Everything Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has done to try changing the channel on the SNC-Lavalin affair has failed, one crisis communications expert says.
So he could try firing Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick.
In an interview with the West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Mike Van Soelen, a managing principal at the crisis communications firm Navigator, said Trudeau failed last week to take clear action when confronted with unanswered questions about the accusations of attempted political interference made in what he described as “credible” testimony by former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould.
“Frankly, he could have been contrite about some of the mistakes that had been made, and we didn’t hear that from the prime minister on the day,” he said.
“He went back to the same story they’ve been telling all along, which hadn’t worked for four weeks so it’s hard to understand why they thought it would work on this morning.”
WATCH: Trudeau firm on no ‘inappropriate pressure’ in SNC-Lavalin case
Trudeau gave a press conference on Thursday in which he stressed that while he was taking responsibility for an “erosion of trust” between Wilson-Raybould and his senior staff, he was not apologizing for any of the accusations made against him and his staff.
While he said there would be “lessons learned” from the experience, he did not offer concrete plans for action beyond saying officials would gather advice on the potential consequences of separating the roles of attorney general and minister of justice.
He also pledged to think more critically about how his office and ministerial offices interact with each other.
But Van Soelen said that falls far short of what was needed.
WATCH: Wernick ‘deeply concerned’ about Canada and its upcoming election campaign
“I think he should let the clerk of the Privy Council go, whose performance has been panned by everyone who’s watched it,” Van Soelen said, adding that Trudeau should also express clearer remorse in the matter.
“He needs to be contrite because, clearly, the country has been thrown into a bit of chaos for the last four weeks.”
Following testimony two weeks ago before the House of Commons justice committee, Wernick has been widely criticized for what Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP MP Charlie Angus have called an overly political defence of Trudeau.
Angus argued in an open letter to Trudeau that Wernick “crossed the line” and that the prime minister should ask for his resignation.
Scheer has said the same.
But Trudeau and his ministers have defended Wernick, who speculated the political rhetoric in the country could lead to an “assassination” during the upcoming election campaign.
Wernick is also accused by Wilson-Raybould of making “veiled threats” against her when she refused to intervene in the criminal case of SNC-Lavalin to help the company escape a criminal trial via a new legal tool called a deferred prosecution agreement, or remediation agreement.
Such a deal would let the company admit wrongdoing and pay a fine but not go to trial.
SNC-Lavalin is charged with corruption and fraud for allegedly bribing Libyan officials to get contracts.
If convicted, it would be barred from bidding on Canadian government contracts for a decade.
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