Canadian democracy at risk says Rempel; Ethics committee offers slim chance to reopen SNC investigation
Update: Thursday afternoon’s Ethics committee meeting has been cancelled and rescheduled for 1PM, March 26th.
After another bombshell reveal in the SNC-Lavalin scandal by ex-Treasury Board president Jane Philpott, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel emerged from the Commons this morning to speak to reporters as the filibuster her party forced Wednesday night continued.
“Democracy doesn’t die in a fiery explosion. It happens when there’s apathy and people stop caring about the slow drip away from our democratic institutions,” Rempel said of why the Conservatives forced 257 seperate votes on government spending estimates.
When Liberal MPs used their majority to reject a Conservative motion Wednesday providing for more testimony from former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, the Opposition triggered the marathon voting. Spending votes are considered confidence votes so Liberal MPs had to maintain a majority-vigil throughout to ensure their government would not be defeated.
Philpott resigned from cabinet on March 4 and in a Maclean’s article published Thursday morning, the Markham-Stoufville Liberal MP told Paul Wells she made her decision because of how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau managed the SNC-Lavalin scandal that has engulfed his government.
“I 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,” Philpott told Maclean’s.
Based on the story, Rempel said “that essentially (Philpott) was facing a culture of intimidation.”
As Philpott and Wilson-Raybould, who both remain inside the Liberal caucus, were absent from the filibuster, Rempel referenced a Canadian Press story “that two of the members of the Liberal caucus, specifically Ms. Philpott and Ms. Wilson-Raybould were essentially told or suggested that they should not be in these votes because of pressure that they might face by sleep-deprived colleagues.”
“If they have been put under a gag order by the PM … we have to address this, Parliament has to address this,” said Rempel. “If the Prime Minister is not going to address this then Canadians need to address this because regardless of how you vote, Canadians need to be concerned about the erosion of parliament.”
“These members represent tens of thousands of constituents,” she added.
Following Rempel’s media confab, New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh appeared on Ottawa’s 580 CFRA where he said the Philpott article “is specifically an indictment of the Prime Minister.
“We can’t underline enough just how spectacular this interview is in the sense of what she says, what she discloses. This is a major, major deal – she’s now stating clearly there’s more to see here,” said Singh. “They’re saying ‘we’re still Liberals’ (but) they’re saying we don’t have any confidence in the government or the Prime Minister.”
“What we have here is far more than a difference of opinion,” Singh said.
Wilson-Raybould, who resigned from cabinet on February 12, is at the centre of allegations the Prime Minister’s Office pressured her to instruct the Public Prosecution Service to intervene in bribery and corruption charges against SNC-Lavalin. According to Wilson-Raybould, when she refused Trudeau replaced her with Québec Liberal MP David Lametti.
During her testimony to the Justice committee, Wilson-Raybould implicated senior PMO staff and even Trudeau himself for suggesting electoral success was a large part of their metric for going easy on the Québec construction firm. However, Trudeau has said his former attorney general “saw it differently” and any overtures by him or others was about saving SNC-Lavalin jobs.
On Tuesday, the Justice committee’s Liberal majority voted to end its probe of the SNC-Lavalin affair. The closure followed much handwringing by opposition members and a timultuous procedural blowout earlier this month that saw Liberal MPs scurrying out the backdoor to accusation of a “cover up” after shutting down a vote to have Wilson-Raybould testify a second time.
As of 1pm today, the filibuster in the Commons continued necessitating cancellation of Thursday’s Question Period and all other House business scheduled for the day.
Additionally, all committee meetings slated for Thursday have been cancelled except for the Ethics Committee where Conservative MP Peter Kent – a member and the party’s ethics critic – hopes to reopen the SNC-Lavalin inquiry. Outgunned by Liberal votes on the committee, Kent remains hopeful.
“In Question Period we see very clearly the embarrassment, if not outright dissatisfaction with a lot of backbencehrs with the way the Justice committee railroaded a close to their study,” Kent told The Post Millennial. “I’m hoping Liberal members of the committee, at least one or two, will give us clearance for the study.”