Few articles have been written critiquing the Liberal caucus for their complacency in the SNC-Lavalin scandal. But they should be criticized because they are failing to uphold their responsibilities.
By supporting Trudeau’s expulsion of Wilson-Raybould and Philpott for not being “team players,” the current Liberal caucus shows how little they care for both Responsible Government and the Rule of Law.
Canada, as a longstanding and well-functioning democracy, deserves and should expect more from their Liberal MPs. Here’s where they went wrong.
One thing that Responsible Government means is that the executive branch, made up of cabinet and Trudeau, are held accountable by the legislative branch, made up of every other MP in Parliament. The legislative branch does this by criticizing and voting against the executive branch. It is the most proximate check on executive abuse of power.
But it looks like our Parliament has it completely backwards! It seems that in the case of SNC-Lavalin the executive branch decides what is acceptable and what is not. When Wilson-Raybould and Philpott criticized the executive for moving past what was acceptable conduct for a government, they were ejected from caucus by Trudeau with the support of Liberal MPs.
Apparently, criticism of the government’s allegedly illegal actions cannot take place if you are within the Liberal caucus. But if the legislative branch cannot critique the government, then they cannot hold them to account for their misdeeds. Liberal MPs should be able to critique the government’s actions.
This is because all MPs should not strictly follow their leader. They should follow a leader to the extent that he follows, at the bare minimum, the principles we expect from all of our representatives.
The two most important ones, in my estimation, are The Rule of Law and Responsible Government. Upholding Responsible Government should be more important than being “a team player.” If you fail to uphold it, then all you have left is a cult of personality.
When the Liberal party threw out Philpott and Raybould for pointing out Trudeau’s failure to uphold our most important principles, the Liberal Party demonstrated that they are not a party, but an echo chamber.
The second important principle is the Rule of Law. It distinguishes a democracy from mob rule, and it insists that all are subject to the law—no special treatment!
Thus, we follow the law rather than a person or a committee. Interfering with the law for political reasons breaks the Rule of Law because doing so calls for special treatment. Pressuring an Attorney General to pressure a public prosecutor to treat a company differently interferes with the equal application of the law.
And by pressuring Wilson-Raybould to do just this, Trudeau belittled the concept. What should have happened then is that the legislative branch, reining in the executive branch, should have denounced Trudeau’s violation.
Breaking the Rule of Law always comes with good reasons. One could argue that the Liberal caucus had best intentions in mind when they tried to save 9,000 jobs in Quebec. After all, aren’t governments supposed to fight for jobs and serve the national economic interest? Asking a Minister of Justice to pursue a DPA does not turn Canada into a tyranny, after all.
From a cursory glance, the law is more on the side of Raybould and the Public Prosecutor than on the Liberals because SNC-Lavalin does not seem eligible for a DPA. According to 715.32 (1) of the Criminal Code, the public prosecutor should take into account many things when considering a DPA, such as the public interest. At first glance, this supports the Liberal position.
But keep reading, and you will find a caveat in 715.32 (3). If a company is even alleged to have broken Section 3 or 4 of the Corruption of Public Officials Act, then the public prosecutor “must not consider the national economic interest” when considering a DPA.
To break the Act, you need to bribe an official in another country and/or hide doing so. And since SNC-Lavalin allegedly bribed Libyan officials and then hid these expenses, it is likely that they broke the Act.
Thus, the public prosecutor cannot consider the public interest with SNC Lavalin, which is exactly what Trudeau was trying to get Wilson-Raybould to persuade the DPP to do. Clearly, Trudeau was trying to get someone to go against the law by influencing them when he was not supposed to.
If the Liberal Party is shy about defending the Rule of Law, and will not uphold Responsible Government, then Canadians shouldn’t trust them to stand up for anything other than their leader. We deserve better.