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ROTHENBURGER – One word scrawled on page 1 renders verdict in JWR case

(Image: Mel Rothenburger)

THE NEWSPAPER IN THE COFFEE SHOP Friday morning said all there is to know about the scandal involving former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

The story was, of course, front-page news as usual, with a big photo of Wilson-Raybould above the all-caps headline, “LIBERAL LIPS SEALED IN FACE OF EXPLOSIVE ALLEGATIONS.”

But that isn’t what struck me. As I sat down to read up on what the pundits and politicians were saying, I smiled as I saw that a patron before me had inked “Hero” across Wilson-Raybould’s forehead.

The verdict is in. No need to call more witnesses. The “rule of law” that the accused is innocent until proven guilty doesn’t apply here. Hang ‘em high.

If “Liberal lips are sealed,” that’s the way Canada wants them to be. Anything that contradicts Wilson-Raybould (or JWR as she’s now sometimes referred to) will be rejected as self-serving.

In the eyes of many, Wilson-Raybould is, indeed a hero. She has said things people expect to hear about government — that it’s all about power and not about people.

Justin has a problem. The Opposition sees a chance at bringing the government to its knees and the media are “selling newspapers” like crazy. Like predators on carrion, they feast. The pages and airwaves and Internet are filled with declarations of shock, shame, outrage at what has occurred in the halls of power.

I, too, am shocked, ashamed and outraged, but at something quite different — the complete willingness of so many to make definitive judgments on the conduct of Trudeau and his bureaucrats on the basis of one person’s side of the story. They want to believe Jody Wilson-Raybould so they do, without reservation, without equivocation.

She is, at least for the moment, their hero. She is, for sure, a credible witness. Those she has named as allegedly applying “inappropriate pressure” need not bother to speak up in their own defense. Even their requests for a chance to do that are taken as a reaffirmation that Wilson-Raybould is right.

Gerald Butts, who resigned last week as Trudeau’s principal secretary, has asked to appear before the same Commons justice committee as Wilson-Raybould, and he will, next week. He says he can provide information that will help the committee in its deliberations.

Immediately, his motives are questioned. Surely it couldn’t be simply that he wants to defend himself against Wilson-Raybould’s allegations. He must be up to something. He is a “political insider” whose aim must be to protect those who have engaged in inappropriate behavior.

Keep in mind, it was the Opposition members of the committee who were demanding a week ago that the list of those appearing before it be expanded. As Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer put it, “allow the light of day to be shone on this very serious scandal.”

But it’s clear they’ve already made up their minds.

“I believe every word you’ve said today,” Conservative MP Lisa Raitt told Wilson-Raybould this week.

And it’s possible that every word, every nuance, every single impression and interpretation Wilson-Raybould had of her interaction with the Prime Minister’s office was exactly as she recalls it.

If, on the balance of probabilities, that turns out to be true, I will condemn Trudeau. I’ll join the chorus demanding justice and Trudeau’s political head. But I’m going to wait until those who stand accused at least have a chance to tell their side of the story, and then I’ll weigh all the testimony.

***

Every new City council, it seems, proposes the “new” idea of holding its regular weekly meetings in the evenings instead of Tuesday afternoons. The theory is that it would allow working people with day jobs to attend council meetings.

Unanswered is the question of why anyone would want to give up a Tuesday night to sit in council chambers listening to councillors talk about zoning bylaws and storm drains or whatever but let’s take a moment to look at it.

Coun. Dale Bass has given notice of motion that staff do a report on the meetings being moved to evenings. In the past, similar motions have never gotten anywhere but I wish her luck on this one because, in principle, it’s a good idea.

In practice, it would do nothing to increase attendance at council meetings. Well, very little. Maybe one or two more people would show up once in awhile if they get caught in a snow storm and need shelter. Or, if they badly want to ask council a question, or appear as a delegation.

This simplifies the issue to one of cost vs. benefit.

Assuming the cost of holding a night meeting is higher than a day meeting, but that it increases attendance by, say, two, would moving the meetings be worth the expense?

A couple of former councillors have weighed in.

Tina Lange argues evening meetings would be “less efficient, cost more and will not attract more citizens.”

Nancy Bepple, on the other hand, believes Bass’ logic is sound but says while many members of the public aren’t able to attend daytime council meeting, many others wouldn’t be able to attend evening meetings, so it’s a saw-off.

I see nothing wrong with staff taking another look at it and laying out the pros and cons.

Council seems likely to vote in favour of staff coming up with report — no risk in that. Actually doing it is another thing but trying it out on a pilot basis wouldn’t do any harm.

In the meantime, though, council should get out of the office once in awhile and go into various communities for some of its meetings to get closer to where people live. Rotate a meeting to various parts of the city every couple of months or so.

And while they’re at it, do away with the policy of restricting public inquiries at council meetings to “the business of the meeting.”

Those happen to be things that havebeen tried before, and they worked.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, former school board chair, former editor of The Kamloops Daily News, and a current director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He was awarded the Jack Webster Foundation’s lifetime achievement award in 2011. His editorials are published Monday through Thursdays, and Saturdays on CFJC Today, CFJC Midday and CFJC Evening News. Contact him at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6810 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

9 Comments on ROTHENBURGER – One word scrawled on page 1 renders verdict in JWR case

  1. This is all a bit like the curtain lifting moment in the Wizard of Oz. We get a rare look at the political operatives behind the scene and how they use the tools of coercion, threat and flattery. It is not an inspiring picture of how things really work. But yes, let’s her their voices, and let them defend themselves against the curtain lifter who amply demonstrated courage, heart and intelligence. Will their voices be as credible and powerful, or, by contrast, small, timid and loyal? Hero? It’s more than a matter of allegiances and perspective. My Liberal card is torn in half, but I suppose I could mend it some and I’m willing to listen. (But, please, not again to that patrician figure of Canada’s top civil servant. Monty Python could have an entire circus with him.)

  2. Dawne Taylor // March 2, 2019 at 10:17 AM // Reply

    Readers should also see the column in the Globe and Mail by Yves Boisvert speaking of the legalities of the deferred prosecution alternative. Nothing is as easy as it would seem to those not involved.

  3. Paul Cousins // March 2, 2019 at 9:50 AM // Reply

    Prime Minister Socks, joke that he is, has had every opportunity to reply well in advance of JWRs appearance on the hill. And what we saw come out was his typical modis operandi – we’ve seen is several times since he was elected. When he was accused of accepting inappropriate gifts; when he was accused of groping a woman; when he renovated his personal recreational residence on the taxpayers dime; and now, when he is accused of interfering in the judicial system to benefit a long-standing corporate political ally. For those that need a recap, these are the Cole’s Notes:

    1) Declare he did nothing wrong.
    2) Hide behind other members of cabinet when direct questions were asked to him.
    2a) Sit smugly in the next chair, playing on his phone, while someone else embarrass themselves on his behalf.
    3) Blame the Harper government.
    4) Attempt an ad hominem campaign against the accuser.
    5) Try to convince himself and the world that it’s all matter of perspective.

    The former AG has copious notes, text mails, and phone records of the meetings – as you would expect from a person in the legal field. The Finance Minister, one of the people named, laughed about the fact that he took no notes whatsoever about the meetings. The Prime Minister refuses to answer questions about what information he has, or doesn’t have, from those meetings. He hasn’t even appeared in the House since JWR testified – the government House Leader Ms. Pointy Fingers has been left holding his bag and failing miserably at providing the answers demanded by the Opposition, and indeed Canadians at large.

    Socks has shown a pattern of behaviour based on his own entitlement and elitist attitude – you cannot be shocked when Canadian citizens start believing what’s been right in front of their eyes for over three years.

  4. Sean McGuinness // March 2, 2019 at 9:16 AM // Reply

    I don’t agree with Trudeau on everything. He seems like and honest guy who has more backbone than your average politician. I’ve always thought of him as a “straight-shooter”, even though I’d question his logic at times. He has stuck up for the rights of women, indigenous groups and minorities in the past. So I really don’t want to believe this “scandal” is anything serious. But there are some things one should not willfully ignore. JWR’s testimony is credible.
    Period. Yes, the jury isn’t out yet, and other views should be heard, but this should not become a circus. The “truth” is often quite simple.

  5. George S Duncan // March 2, 2019 at 8:32 AM // Reply

    If this current scandal were the only barnyard effluent the Trudeau gov’t has dumped on us, I’d agree with the Armchair Mayor. But it’s not. It’s the umpteenth scandal.
    Trudeau has angered and embarrassed Canadians like no other PM with his juvenile refusal to answer questions in the House of Commons (fingers in ears, “la la la la la”);
    his antics on the world stage (“Look at me! See me play!”);
    his violation of established ethics of the office;
    and his flippant disregard for the findings of any ethics committee report when he’s shown to have violated the law.
    Then there’s the squandering of Canada’s present and future wealth, which he continues to distribute to countries with no strong cultural or historical ties to Canada; and, of course, his blatant lies about having a balanced budget by this year, which he now says won’t be balanced until 2040 or thereabouts.
    No. If Trudeau had shown himself a competent and decent Prime Minister over the last three years (and counting), Canadians would cut him some slack and take Jody Wilson-Raybould’s testimony with a few grains of salt. But that’s just NOT THE CASE.
    Even syndicated columnist Warren Kinsella, the country’s No. 1 Liberal shill, promoting Justin Trudeau from the get-go, has washed his hands of this Prime Minister.
    At this point, the only people left who could be reasonably supportive of Justin are his wife and kids and those on the Liberal payroll.

    • George come on now…the country called Canada is the envy of the world despite all the “trumping” difficulties…you were upset about Trudeau from the onset…you demand honesty? Give some would’ya?

  6. I can just imagine how disruptive it will end up in the chamber if all the Facebook loonies show up and ask random questions. Speaking of Facebook, the frenzy of the JWR versus the Liberal government fueld by certain media outlets has reached farce status…heroic it is not.

    • George S Duncan // March 2, 2019 at 6:50 PM // Reply

      You think “Canada is the envy of the world” by accident? By divine intervention? Please. Canada is prosperous because previous generations worked hard, developed resources, managed the country and took responsibility.
      Freedom isn’t free, and neither is prosperity. You earn it and have to manage it.
      They taught that in the classes you apparently skipped.
      If you made money last year and peed it away on Internet gambling this year, would you still say you’re prosperous?

      • Freedom isn’t free and neither is prosperity…we earned it and we are managing it. You said it George, we are managing it and not by divine intervention. The Prime Minister and his cabinet have made some questionable decisions but overall are “managing” reasonably well.

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