Editorial: Truthfulness and trust

They were no longer trustworthy or team players, so former federal cabinet ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott had to go. That was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pronouncement on Tuesday, when he ejected the two MPs from the Liberal caucus, and it’s the position that the remaining Liberals have echoed, or parroted if you prefer, in the days since.

It’s the position that West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP Pam Goldsmith-Jones has also taken, despite the hopes she expressed last month that the two could remain on the Liberal benches. The breaking point was Wilson-Raybould’s release of a secretly-recorded 17-minute phone call she had in December with Michael Wernick, who was then Privy Council clerk. Taping the conversation without Wernick’s knowledge was “going over the line,” Goldsmith-Jones told CBC this week. “Once that trust is broken there’s no going back for people,” she said.

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The tape, as it turned out, was clear evidence that Wilson-Raybould had been telling the truth about the contents of that December conversation; Wernick did tell her that Trudeau was “determined” to find a way for SNC-Lavalin to get a deferred prosecution agreement; Wernick was “worried about a collision” between Wilson-Raybould and the PM because Trudeau “is pretty firm about this.” He added, “I just saw him a few hours ago and this is really important to him.” So she was under intense pressure to direct federal prosecutors to drop criminal charges of fraud and corruption against the Quebec-based engineering firm, even though she warned repeatedly about the inappropriateness of that pressure, saying that it “screamed” of political interference.

Everything she said was true. Truthfulness, however, has won Wilson-Raybould no points with her former Liberal colleagues or the prime minister, whose denials on the SNC-Lavalin affair have been repeatedly proven false.

The Liberals are correct that trust has been broken by this shoddy episode, but they’ve got the particulars completely wrong. It’s the voters’ trust in Trudeau and the Liberal government that has taken the real hit, and it could be their undoing, because “once that trust is broken there’s no going back for people.”

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