These past few weeks have been trying times for Trudeau’s administration, with a flurry of cabinet resignations, controversy and revelations of in-fighting surrounding the liberal party. The scandal was conceived by a Globe and Mail report in February, which stated that the previous attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, was pressured by the Canadian government to intervene in a legal case involving the company SNC-Lavalin. The corporation was charged by the RCMP back in 2015 with corrupt and fraudulent conduct, or more specifically, for paying off Libyan government officials under the Qaddafi regime in 2010-2011. The Trudeau government had been conducting consultations with the company to see if a remediation agreement could be levied to settle the charges — simply put, this agreement would allow them to pay a corporate fine in lieu of facing criminal prosecution. Where the quagmire lies then, is that Trudeau’s senior officials, including some of his top aides and his finance minister, have been accused of disproportionately and unlawfully pressuring Ms. Wilson-Raybould to avert SNC-Lavalin’s prosecution by using her powers as an attorney general. Such accusations have been affirmed by the former attorney general herself through a scathing testimony before the parliament’s justice committee back in February, in which she claimed that “veiled threats” were leveraged in order to coerce her into reversing course on the company’s prosecution.
The scandal has produced fateful political consequences, the magnitude of which only seems to have intensified in previous weeks. Ms. Wilson-Raybould had left her role as attorney general back in February, several relatively high-profile members of Trudeau’s cabinet have also resigned thus far, and some have cited the recent scandal as a reason for their departure. Leader of the Conservative party and head of the opposition to Trudeau, Andrew Scheer, has taken a vocal approach in calling for the current prime minister’s resignation. Although that seems politically unfeasible at the moment, it is more symbolic of the animosity that has been directed at Trudeau, a politician who had been consistently characterized as having integrity and reputability amid a hostile political climate, until recently.
Controversy surrounding the issue has precipitated massive shifts in perception, with some voters experiencing an overwhelming sense of betrayal upon being blindsided by a searing development incriminating a man they had trusted and put into office, while other liberal constituents have sustained their loyalty to the party, vowing that PM Trudeau has always, and would always act with the best interest of Canadian citizens in mind.
Trudeau himself has taken on a largely deflective approach, contradicting the former attorney general’s testimony by claiming that he “had full confidence in her role as attorney general to make the decision.” He also added that while the two had had discussions regarding the company SNC-Lavalin, such talks were appropriately conducted and carried out. He has also cited the concern of “Canadian jobs,” 9,000 of which the company at question is responsible for, and also which would very likely disappear if SNC-Lavalin was to face criminal prosecution, as it would result in a ban on securing government contracts.
This also comes as fresh accusations has tainted Trudeau’s self-proclaimed feminist identity, as a liberal member of parliament named Celina Caesar-Chavannes alleged that the Prime Minister got heated during a conversation between the two, and that when she told him she would not be seeking reelection, he treated her with hostility by “yelling” at her. Following this development, Conservative party leaders were quick to accuse Trudeau of being a “fake feminist”, citing that he did not respect female voices, and that his commitment to gender equality was merely political posturing. Proceeding, Mr.Trudeau will have to resolve these criticisms by seeking to compensate for the loss of two women in powerful leadership positions within his cabinet, and thoroughly address the anti-women, pro-corruption philosophies he is suspected of harboring.
With federal elections looming in the near future, this engrossing turmoil could not have arrived at a more inconvenient time for Trudeau’s administration. This crisis is quite arguably one of the biggest to ever plague an upright liberal party that campaigns primarily on issues of democratic integrity, and whose voters highly value the rule of law. Needless to say, all Canadian eyes will be on the Prime Minister as he musters an appropriate response and regains his footing.
Photo: Justin Tang