Don Martin: Two truths ahead as the SNC-Lavalin controversy heads for a showdown
Published Friday, February 22, 2019 5:52PM EST
This is the strangest story I've seen in 40 years of covering politics.
By way of review, consider the pileup of inexplicables.
The prime minister's BFF and closest adviser Gerry Butts quit his dream job this week, insisting he did nothing wrong to warrant his resignation.
Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould quit last week for allegedly being pressured to reverse a legal decision she didn't even try to reverse.
Justin Trudeau apologized for something he didn’t do fast enough, specifically defend his former attorney general from a whisper campaign of being difficult, some of which came from his office.
The government of transparency has turned into a fog of foot-dragging, leaving top bureaucrat Michael Wernick, who traditionally stays invisible, to provide the sharpest glimpse into the machinations behind the curtain.
Meanwhile, Attorney General David Lametti’s thousand-lawyer justice department has now spent two weeks pondering whether Wilson-Raybould can speak publicly about her concerns when every legal expert had their sure-she-can verdict nailed within hours.
And then there's the kicker – the clerk of the Privy Council trying to calm down this controversy while raising the prospect of a political assassination on the campaign trail.
Right about now, falling down a rabbit hole probably looks like blue skies of political clarity.
But a narrative is taking shape pointing the end of this story as merely a difference of interpretation.
Thanks to Wernick, we know there was pressure applied on Wilson-Raybould to cut a deal with SNC to keep government contracts feeding thousands of jobs.
Unfortunately for Trudeau, saving those jobs is explicitly excluded as a consideration for the government to defer the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin on bribery and corruption charges.
So the only question now: Was that pressure improper?
If there is a definitive answer to that, it is the line of demarcation between this story as Trudeau government kryptonite or a fizzle that'll be forgotten by election day.
The axis of influence – Trudeau, Butts and Wernick – will insist it was legitimate pressure to cut a deal and they were fine with her no-dice decision. That subsequent demotion in cabinet, where she was replaced with a Montreal MP whose riding sits beside SNC headquarters, was a coincidence.
Wilson-Raybould will insist she felt pressure and ignored it, at least until she was demoted and it suddenly became intolerable.
So prepare to be even more confused next week when the star witness takes the stand.
In the end, there will be two very distinct truths – and very different consequences.
That, again, is not the Last Word on this story…