Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould and ex-Treasury Board president Jane Philpott “have never been in heavy politics,” former deputy prime minister and ex-MP Sheila Copps told Global News on Tuesday.
“Sometimes, when you don’t have a lot of political experience, the pressure gets too hot for you. And I think that pressure has probably gotten to them, unfortunately,” she said.
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According to Copps, the former cabinet ministers’ view of the government’s alleged involvement in the prosecution of Montreal engineering firm SNC-Lavalin can be chalked up to inexperience.
“I think they need a little bit of political experience and they need to understand that when you get into a group, whether it’s the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, the caucus and the NDP, you don’t always get everything you want, and part of being a good politician is being able to negotiate so you get something for everybody and not everything for one person,” Copps continued.
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Since the Globe and Mail broke the story on Feb. 7, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been embattled due to claims from Wilson-Raybould that she was pressured to change her mind in the ongoing SNC-Lavalin case. Wilson-Raybould took up the post of veterans affairs minister after being shuffled out of her role in January — before resigning from cabinet entirely last week.
In four hours of riveting testimony last week, the former justice minister and attorney general said she faced pressure to intervene in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, which faces fraud and bribery charges. Wilson-Raybould’s testimony involved about 10 phone calls and 10 meetings that she called inappropriate, all of which took place between September and December 2018.
More recently, Philpott resigned this past Monday, saying she’d lost confidence in the way the Liberal Party had dealt with the criminal charges against the Montreal engineering giant.
Copps also tweeted about the scandal on Monday, calling Wilson-Raybould and Philpott “ministers gone rogue.”
In the weeks following the bombshell Globe and Mail story, assertions surfaced about Wilson-Raybould’s relationship with other government officials. Anonymous insiders told the Canadian Press in early February that Wilson-Raybould “had become a thorn in the side of the cabinet” and was “difficult to get along with, known to berate fellow cabinet ministers openly at the table and who others felt they had trouble trusting.”
“She’s always sort of been in it for herself,” one insider told the Canadian Press. “It’s never been about the government or the cabinet. Everything is very Jody-centric.”
Several MPs decried these accounts as sexist.
Copps rejected the suggestion that Wilson-Raybould is a “victim” in this case, saying that the former attorney general, along with Philpott, “created the victimization.”
“Just because they’re women doesn’t mean they can’t be part of a team,” Copps said. “It’s fine to be a solo prosecutor if you’re working in a prosecutorial office.
“She was running her own show, and nobody was going to tell her what to do anywhere.”
She also commented on criticisms issued earlier in February by Wilson-Raybould’s father, Kwakwaka’wakw hereditary chief Bill Wilson, about his daughter’s treatment in Ottawa. It’s important to note that Wilson-Raybould and her father haven’t spoken in two years.
“Jody Wilson-Raybould’s father has said — he mused a couple of weeks ago that she might be taking it out on the government,” Copps added.
While a majority of Canadians side with Wilson-Raybould, ministers have largely declared their support for the prime minister.
Federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said Monday that her confidence in Trudeau “remains untouched.”
“I stand by him and believe in his ability to lead a government that delivers for all Canadians. I am sorry to see one of my cabinet colleagues step down and I wish her the best.”
Maryam Monsef, minister for the status of women, also said she has “full confidence” in the prime minister and government.
“We are staying focused on what matters to Canadians, including fighting for jobs, growing the middle class and advancing gender equality at home and abroad.”
The Opposition, on the other hand, has been relentless in its criticisms of Trudeau and his office.
Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer has said on multiple occasions that Trudeau has lost the moral authority to govern and should resign.
In an emergency debate held in the House of Commons last week, several Tory and NDP MPs called for Trudeau’s head — and his resignation.
So far, however, there have been no indications that Trudeau will resign. His former principal secretary and close adviser, Gerald Butts, is set to testify this week, and ministers continue to call for Trudeau himself to take the stand.
—With files from the Canadian Press, Jacob Cappe, Katie Dangerfield