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Federal Politics

Trudeau a Threat to Liberal Chances, Must Go: Martyn Brown

Odds for RCMP probe rising, says former top aide to BC Liberal premier.

By David Beers 23 Mar 2019 | TheTyee.ca

David Beers is founding editor of The Tyee.

On Friday, Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen offered some advice to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that he is likely to ignore. Let Jody Wilson-Raybould have her (additional) say. Stop muzzling her with cabinet confidence and solicitor-client privilege. Waive it.

“The longer he continues this cover-up,” Bergen said of Trudeau, “the longer he moves heaven and earth to keep himself protected, the worse this gets for him.”

Does it get worse? Or will Canadians tire of the saga and move on, as the Liberals this week bet by moving to shut down the inquiry?

Martyn Brown, who as premier Gordon Campbell’s chief of staff handled scandals buffeting the B.C. government during the 2000s, thinks that this week Trudeau has moved closer to the brink of disaster. The heightened prospect of an RCMP investigation makes Trudeau an anchor sinking the party he once rescued with his leadership.

Now, says Brown, it’s time for Liberal insiders to convince Trudeau to step down.

More bad days for the PM

In one twist this week, Wilson-Raybould promised to dump a pile of more documents on the Justice Committee in order to prove her allegations of undue political interference are correct, even if she isn’t allowed to testify in person.

In another turn, Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who said she’d been bullied by a shouting Trudeau, left the Liberal caucus to sit as an independent MP.

Meanwhile, SNC-Lavalin’s CEO said Trudeau’s team is wrong to imply that his company asked to be spared a criminal trial or else it would move from Montreal with 9,000 Canadian jobs sacrificed.

But the biggest bombshell, in Brown’s view, was dropped by former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott, Trudeau’s other cabinet minister to resign in dismay over LavScam.

What Philpott had to say in her interview with Maclean’s magazine on March 21 proves she’d “gone rogue,” says Brown.

“I’m not accusing anybody of anything illegal or contrary to the Criminal Code,” emphasizes Brown. But Philpott raised enough questions to possibly prod the RCMP to launch an investigation, and that would mean a severe hit to Trudeau’s political fortunes.

On the phone with The Tyee March 21, Brown laid out his reasoning:

Philpott is “now basically saying in this interview with Maclean’s that Jody Wilson-Raybould was bullied, that there is much more to the story. And so she’s flatly contradicting [Trudeau’s] version of events.”

Philpott has given “new legs” to the demand by five previous attorneys general and the Tories for an RCMP investigation. In Maclean’s she makes it clear she could not remain in “solidarity with cabinet,” because she “felt that there was evidence of an attempt to politically interfere with the justice system in its work on the criminal trial that has been described by some as the most important and serious prosecution of corporate corruption in modern Canadian history.”

She also reveals that she raised deep concerns about the DPA file on SNC-Lavalin a full month before the affair became public.

She says this, Brown notes, as we find out the PMO’s claims about harm to the public interest if SNC-Lavalin were to be criminally prosecuted are baloney.

“What we need to know is, in this period, particularly after Jan. 14 when the shuffle took place, was cabinet misled by false threats or false information of the sort we’ve now learned about? That SNC was leaving Montreal, which [we know] now is patently untrue. Or that Canada was going to lose 9,000 jobs, which the present CEO now says was patently untrue. Was cabinet misled by that? Because if so, that would be a reason for the RCMP to investigate.”

The Mounties would be particularly interested in finding out, says Brown, “if false information was used to try to pressure Jody Wilson-Raybould to get her to politically intervene for something that anyone in government knew wasn’t true. Or if the government knew that it wasn’t true that jobs would be lost, that the company would move, as it was trying to suggest to her was the reason in the public interest, then the public interest argument goes out the window.

“That’s the only legal argument the government currently has. Even though by law they’re precluded in the Criminal Code from considering the national economic interest, they’re trying to couch it in this phrase, ‘the public interest,’ to say that because it was in the public interest, that’s why they could talk to her.

“But if the public interest argument is based on a lie, and they knew that, then all that you’re left with is a political motive, an electoral motive that would be self-serving. And that to me would raise questions of obstruction of justice, breach of trust, all sorts of things that the RCMP would suddenly be concerned with.

“I think that’s what’s really changed, the stakes have been elevated by both what the present CEO has said and what Philpott has said.”

Veteran of scandal management

Brown was chief of staff for premier Campbell on Dec. 28, 2003, the day RCMP officers arrived at the B.C. legislature and carted away boxes of evidence for what would become a years-long scandal involving the botched billion-dollar sell-off of the province’s public rail system.

Neither Campbell nor Brown was charged with any wrongdoing. But eight years later, Brown was the first witness called for the resulting trial, which ended with guilty pleas to fraud by two ministerial aides.

If Trudeau gets a knock on his door by the Mounties any time soon, he might want to give Brown a call for a bit of advice.

Then again, the PM likely won’t like what he hears. Brown, who writes a column for the Georgia Straight, declares in his latest that the Liberals’ best chance of winning the fall election is to “lance the boil” that is Trudeau.

As he told The Tyee in an email today, “The fear of losing Trudeau needs to be flipped on its head if left-leaning progressives want to minimize the chances of a Scheer victory this fall. The Liberals can now only hope to regain the moral high ground that is so vital for securing the values they purport to represent by replacing their leader. They can own the ethical hill they are now choosing to die upon by defending the indefensible by selecting a new leader who the heroines Wilson-Raybould and Philpott and Celina Caesar-Chavannes can all rally behind.”

Brown figures, “I am perhaps one of the first to suggest that Trudeau should be dumped by his caucus in their party’s political interest.”

As such, he joins a club that includes The Tyee’s Crawford Kilian who wrote a column published here March 5 headlined: “Trudeau’s Resignation Is the Party’s Only Hope.”

With files by Tyee reporter Katie Hyslop.  [Tyee]

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