PM hopes voters don’t connect dots

So much for the Trudeau government’s plans to get past the SNC-Lavalin saga.

Just in case anyone failed to make the connection between that long-running story and the strange case of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, superstar defence lawyer Marie Henein was only too happy to draw some clear lines on Wednesday.

“Fortunately, Vice-Admiral Norman didn’t fire the females that he hired,” Henein joked after introducing Norman’s all-women team of lawyers.

For the record, Justin Trudeau didn’t actually fire Jody Wilson-Raybould or Jane Philpott during the SNC-Lavalin controversy — they quit their cabinet jobs in protest — but no one could miss the shot at the prime minister.

For months now, people familiar with the Norman case have been saying that if and when the trial got going, it would make SNC-Lavalin look like a walk in the park for the Trudeau government.

On the face of it, the two cases were very different, at least in the details. Norman had been accused of leaking secret government information in connection to cabinet decision-making around huge shipbuilding contracts.

The SNC-Lavalin case revolved around Wilson-Raybould’s allegations of undue political pressure placed on her to grant a plea deal to the big Quebec infrastructure firm.

But the undercurrents, and even some of the characters in both stories, are similar, up to and including Scott Brison, the former Treasury Board president whose January resignation set in motion the cabinet shuffle that vaulted Wilson-Raybould to outsider/whistleblower on the Trudeau PMO.

In the Norman case, Brison was more of a central figure, accused of politically tinkering in the decision on who would get a lucrative shipbuilding contract. Much speculation revolved around whether Brison got out of politics to escape the Norman trial.

In the end, the whole government escaped, with the abrupt announcement on Wednesday that the case against the vice-admiral was being dropped.

The decision to walk away from the case and free Norman from a two-year-long legal ordeal was not politically motivated, said everyone on all sides.

But there’s no question it was politically advantageous for Trudeau and his government, who could well have been plunged into another SNC-style controversy even closer to the fall election.

It would have been another round of accusations about undue political interference, more allegations of throwing good people under the bus to preserve the government’s image, or connections with powerful firms. That all came on Wednesday instead.

Stephen Harper’s government had a reputation of being hyper-controlling, and ultra-harsh with those who got on the wrong side of it.

Trudeau’s government has worked hard to be seen as the anti-Harper regime on this score, but the SNC-Lavalin tale and the Mark Norman case put large dents in that claim.

In each instance, critics charge, there has been zero tolerance for people who make trouble for the sunny-ways government.

Scandals generally stick to politicians when the allegations are seen as part of a pattern. Two cases may not add up to a pattern, but they plant some reasonable doubt, to borrow a legal term.

Henein, a lawyer, has obviously been connecting some dots between what she saw of the Trudeau government in SNC-Lavalin and what she experienced as the chief lawyer for Norman.

Trudeau and his team are no doubt hoping that voters do not do the same.

Susan Delacourt is a columnist with Torstar Syndication Services.

Just Posted

Trudeau’s cabinet choices have domino effect on House of Commons work

OTTAWA — As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau settles on his choices for… Continue reading

Protesters say Alberta bill would make it harder to access some medical services

EDMONTON — Opponents of a private member’s bill that calls for more… Continue reading

Freeland’s imprint of foreign affairs remains even if she’s shuffled: analysts

OTTAWA — Whether or not Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffles her to… Continue reading

Saskatchewan government considers funding first supervised consumption site

SASKATOON — Saskatchewan’s health minister says the government will consider whether to… Continue reading

Thousands fill City Hall Park for Red Deer Lights the Night

With the flip of a switch, downtown Red Deer was filled with… Continue reading

Central Albertans help families during holidays with Christmas Wish Breakfast

It takes a community to help a community. And Sunday morning at… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Nov. 19 The Mountview Sunnybrook Community Association will hold its AGM at… Continue reading

‘Ford v Ferrari’ speeds to No. 1; ‘Charlie’s Angels’ fizzles

NEW YORK — “Ford v Ferrari” put its competition in the rearview,… Continue reading

Teen with cancer whose viral video urged Canadians to vote has died, uncle tweets

WINNIPEG — A terminally ill cancer patient who recorded a video from… Continue reading

Five things to watch for when Trudeau shuffles his cabinet this week

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to unveil his new… Continue reading

Closing arguments begin in B.C. case launched in 2009 over private health care

VANCOUVER — A framed iconic photo in Dr. Brian Day’s office shows… Continue reading

Rowing Canada, university investigate celebrated coach for harassment, abuse

VANCOUVER — Lily Copeland felt she had found her purpose in life… Continue reading

MacKinnon scores OT winner, Avs recover from blowing late lead to beat Canucks

VANCOUVER — Nathan MacKinnon scored his second goal of the game 27… Continue reading

White House urgently ramps up push for drug cost legislation

WASHINGTON — The White House is ramping up its push to get… Continue reading

Most Read