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 firstname.lastname@example.org.