It is dismaying to me, a political agnostic, that thuggery is now attached to the federal Liberal party.
It is appalling to me, a feminist, that so many who claim to respect women, who call themselves feminists — most especially the piously feminist prime minister, but all his acolytes in the partisan media — have turned themselves inside out to rationalize the bullying of female Liberal ministers.
It is grotesque, to me, how small and vindictive Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had become, trying to make a virtue out of the jettisoning of two women who dared to vouchsafe integrity, falling afoul of the caucus cabal.
While it is marginally understandable that Jody Wilson-Raybould had to be cut loose despite the ugly optics of ditching the country’s first Indigenous justice minister and attorney general — before she was shuffled to veteran affairs in January, at the dawn (though we didn’t yet know that) of the SNC-Lavalin scandal — her utter expulsion, the pariah-making of an ethical individual is confounding in its berserk timing, seven weeks into the shemozzle and guaranteed to do the exact opposite of bringing this ruinous episode to an end.
Over a tape recording?
There was nothing remotely illegal about Wilson-Raybould “covertly” recording her telephone conversation with privy council clerk Michael Wernick — what Trudeau classified as “unconscionable.”
It’s perfectly licit to record an exchange as long as one person knows it’s happening. Journalists do it all the time, to back up their notes, particularly when the other person on the line might later challenge the veracity of the content.
Clearly, Wilson-Raybould had reason to be leery of Wernick, who subsequently proved himself to be a sketchy resource of forthrightness in his testimony before the House of Common justice committee (first appearance and fourth casualty of the scandal, as it turned out).
She had, by then, been subjected to a protracted campaign of political pressure to intervene in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, the Montreal-based engineering firm accused of paying bribes related to its business dealings in Libya and defrauding Libyan companies to the tune of $130 million.
Wilson-Raybould wanted “an exact record of what was discussed” with Wernick, “as I had reason to believe that it was likely to be an inappropriate conversation.”
The recording was not, however, the shield Wilson-Raybould may have hoped. It was the nail that Trudeau hammered into her coffin, cheered on by disgraceful Liberal MPs, including her high-powered female caucus colleagues, who fell obediently into line.
Because that’s how you’re supposed to play the game, quashing dissent. And woe to the un-team player who had striven to navigate a different path, which ultimately led to resignation.
But that wasn’t enough for Trudeau and his mandarins.
How very patronizing the prime minister was in the House last Tuesday, asserting he’d tried to show “patience and understanding,” as one would with an incorrigible child, but heavens, his sufferance had been wasted on so recalcitrant and defiant a Liberal liege, to the point that banishment was the only option to avoid a “civil war.”
“Civil wars within parties are incredibly damaging because they signal to Canadians that we care more about ourselves than we do about them.”
Yes, exactly. That’s precisely the message contained in Wilson-Raybould’s expulsion from caucus, from the party, cast off to sit in the corner as an independent, classifying her B.C. riding as “un-held,” not wanted by the party for the electoral voyage to come.
But what did poor Jane Philpott do to suffer the same fate, except stand by Wilson-Raybould and resign in solidarity-protest from her position as Treasury Board president, convinced that something stunk in the PMO.
For the crime of following her conscience, she got a shiv between the ribs, too.
An hour after the deed was done, Philpott posted a statement on her Facebook page.
“I was accused publicly by people in caucus of not being loyal, of trying to bring down the prime minister, of being politically motivated, and of being motivated by my friendship with Jody Wilson-Raybould. These accusations were coupled with public suggestions that I should be forced out of caucus.
“These attacks were based on inaccuracies and falsehoods. I did not initiate the crisis now facing the party of the prime minister. Nor did Jody Wilson-Raybould.”
Even for those of us who aren’t political junkies, the nakedly political comeuppance of Wilson-Raybould and Philpott is breathtaking.
And for what? Because the former had the audacity of advocate for prosecutorial independence in the face of the Liberal party’s genuflecting to SNC-Lavalin, even if it meant subverting justice. Because she would not, could not, countenance interference in a criminal prosecution.
And Philpott was the lone colleague to overtly put fealty to scruples before fealty to a leader who has so dismally lost his sheen.
There is no redeeming dimension to Trudeau’s brutality. He has dissembled and shammed his way through nearly two months of tortuous squabble. If the Liberal party is in crisis, the seeds were sown in the PMO and a PM of towering hauteur.
A phoney feminist to boot.
Rosie DiManno is a columnist with Torstar Syndication Services.