cabinet-level information, something which would normally be a criminal offence. The recent Mark Norman prosecution, in progress, is an example of what can happen to those who breach Cabinet secrecy. It is questionable whether the PM or his new AG will ask the prosecutor and RCMP to investigate should they determine the Globe story to also be worth prosecuting.

Trudeay and Jodi

At the beginning …

Still the most obvious direct or indirect source for that Globe and Mail story, of course, would have to be the former AG herself, particularly given the amount of detailed information. It would be a truly sad turnaround were the corollary for this unfortunate saga to be that the former AG has to face criminal charges herself.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

Cabinet Solidarity –     Libya Bribes –     Petro-Canada –     More Libya

SNC –     Mark Norman

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21 comments to Rivers: It would be a truly sad turnaround were the corollary for this unfortunate saga to be that the former AG has to face criminal charges herself.

  • Susan L.

    Here we go again. Just when I thought Hamish Marshall, Andrew Scheer’s campaign manager, is going to move on to another story line, he finds another way to attack Trudeau and keep this story going. This time he’s making Canada look bad on the world stage.

    He has planned the timing perfectly since February. I really thought he would have moved on to immigration, refugees or terrorism by now. But, it looks like they’re going to stay on the so called “corruption” theme. (Hamish Marshall is Andrew Scheer’s close friend and a former Rebel Media board member.)

    Of course the OECD is “concerned by allegations” and they are just allegations. The question is, who filed a complaint with the OECD?

    OECD Article 36 states, “Everyone has the right, individually or collectively, to complain, without fear of reprisals, of the actions of public authorities that go against ethics and good governance, and everyone is entitled to a diligent follow-up of his complaint by an independent and impartial entity”

    The SNC-Lavalin case is fairly complicated, even lawyers who are experts in this field disagree but, maybe that’s the point. Fancy footwork to anger the electorate.

    If the OECD finds that nothing illegal happened, the next move will be to say the OECD is useless. At least that move is easy to forecast.

    Should have seen this coming though, they used the OECD against PM Netanyahu:
    “Gantz is looking ahead to the battle after the war. When the attorney general decides, as now appears probable, to indict Netanyahu on corruption charges following a hearing.” https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-netanyahu-s-top-rival-has-found-a-way-to-psych-out-the-prime-minister-1.6829181

    • Brian

      Susan, you act like this was a Scandal invented by the Conservatives. This is Liberals eating Liberals…

      Also, did you enjoy Sheila Copps when she said that JWR would have recommended at DPA for SNC if they were run by Indigenous people? Adding a layer of Racism to the debate is awesome.

  • Peter

    Thankfully the rule of law is not left up to partisan op-ed writers who want to sweep everything under the carpet (“a tempest in a tea pot”) while making personal attacks against the former Attorney General.

    The OECD recently issued a press release saying that Trudeau, the PMO and PCO may be in breach of Article 5 of the Anti-Bribery Convention of 1997…

    11/03/2019 – The OECD Working Group on Bribery is concerned by recent allegations of interference in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin that are subject to proceedings in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The Canadian engineering and construction group is the subject of an ongoing prosecution into allegations of the bribery of Libyan officials to obtain a Can$ 58-million contract to restore a water pipeline.

    As a Party to the Anti-Bribery Convention, Canada is fully committed to complying with the Convention, which requires prosecutorial independence in foreign bribery cases pursuant to Article 5. In addition, 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.

    The OECD Working Group, which brings together the 44 Parties to the Anti-Bribery Convention, will closely monitor Canada’s updates, and has also sent a letter to the Canadian authorities confirming its concerns and next steps in this matter.

  • Brian

    Oops, you forgot to include ‘The above Op-Ed is sponsored by Katie Telford’.

  • Mike

    Interesting, if you read SNC-Lavalin’s news release for last year’s financials, they cite that the souring relationship between Canada and KSA as part of their troubles. (see text clipped below from their release). As you will recall, the relationship issue was the result of “Twitter diplomacy” by MFA Chrystia Freeland causing a huge economic impact to Canada. Another example of inept capability by this government, coupled with a revised NAFTA where we got nothing in return for our concessions, suggests (my opinion) this is a manufactured crisis to “change the channel” that fell apart because JWR would not play along.

    How anyone can trust these folks is beyond me. All they are good at is apologizing for anything and giving money away that we don’t have.

    SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. (TSX: SNC) today announces its results for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2018.

    “The year 2018 was a disappointing year, as our Mining & Metallurgy and Oil & Gas segments underperformed,” said Neil Bruce, President and Chief Executive Officer, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. “Due to a deterioration of the Oil & Gas segment’s near term prospects caused by various factors, including difficult inter-governmental relations between Canada and Saudi Arabia, unpredictable commodity prices and uncertain client investment plans, we were required to record a goodwill impairment in the quarter. With respect to the previously announced issue affecting a project in our Mining & Metallurgy segment, we expect potential future recoveries to come back as a positive contribution. Now it is time to look ahead. Our Infrastructure, EDPM and Nuclear businesses had a strong quarter and we expect these to continue to do well going forward. The Company has billions of dollars’ worth of assets, a strong backlog and very talented employees who are proud to design and engineer the world around us.”

    “The Board reiterates its confidence in the executive leadership team to move forward into 2019, to execute the strategy as outlined in the MD&A and to deliver maximum value to shareholders,” said The Honourable Kevin Lynch, Chairman of the Board.

  • Susan L.

    It’s been my experience that if you dare say anything against Saint Jody you will be severely bashed for it. Funny thing is, that thrashing is mostly coming from staunch CPC supporters.

    However, if you even mention Doug Ford’s name, you are accused of trying to change the subject. Somehow interfering in judicial processes and police business for personal reasons is not at all the same as pressuring an AG to make a deal instead of going to trial. As I see it, interfering in judicial process is the same as interfering in judicial process.

    “There are 2 perfectly legal ways of dealing with this issue. (SNC-Lavalin)

    One is prosecution and the other is negotiation. Both involve punishment of a company that has done wrong.

    Prosecution is morally wonderful. If you’re successful, it sends a powerful signal of disapproval and the public will approve because you nailed those bastards. The problem is it moves at a glacial pace. It will take years, the lawyers will get rich and the outcome is uncertain. It could still fall apart during the trial or an appeal.

    The negotiated settlement doesn’t bring you the moral satisfaction but it brings you finality, it’s shorter and it’s less expensive.” … Jeffrey Simpson, former National Affairs columnist with the Globe and Mail, now a fellow at the University of Ottawa.

  • Ray Rivers

    Stephen – Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I am puzzled by your remark about partisanship. I identify myself as a Liberal, as does the PM and the former AG. And on the matter of how the Globe had obtained its story, I had taken my cue to raise the question from Bob Hepburn in the Toronto Star…

    “First, did she quietly approve of the leak to the Globe and Mail of alleged PMO efforts to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin case? If so, she did it while she was still a cabinet minister. Where would be the integrity in that?” (March 6, 2019)

    • Stephen White

      If the story had any real traction or credibility one would logically expect the CBC, Global, CTV, the National Post, or maybe even the G&M, to conduct further investigation to assess validity. Judging from the stony silence I would say they don’t see the story as having real substance. Judging from the paper that purportedly raised it (i.e. the Toronto Star), a paper that is unabashedly pro-Liberal and highly supportive of the PM, I would submit there is probably a hidden agenda in place; namely discrediting the former A-G.

    • Philip Waggett

      Sure Ray–use a Liberal commentator’s speculation to prove that JWR leaked the story. Only a Liberal!!!

  • Fraser, aka D.Duck

    As usual Ray, lots of opinions & speculations without evidence:

    – “What was reported initially as political interference, wasn’t”……your opinion!
    – “in his eyes, the former AG was not doing her job diligently……Yet JT has said on numerous times JWR would not have been removed from AG if Scott Brison had not retired…….WOW could never make sense of this statement! Perhaps JWR was removed because she would NOT allow politics to influence the Rule of Law…..my opinion.
    – Trudeau promised cabinet members would have significant independence with their files. “Government by cabinet is back,” he said (Nov 4/15)……but as you so apply transcribe….“his ministers should never have lost sight of who was the boss, under whose pleasure they serve, who appoints and/or shuffles them, and who calls the shots”.
    – “Still the most obvious direct or indirect source for that Globe and Mail story, of course, would have to be the former AG herself”………WOW trial by journalist!

    Some Facts:

    – Junior has denied thrice pressuring JWR on Sept 17/18 but no now admits that he reminded her he was the MP for Papineau and there was an up and coming election and that there was a potential for job losses. This after JWR told him she’d made up her mind. “I asked her to revisit that decision” and “asked my staff to follow up”……WOW JT does not believe in transparency or speaking the truth.
    – Recent Federal Court Judge Catherine Kane quoted from an earlier Supreme Court of Canada decision, “without fear of judicial or political interference”…affirming the importance and need both for the attorney general’s independence and the obligation of prosecutors to operate without political interference or pressure brought to bear on a prosecution decision.
    – Junior has breach ethical rules prior to this: 2016 China ‘cash for access’ fundraiser in Toronto which donated $200K to the ‘Trudeau Foundation’ run by his brother and let’s not forget Aga Khan’s island vacation that violated multiple conflict laws.
    – Liberal majority on the ‘Justice Committee’ refuses that Butts needs to voluntarily take an oath…..Butts is JT playmate and a proven Provincial spin-doctor of misinterpretations and innuendos.
    – Liberal majority on the ‘Justice Committee’ refuses that Butts needs to relinquish emails connected to this scandal….without evidence it’s just verbal flatus from Butts.
    – Liberal majority on the ‘Justice Committee’ refuses JWR request to re-appear at tribunal but allows poor Michael Wernick to testify again.
    – Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council, has been lobbied multiple times by SNC but JRW has never been lobbied.
    – Liberal Cabinet member Jane Philpott resigns indicating she has lost confidence in the Junior’s gov’t, something that JT indicated on Tuesday he had know about for ‘some time’. If JT means he found out about it the morning of Jane’s tweet then yes, he knew about if for ‘some time’………What is it with some politicians not being able to speak the truth.
    – Liberal backbencher Celina Caesar-Charvannes states she was met with hostility and anger from JT when she informed him she was leaving politics prompting her to speak out about Junior’s behaviour (G&M: Mar 8/19).
    – JT indicates Canada’s newly appointed AG has the right to re-assess DPA decision on SNC……..makes me say ‘hmmmm’, and wonder why JWR was removed.

  • Alide Camilleri

    Sadly, Jody displayed a very female characteristic. She buried her feelings instead of going to the boss and clearing up any misunderstandings. All this could have been avoided. And her turning down the move to Indian Affairs shows she felt an entitlement to stay in AG post. So, yes, this is more storm in a tea pot than a real problem. And Andrew Scheer is exploiting it to the fullest.

    • Don Fletcher

      I cannot subscribe to Justin Trudeau’s “erosion of trust” rationale for this mess. He & his cronies clearly tried to squeeze the Attorney General to cut SNC Lavalin some legal slack to maintain Liberal power in Quebec, which by anyone’s definition is political interference (i.e. unlawful). You are correct that this could all have been avoided. JWR could have said “yes”, but she said “no” on September 17th (as it was her sole & exclusive right) to Justin Trudeau, and he could not take “no” for an answer. Then he fired her!

  • Stephen White

    Admittedly Ray, I don’t always agree with your posts, but I do find them enlightening and informative. However, this one went way over the top. When I first read it I thought it was an early April Fool’s post.

    To suggest that Wilson-Raybould was somehow involved in leaking information to the G&M regarding undue influence from the PM and others, without any corroborating evidence to support this, is not only specious but partisan and disingenuous. Anyone who watched the former A-G give evidence couldn’t help but be impressed with her sincerity, integrity and detailed recollection of the facts. Her behaviour stands in sharp contrast to our Prime Minister who holds a press conference in which he shares nothing, refuses to acknowledge his mistakes, and prattles on ad nauseam about learning opportunities. He was beyond silly bordering on self-righteous.

    This case cries out for an RCMP investigation. If the PM is so convinced of the correctness of his behaviour then submit himself to an independent investigation. If he has nothing to hide then there should be no downside to a review. Of course, given his track records with the Ethics Commissioner and his previous indiscretions I would suggest the results may not be the “slam dunk” he’s hoping for.

  • Susan L.

    Nice guys finish last.

    … Or will he?

  • Don Fletcher

    More smoke & mirrors on this file, Ray?

    The bottom line is that the wee prince Trudeau has fallen off of his unicorn, and deserves to be called out and removed. If Jody Wilson Raybould has had a hand in that, she will more likely achieve sainthood than be criminally charged.
    Let’s hope the electorate is discerning & acts accordingly this October!

  • Gary

    Oh, brother. Give us a break. Let us hope you keep to your promise and this is the last time you write about this subject. You seem to conveniently forget that over several months, as the parade of politicos and bureaucrats traipsed their way to JWR’s office to bend her towards a non-criminal outcome, she sought, directly, assurance from the PM that it was still her untrammelled discretion to make the call. And he so reassured her. Then he removed her from office.

  • Peter

    The writer lives in a parallel universe akin to the world of Fox News where partisan thinking trumps ethics and human decency.

    His ugly innuendos, rage and animus (“not doing her job diligently”, “she apparently thought she had an entitlement”, “got annoyed and internalized her resentment”) reveals the kind of person he is rather than revealing any truth about JW-R.

    The 9,000 jobs argument is demonstrably false. This isn’t about due diligence. This is at bottom about how Trudeau, the PMO, the PCO, and the Trudeau acolytes – like this writer – believe that justice can be perverted on behalf of powerful, connected and corrupt actors.

    The curtain has been pulled back. The scales of justice are to be tipped on behalf of the wealthy; we are not equal before the law.

  • Philip Waggett

    I see you buy the Liberal spin “hook, line, and sinker”. However, this fiasco caused by the fundamental incompetence and dishonesty of the Prime Minister is not going away. Only a Judicial Inquiry or an RCMP investigation is going to clear the air—having the sham that the Liberal members of the Justice Committee are trying to perpetuate isn’t working!

  • Steve

    I think where Justin went wrong was, he didn’t in his wildest imagination dream that Jody was a person of, unwavering principles. After looking up the word, he was shocked to learn about such a thing.