Monday, April 8, 2019

My Toronto Star Op-Ed Piece on the Jody Wilson-Raybould Affair

Bismarck Had A Point

Toronto Star
April 4, 2019

By Stephen Lautens

Bismarck once supposedly said: “You should never watch while your laws or sausages are being made.”

The realities of what goes into both of them can be distinctly off-putting.

Canada has had a front row seat in the SNC-Lavalin sausage factory for the past two months and it has distinctly spoiled our appetites.

Starting with a leak, a narrative emerged that then Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould was under siege, holding out like the Alamo against an onslaught of attempts to persuade her that she should use her extraordinary powers as AG to change the already decided course of the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin and allow them to enter into negotiations for a plea deal. The plea deal may be on terms more or less onerous than a roll of the dice on the outcome of a criminal trial, but it comes with the ability of SNC-Lavalin too keep bidding on Canadian contracts. A conviction would not.

SNC-Lavalin is on trial for what was at one point systemic corporate corruption. Because of institutionalized bribery and kickbacks, they were banned by the World Bank from bidding on any of their contracts, and if convicted in Canada could face a similar 10-year ban here as well.

Well and good. The Prime Minister, his office and various other departments thought a deal was in the best interests of Canada, investors (including Quebec pension funds), employees, and would be generally popular in Quebec. Except the independent prosecutor in the Attorney General’s office said no deal. The AG backed her prosecutors and said that was the end of it – prosecutorial independence, cornerstone of our justice system.

Except it wasn’t. The government pressed, pleaded and argued. Some experts say that is acceptable, as long as the final decision remains with the Attorney General. Others are stricter and say no means no. Trudeau and others pressed on and the AG said their attempts at persuasion were unwelcome. Buzz off.

It is an accepted rule that if an Attorney General feels their independence has been compromised, they have to resign – immediately - usually with a short statement in the House of Commons as to why. The few times it has happened, it has been devastating to a government.

But that didn’t happen here. Instead of a bombshell we’ve had a brush fire. The Attorney General didn’t resign. At least not as Attorney General. Someone else became Attorney General, she was shuffled to another portfolio and after a month resigned.

For two months there have been arguments, speeches, leaks, taped phone calls, tweets, hearings, statements and now expulsion from caucus.

So the question is, are we better or worse off having seen the sausages being made?

© Stephen Lautens 2019

SNC-Lavalin, Deferred Prosecution Agreements and the Whole Ball of Wax.

I was doing the rounds last ween after a tweet thread of mine took off about the duty of an Attorney General to resign if he/she feels pressured (not secretly tape record government officials, be the subject of leaks, letters, and tweets). Here's my appearance on the Jon McComb Show, a Global affiliate radio show in BC, chatting about the Liberal caucus expulsions, the SNC-Lavalin mess, and what's next.

I also managed an appearance on CTV, a local show in Cobourg and a column in the Toronto Star.