Jody Wilson-Raybould says independent candidacy offers ‘opportunity’

Click to play video: 'In conversation with Jody Wilson-Raybould: Extended' In conversation with Jody Wilson-Raybould: Extended
WATCH: Global National's Dawna Friesen in conversation with Jody Wilson-Raybould: Extended – Oct 16, 2019

There’s nothing easy about the path Jody Wilson-Raybould has chosen. Once at the heart of the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau, she’s now on the outside.

But she’s still in the game.

“It’s been a difficult time, but I feel really good about where I’m at,” she said during an interview at her campaign office on Vancouver’s Granville Street.

READ MORE: Wilson-Raybould sees Independent run in B.C. as opportunity, not challenge

Her office is in the heart of the riding she won in 2015, after she’d been recruited as a star candidate for the Liberals.  She won easily, and was named Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

But Wilson-Raybould will forever be known as the woman who fought Trudeau from the inside, and got kicked out of the Liberal caucus for it.

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Now, she’s running as an independent.

“My experience in the party system wasn’t that great.  And the blind loyalty that exists among many partisans, I think, is very debilitating for dialogue and debate about issues,” she said.

“I wish that there were more independently-minded people running and debating issues like climate change, democratic reform and Indigenous issues. That’s what we’re missing to a great degree in this election.”

Click to play video: 'Jody Wilson-Raybould discusses new book, Indigenous reconciliation during Toronto visit' Jody Wilson-Raybould discusses new book, Indigenous reconciliation during Toronto visit
Jody Wilson-Raybould discusses new book, Indigenous reconciliation during Toronto visit – Sep 23, 2019

Wilson-Raybould said climate change was among the country’s top priorities during a September all-candidates’ debate in the riding (the Conservative candidate did not attend), according to the CBC. The Liberals, the NDP, and the Greens have made climate change policies a key part of their election platform. The Conservatives have committed to scrapping the carbon tax.

Independent candidates seldom get elected in federal politics. There’s no party machine to support her and Wilson-Raybould is up against a full slate of opponents in Vancouver-Granville. The last time an independent candidate won was in 2008 when two were elected: Nova Scotia MP Bill Casey and Quebec MP Andre Arthur.

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“[They] are rarely elected in our system, and the ones who have a prior connection with an existing mainstream party have a better chance. But it still remains highly unlikely,” Dennis Pilon, a political science professor at York University who specializes in Canadian politics, told Global News in May when Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott announced they would be running as independents.

“A lot depends on how much coverage they get.”

READ MORE: Federal parties work overtime to unseat Wilson-Raybould in Vancouver Granville

Vancouver-Granville is currently listed as too close to call, according to seat projections analyzed by the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy.

The Liberal candidate in the riding, Taleeb Noormohamed, was a member of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, according to the party’s website.  He told the Canadian Press that voters in the riding should recognize traditional parties have more ability to effect change than independents.

“My view is that the people of Vancouver Granville should have a voice in government,” he said.

“It’s well and good to say you’re going to be an independent voice. But you want to be a voice inside the tent, at the table, in the room when difficult decisions are being made, so that you can speak out on behalf of your constituents.”

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Click to play video: 'Jody Wilson-Raybould reacts to SNC-Lavalin ethics report' Jody Wilson-Raybould reacts to SNC-Lavalin ethics report
Jody Wilson-Raybould reacts to SNC-Lavalin ethics report – Aug 15, 2019

Also running in the riding are Conservative Zach Segal, NDP candidate Yvonne Hanson, Green candidate Louise Boutin, and People’s Party candidate Naomi Chocyk.

While climate change is a major part of the 2019 election for many, so is trust and accountability. Wilson-Raybould says she’s heard from thousands of people of all political stripes who tell her they admire what she did during the SNC-Lavalin scandal, and want politicians to have principles and stick to them.

“We need to look at the way our political system operates how we make decisions, and make it more representative of people here in Vancouver Granville, as opposed to being answerable to the prime minister or unelected people within the Prime Minister’s Office or a party leader.

“It shouldn’t be that way. We need to work on having a more representative democracy and that’s what I’m hearing right across this country.”

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READ MORE: Liberals could have done more on Indigenous issues, Jody Wilson-Raybould says

During her testimony before the Justice Committee, Wilson-Raybould said she stood up to Trudeau, who was found to have pressured her to look at a remediation agreement in the criminal prosecution of Quebec company SNC-Lavalin. Trudeau says he was trying to protect jobs in Quebec. The Ethics Commissioner — who vindicated her and found Trudeau guilty of breaking conflict of interest laws — says he pushed Wilson-Raybould too far for partisan reasons.

It was a showdown that made Wilson-Raybould as many enemies are friends.  Trudeau supporters will forever demonize her as the person who did serious damage to his brand.

She maintains she was punished for speaking the truth.

Click to play video: 'Decision 2019: Profiling the Vancouver Granville riding' Decision 2019: Profiling the Vancouver Granville riding
Decision 2019: Profiling the Vancouver Granville riding – Sep 13, 2019

“I don’t think that one should be removed from a political party for simply speaking the truth or doing what one thinks is right. That’s where, in my mind, the hyper-partisan nature of Ottawa takes over individual members of parliament living by their values and principles or representing the views of their constituents,” Wilson-Raybould said.

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“That shouldn’t be trumped by partisan politics. That’s where we get into a place where we need to think very clearly and strongly about what it means to live in a democracy and how individual Canadians are represented in parliament.”

READ MORE: Scheer, Trudeau duel over report of feds blocking RCMP on SNC-Lavalin inquiry

As the possibility of a minority looms, Wilson-Raybould says she’s still a progressive and is closely aligned with the Liberal Party on issues of justice and inclusion. If elected, she’ll support a progressive agenda on issues like climate change, affordability and pharmacare. And she thinks a coalition government would force more collaboration.

“But there is an opportunity for us to be more co-operative and recognize that one political party doesn’t hold a monopoly on all the solutions to the issues that we’re facing as Canadians,” she said.

— With files from Rachel Browne

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