'We all feel regret about where we are': Minister Gould on SNC-Lavalin scandal
OTTAWA -- Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould says the government feels "regret" about the still-simmering SNC-Lavalin scandal, after backing the prime minister's decision to remove Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from caucus.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced their removal at an emergency national caucus meeting last Tuesday, citing "broken" trust and an unsuccessful effort to reach out and address their concerns. Both women resigned from cabinet over the affair, Wilson-Raybould because she alleges she was improperly pressured to interfere in a criminal case against SNC-Lavalin in the name of jobs and Quebec votes, and Philpott because she had lost confidence in how the matter was being handled after the government denied those allegations.
"There was not a possibility to come to a solution that both sides agreed to. I think that's too bad. I think that we all feel regret about where we are. But what is clear is that there was an erosion of trust on both sides here. And despite the best efforts of a lot of people, we weren't able to repair it," Gould said in an interview on CTV’s Question Period. "No one is really happy with the outcome that we came to, they were colleagues, they're friends, they've done really good work on behalf of Canadians."
In a separate interview on CTV's Question Period, Peter Donolo, the former communications director to Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien, questioned whether it was a smart move to kick the pair out of caucus.
"I'm not sure that it was the right thing to kick them out of caucus, to be quite honest. I think it bought the PM some peace with his own caucus, but I think it looks terrible for the public. It furthers the victimization narrative of both," he said, particularly with Wilson-Raybould, who he said has been "calling all the shots," and has proved to be a "masterful communicator."
"Listen they've launched a star with her, she's now the second most famous politician in Canada period… she's a household name now," Donolo said.
The 'tipping point'
Gould said she thinks the "tipping point" for many Liberals was the audio recording that Wilson-Raybould released of a secretly-recorded conversation she had with Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick about SNC-Lavalin.
"As ministers we rely on, you know, unfettered advice from the public service, that relationship is really important," Gould said. "How is that going to impact the relationship between the politicians, ministers and their offices, and the public service?"
Gould said she thinks it's important that public servants aren't hesitant to challenge ministers to make sure that they're considering a range of perspectives before making decisions.
"I think that's an important part of our policy making. It's an important part of our system of governance. And it's important for us as decision makers to be responsible in canvassing widely different opinions, different points of view to make sure we're coming to the right decision," Gould said.
Possible to rejoin the team?
As for whether there could possibly be a path back into the Liberal fold for Philpott and Wilson-Raybould, Gould said that if they wanted to, "they would have to demonstrate a real change in how they interact with caucus members."
Though, the prospect of re-joining the team they both got elected and governed alongside for nearly an entire term is something that neither newly-independent MP seems keen on given their extensive expressions of disappointment in the way the party is currently doing politics.
"It appears that the caucus is intent on staying the current course, regardless of its short-term and long-term consequences to the party and to the country, and it has been decided that there is no place for me in the caucus," Philpott said in a statement posted the evening she was ousted.
Similarly, in her supplementary written submission to the House Justice Committee that came alongside the contentious audio tape, Wilson-Raybould stated she was looking forward to a future where political or partisan considerations don't come before pillars of democracy such as an independent justice system. A future, she said, "where we truly do politics differently."