Three strikes and Justin Trudeau is out

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Updated (March 2nd) - In my latest Howe Street interview with Jim Goddard, I make the case Justin Trudeau and his cabinet can no longer effectively govern. The obstacles facing the Trudeau regime go beyond the question of whether a law may have been broken by him or his government in trying to get the Attorney General of Canada at the time, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to change her mind on prosecuting SNC-Lavalin (SNC). Leaving that issue aside for the lawyers, the reality of the situation boils down to:

  1. Favouring the well-connected and powerful
  2. Putting national unity at risk
  3. A lack of trustworthiness

The first surprise we learned from Ms. Wilson-Raybould in her February 27th testimony (click to watch, listen or download)  was how Bill Morneau's office was involved. As it turns out, according to her testimony, his office was one of the first to intervene to try and get her to change her mind. According to testimony, his office continued with interventions despite being asked to stop. So, here we have Canada's Finance Minister who appeared allegedly to be willing to have his office push the boundaries of the law to help a large Canadian corporation facing corruption charges.

Bill Morneau

After this revelation, it is hard to see how Mr. Morneau has any moral authority to deliver a budget. Let's remember, this is the same minister who, soon after taking the job, made it a priority to raise taxes on small business. It is pretty clear whose side he is on, and it is not the middle class.

In its defence, the government claims it was asking the AG to change her mind to save jobs. That begs the question: whose jobs? Unfortunately, the mainstream media has not been asking the government to answer that question. Instead, many have been repeating the government's talking points.

 

 

 

According to the Wilson-Raybould testimony, concerns centred around the company moving its head office to London. Now with the cat out of the bag, the government is spinning that thousands of jobs across Canada are at stake. Looking at the company's financial statements, it is hard to believe the job doom scenario. As of the end of 2018, SNC had a backlog of $14.9 billion in work. That was worth more than all the revenue earned in the previous 12 months. The company's order book appears very healthy, and there is economic value associated with those projects. Those projects are likely location-based that cannot be easily moved to London.

For example, can Bill Morneau please explain how jobs related to the running of the operations of the Canada Line in Vancouver are at risk of being moved to the United Kingdom? In reality, those parts of the company with viable business operations will likely continue to have value no matter what happens in the corruption case. If the government has compelling evidence to the contrary, we all need to hear it.

With no evidence supporting the government's massive job loss claims, a conclusion that could be drawn is that the interference was related to possible factors such as investor risks, political agendas, or job security at the top. Whatever the motivation, Bill Morneau was not spending his political capital going to bat for the middle class. He was up at the plate swinging away for the economically and politically powerful.

Strike one.

The jobs spin leads to a more troubling question. Why was the Trudeau government willing to move legal mountains and fire his Attorney General of Indigenous descent to protect jobs in the SNC headquarters, but unwilling to use all legal tools at its disposal to get the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion going? According to Stewart Muir of Resource Works, the expansion alone would create more than 35,000 jobs. Yet, the Trudeau government left those jobs plus those in the oil patch which are dependent on the expansion out to dry.

The issue here is not whether one supports the Trans Mountain pipeline. The issue is why did the government conclude that the jobs and economic vested interests at SNC (which has a large oil & gas segment) were so important that it was worth interfering with the judicial process while jobs related to Trans Mountain were not worth saving by using every legal avenue that existed? There appears to be one standard for jobs at SNC and another for Trans Mountain and the Alberta oil patch. With this obvious double standard, the government has opened up a potential national unity mess.

Strike two.

The last chance for the government to salvage its moral authority to govern came Wednesday night when the Prime Minister stood at the microphones to respond to his former AG. Instead of providing some reassurance that lessons had been learned, he dug in his heels, flatly denying the accusations and insisting that his office acted appropriately. So, who was telling the truth? Was it the former AG who accused the Prime Minister's Office of acting inappropriately, or was it the Prime Minister?

Strike three.

Justin Trudeau and his government are out.

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