Calling the SNC-Lavalin affair a major ethical breach requiring the resignation of a prime minister or a criminal investigation is far-fetched.
Ethics are certainly involved, especially in terms of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party not coming forward with what happened – or at least their version of it – as soon as possible.
Not only would informing Canadians have been the right thing to do, but it also would have been the better choice politically.
We should all be concerned about the ethical behaviour of the ruling Liberals in this case – and we can also be concerned about the leader of the opposition’s ethics in doing his best to make political gains out of the incident – but no one should be surprised it happened.
There are political aspects to the affair, but there are also straightforward governmental reasons the Liberals were pressuring former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to reconsider, namely, it’s not a good idea to let one of Canada’s largest companies go down in flames.
When you strip away all the political uproar and outrage, there are really only two questions we need to answer. One is, did the ruling Liberals go too far in the pressure they were bringing to bear on Wilson-Raybould to reconsider the possibility of a deferred prosecution agreement for SNC-Lavalin?
From what we know, it’s pretty clear that was the case. Even if Wilson-Raybould was feeling more pressed than the PMO thinks she should have, it sounds like a pretty relentless drive.
The other question that needs an answer is whether Wilson-Raybould was right in not reconsidering her decision. We admire her decision to stick to what she believed was right, but that doesn’t mean taking a second look should have been out of the question.
In the end, the result of this affair shouldn’t be sackcloth and ashes accompanied by much gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair. We don’t need more political theatre – we need a transparent protocol to ensure it doesn’t get to this stage again.
Just as similar events have taken place for every government behind closed doors, it is bound to happen again, whether the NDP, Conservatives or Liberals are in the hot seat.
There is nothing wrong with the PMO requesting that an attorney general reconsider a decision. It’s a necessary part of the process of governance.
But let’s make those requests public, as should be the written answer from the attorney general.
Steve Kidd is the senior reporter at Penticton Western News.