Select Page

The initial post on this blog, SNC-Lavalin: Facts, Myths, and Uncertainties, attempted to provide an objective view of its subject while acknowledging the subjective aspects of the matter that required a judgmental interpretation. I point that out primarily to contrast that post with this one—which is somewhat more a matter of opinion; although I believe it is also based on a reasonable interpretation of available facts.

This post will deal with four things that stem from the SNC controversy: the possible motivation of Jody Wilson-Raybould; the treatment of the issue in the media; the behaviour of some interrogators during testimony on the matter; and some related fallacious arguments that have been raised.

Possible Motivation

Jody Wilson-Raybould showed a somewhat understandable aspect of her perception of history in her opening statement to the House of Commons justice committee.
“But my understanding of the rule of law has also been shaped by my experiences as an Indigenous person and as an Indigenous leader. The history of Crown-Indigenous relations in this country includes a history of the rule of law not being respected.”

A recent article in the Regina Leader Post discussed how then Minister Wilson-Raybould had been discharging her responsibilities as they relate to conflict between Canada and its indigenous community[1]. The article discussed a directive on civil litigation issued by the former Minister in January of 2019 that sets out guidelines government lawyers must follow when dealing with indigenous people’s claims. The general procedures had been in place for 18 months and in the summer of 2018 an internal memo critiquing the procedures claimed they were interfering with Crown lawyers’ ability to properly defend the interests of Canada. While the expressed intent had been to increase reliance on negotiation instead of court action, the actual impact was to limit the use of certain defences, and in some cases overrule recommendations to appeal court decisions—ostensibly to appear less adversarial toward indigenous plaintiffs. While the memo acknowledges the authority of the Attorney General in such decisions, it suggests Wilson-Raybould and her political staff were too immersed in specific cases, ironically even calling it “political interference”. The essence of the concern is expressed in the following quote.

“Everyone would be happy to see disputes between the Crown and First Nations that are currently in litigation to be settled by negotiations instead. That would seem consistent with a constructive approach to reconciliation. Generally, however, that is not happening, and DOJ’s path to reconciliation might instead be characterized as instructing its lawyers to “litigate badly”… This approach decreases the likelihood of Canada mounting a successful defense to litigation or even ensuring that necessary legal issues are fully canvassed in court. While this might seem like a ‘back door’ approach to amiable settlement with indigenous plaintiffs, such an approach might be argued to be inconsistent with democratic values and the public trust. It certainly seems to be inconsistent with upholding the rule of law, which is generally recognized as the fundamental responsibility of an Attorney General”.

In spite of the strong irony of a claim that the former Minister was interfering in her department’s activities for political reasons, I chose not to include this discussion in my initial post on SNC-Lavalin as I had just found it and had to consider its significance–it was a balanced account that included support for the new approach from some lawyers, and concern about it from others. The Regina Leader Post’s account was powerful on its own and goes further than my excerpts so I recommend interested readers review it directly. The approach taken by the former Minister may reveal a willingness to put her finger on the scale. If that is true, it would raise legitimate questions. It might also contribute to understanding her strong reaction to being removed from the justice portfolio. Obviously, the withdrawal of the ability to influence such negotiations would not have been offset by the opportunity to lead the Indigenous Services portfolio so her initial decision to charge improper conduct may have been, in part, motivated by a possibility that she might force a reversal of that decision. Other than this, I have not been able to discover a persuasive explanation for the actions of the former Minister, in particular her levying accusations well after the fact.

The Fourth Estate – A Pillar of Democratic Society

In general, I refrain from criticizing the commercial media because on balance I believe any errors of interpretation are outweighed by the public service delivered by investigative reporting. Nonetheless, the general treatment of this controversy in the media has been quite disappointing. Of course, news reporting and opinion pieces should be assessed differently. And even news reporting is done at high speed so is susceptible to the occasional slipup. However, I surveyed a large number of news reports from the major media sources, including both print and television commentaries. A very few of these refrained from taking a judgmental point of view against the current government and, in particular, the Prime Minister. Even the venerable CBC’s early news reporting said that the Prime Minister had commented but not apologized—leaving the obvious impression that he should have apologized. That attitude was pervasive in early reports with only one exception that I found—a TV commentator who obviously surprised her fellow panelists by saying, ‘I am not sure why we should expect him to apologize’. In fairness, this could not be a truly comprehensive survey since I am only one person. However, following the testimony of others in the government to the justice committee, I did search for quite a while hoping to find a balanced account. Eventually a few reports acknowledged the inconsistencies, although many dealt with them through dismissive comments that reduce the complexities to “he said-she said”. I think that reasonably balanced investigative reporting should have attempted to provide a closer assessment of both sides in the dispute.

The relatively uncritical treatment of the initial accusations by the broad media has led to a pronounced decline in approval of the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister—it may cost them the election, or result in a minority government. As I argued in the original post that is a perverse result given that the initial clam of wrongdoing is highly questionable. That result seems to reflect a significant measure of empathy accorded to the two women, who have been perceived as underdogs in the controversy (although that is a dubious perception). A young male friend of mine said, “I used to like Mr. Trudeau but I can’t vote for him after what he did to that woman”. The ‘what-he-did-to-that-woman’ part of that reaction clearly stems from the broad one-sided reporting across the country.

Justice Committee Interrogation

The political opposition has intensified the situation through exaggeration and outright misrepresentation. Well, that’s politics you say? I concur, but I doubt very many ordinary citizens consider that a good thing. I believe most people, regardless of political leanings, would prefer honesty and civility with debate based on facts and focussed on policy. Unfortunately, history has shown that sometimes ignoring truth to disseminate misinformation can reinforce negative feelings about political opponents, both among core supporters of the deceiver, and more importantly among others who simply are not familiar with the issue at hand.

My primary criticism of opposition politicians stems from their jaundiced behaviour during the justice committee questioning of witnesses and, in particular, their unfair treatment of a long-serving public servant. They were clearly seeking to find or create political advantage by attacking those who were contradicting their preferred story. To be clear, Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council (a non-partisan group that provides advice to the PM and Cabinet) and Gerald Butts, former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, were directly and emphatically, albeit politely, contradicting the former AG. Mr. Wernick appeared twice and the second time he was subjected to interrogation that was quite hostile. Lisa Raitt began a line of questioning by saying, “Mr. Wernick, you have given incredibly conflicted testimony”. This provocative opening was likely intended to elicit responses that might appear defensive (she is, after all, a trained lawyer). She raised a concern (assessed in the Appendix) based on previous testimony that I’ll only say here seemed contrived and, in my opinion, was not borne out by the subsequent testimony. However, it was misleading and unexpected, clearly surprised Mr. Wernick and thus, in part, seemed to throw him off balance. The hostility continued with NDP questioners, Charlie Angus and Murray Rankin who were equally aggressive—largely challenging him on grounds that since he was contradicting Ms. Wilson-Raybould, he could not be trusted.

At about hour 1.25 in the proceeding, Ms. Raitt asked a series of questions implying there was something inappropriate about the fact that Mr. Wernick reported having taken a telephone call from the Chair of the SNC Board. She first questioned his integrity by accusing him of deliberately omitting that call in previous testimony. He reminded her that he had been interrupted in reading the record and had agreed to provide that record in writing and had done so. Of course, she was there and is a trained lawyer so there is virtually no chance that she didn’t know that. She then noted that SNC’s Chair, Kevin Lynch, was former Clerk of the Privy Council. After citing the conflict of interest act, she asked Mr. Wernick if he was concerned that Mr. Lynch’s call violated it—he responded no. She then asked if Mr. Wernick was wrong to take the call, particularly since he had previously testified (as she put it, “with great glee”) that he left a public dinner function because of the presence of SNC executives. Again, this appeared to be designed to colour those events to reflect badly on him. However, any official in public service (and most lawyers) recognize that on certain occasions a civil servant might unexpectedly come across people in a social setting who are participants in a dispute that the official could influence or even just be perceived as able to influence. In such cases, the prudent action is to withdraw to avoid a subsequent allegation of improper behaviour. That is a very different situation from taking a call that is registered as being received, from an executive involved in such a dispute who may have legitimate reason to be calling. Mr. Wernick responded there was nothing wrong with taking a phone call on a current issue from the Chair of the company involved. Getting nowhere with these tactics Ms. Raitt turned to a loaded question; “Can you not see how disturbing this could be for Canadians to see that former Clerks, who are now Chairs of Boards of SNC-Lavalin, could have easy access, and immediate access, into the central office of this government”… Mr. Wernick said no. He could have answered that more effectively, even by just repeating what he had just said, but she had succeeded in raising his defenses to the point they may have inhibited clear thinking. In any case, the implication was established and no doubt contributed to the news and commentary that questioned Mr. Wernick’s independence. The subsequent, equally hostile, questioning from NDP members Murray Rankin and in particular Charlie Angus was even more disrespectful, illustrating that questionable behaviour may emanate from all areas of the political spectrum.

Even the Green party leader, Elizabeth May had started her questioning of Gerald Butts by noting their friendship, but then she announced she believed the former Attorney General completely before asking relevant questions. She dropped a notch or two on my opinion scale and I have to wonder if some gender-based influence was involved. But she at least was open about her obvious bias in the matter.
Because I suspect the exchanges above were instrumental in shaping the reaction in the media, I provide selections from those exchanges in the Appendix, along with my critical commentary. I suspect some of these points might not occur to someone just listening to the exchange once. They would have to put some effort into reviewing the exchanges to uncover the inherent misdirection.

Comments on the Interrogation Process

The interrogation by the opposition did not appear to seek clarification from the government witnesses about their testimony. Rather it seemed intended to attack those witnesses and orchestrate an adverse impression around their testimony. There seemed to be no intent to uncover the actual facts around the disagreement. The questioners were hostile seemingly because whatever the truth was, the witnesses were contradicting the story that provided a political advantage to the interrogators.

If that had played out with political interrogators attacking other political operatives, I would have had little to say. I would still have disliked the spin and deception, but there seems to be a broad acceptance among many in the political arena that such tactics are tolerable. But that was not the case here. Here we had Members of Parliament using hostile and aggressive tactics to gain political advantage by attacking a civil servant. While they also tried to weaken the account of Gerald Butts, he is a political operative and likely has experience with such tactics and perhaps was even expecting them. Michael Wernick is different. He is a career civil servant, who has, for the most part, been engaged in the provision of relevant facts, and perhaps in identifying alternate courses of action as an advisor to political decision-makers. He distinguished himself sufficiently to rise to the highest post in Canada’s government bureaucracy, Clerk of the Privy Council, after a lengthy career under both Conservative and Liberal Governments. This undoubtedly involved a significant sacrifice on his part—both in terms of the long hours such positions require and, since presumably his talents would have enabled him to at least reach the higher echelons in the private sector—through lower compensation. He came to the committee meetings expecting to get, at a minimum, the fair treatment that he had earned over a lifetime of neutral public service. Instead he was blindsided, insulted, and treated shabbily, not because there was substantive reason for that but rather for political objectives. And again, our media was either thoughtlessly buying in to the contrived implications or lamentably on the sidelines (no investigative or even thoughtful journalism needed here). The fact that this individual was put in a position to have to resign because of political machinations, motivated by the perceived political advantage of a few of our elected representatives, is disappointing, and in my opinion, unjustified.

Some Examples of Related Misinformation

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” (Mark Twain)

An interesting though pernicious example is provided by the Fraser Institute, a right leaning think tank with whom I mostly, but not always, disagree. In this case, they used a projection of job losses in the oil and gas sector to provide an incredibly misleading, illegitimate comparison with the SNC-Lavalin controversy. Their comment sets out projected job losses from economic decline, 12,000 in Canada of which 9,600 are likely in Alberta, and ties that to the SNC matter by comparing it to one of the reasons for the concern about SNC-Lavalin; namely that not allowing a deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) could put at risk up to 9,000 jobs in Canada. The Fraser Forum note included the following statement[2].

“Now, 9,000 jobs aren’t trivial. But it was odd how little mention was given to jobs lost in Alberta due to this federal government’s dithering on pipeline approvals, and tabling legislation (bills C-48 …and C-69) that will likely make things even more uncertain.”

This is sophistry at a high level. First the implication that federal officials’ concern about how the SNC legal matter was resolved is in any way comparable to the economic downturn in another sector of the economy–in this case the oil sector, is both deceptive and inane. Comparing a specific legal issue to a broad economic issue makes no sense on any level, in particular suggesting that discussion on the legal issue should include comment about a specific, unrelated economic issue. The implied disparaging comparison was also misleading in this case, since the Federal government did respond to Alberta’s plight, through adjustments to unemployment insurance rules, a $1.6 Billion grant and loan program for the energy industry, and by the dramatic and gutsy step of purchasing a $4.6 Billion pipeline, even though they knew that purchase would be politically unpopular in other provinces, and unlikely to sway criticism in Alberta. Second, Fraser manages to insert the unfounded suggestion that the oil sector downturn was caused by delayed pipeline approvals (in fact caused by court action) and bills affecting the sector (that are controversial but very recent so could not have caused job losses). This misleading suggestion is made in spite of the fact that the projection itself attributes the problem to “low commodity prices, a decline in capital spending, and uncertainty about getting oil and gas to market.” The low commodity price is the main factor. It led to lower capital spending and those two vastly outweigh the uncertainty factor—although uncertainty never helps (but in this case is greatly reduced by the purchase of the pipeline). Nonetheless, it is true that the price received in Alberta was lower than it would otherwise have been because of pipeline constraints. Those constraints had existed during previous Conservative governments in both Ottawa and Alberta, illustrating they were a tough problem to resolve. And prices were low enough to cause substantial pain even without the pipeline constraint. In any case, the generally depressed oil market in North America is the primary cause of the recessionary economy in Alberta. But that explanation is not as effective for opponents as vague reasoning that blames only current federal and provincial governments. This carefully constructed story was picked up by talk radio and other media in Alberta and elsewhere (while the truth went shoeless) and successfully inflamed many in Alberta who are not following these events closely.

I chose to deal with this example in some detail because it shows how facts can sometimes be inappropriately marshalled to deceive the public. There are other examples related to SNC-Lavalin, but a common one is the simple and widespread ploy of referring to the SNC-Lavalin controversy as a scandal. It is not a scandal, it is a dispute among former members of the government; but there are two sides and yet even mainstream media often use terminology that leads the uninformed public astray. And that contributes to the perception that there was inappropriate behaviour, which is certainly suggested by the former AG (although not serious enough in her mind to rise to illegality), but decidedly not supported by others in government or, in my view, by a careful review of the testimony and evidence.

And finally, there is the unfortunately predictable attempt by the political opposition to reap benefit from the controversy, regardless of the impact on the company, its employees and other innocent parties and with little regard to seeking the truth. Andrew Scheer, leader of the Official Opposition claimed shortly after Ms. Wilson-Raybould testified on February 27, 2019 that these events proved corruption thus requiring the Prime Minister to resign. This premature, imprudent claim came at such an early stage that it would have been laughable but for the unfortunate tendency of many to accept headlines uncritically. Unfortunately, propagandists on the right, supported by continuing unresponsiveness in the mainstream media have allowed him to perpetuate this unsupportable claim. He and his party continue to suggest corruption and are using it to raise funds and compete through appealing to the dark side of their supporters and the ignorance of those who follow such things in a cursory way (understandably, as most people are busy with their lives and do not have time to focus on such things). This is consistent with the approach of the current Conservatives to use purely personal ads to paint an unflattering view of the current Prime Minister. The rest of the world has put the lie to that. Mr. Trudeau is a respected and admired leader in other countries, but opposition politicians here continue a personal attack instead of focussing on debating policy differences.

I suggest readers compare this approach to that of the Prime Minister himself. Critics love to parody his catch phrase “Sunny Ways” but he has lived up to it over the entire first term of his government. While critics were criticizing him for apologizing for everything, others were reporting that he had not apologized early on in this dispute. Presumably, he did not apologize because he did not think he or his officials had done anything wrong. He has shown a willingness to acknowledge mistakes so his reluctance to do so in this case is significant. He also could have orchestrated criticism of the former AG, but he didn’t do that either. And he attempted to bring her back into the fold but could not structure a reasonable agreement (among other things it was reported that she wanted others fired). He delayed removing her from caucus until other members forced the issue. And there is one forecast that people who have forgotten why they liked him can check as time goes on. You will not see personal attacks from Justin Trudeau—you will only see presentations and debate about issues of public policy. That should be valued more than it appears to be in this era of income inequality, environmental crisis, and the exploitation of ignorance and intolerance.


Annotated Transcript Segments (a personal transcript from the video)

Transcript: Lisa Raitt questioning

(Hour 1.25) Mr. Wernick, you have given incredibly conflicted testimony, and I’m going to take you through some of it. (First, Ms. Raitt asks about timing of when the former AG had made up her mind and Mr. Wernick responds. They continue.)

Mr. Wernick you have provided your contacts with SNC-Lavalin. I find it very helpful, I want to thank you for it but I am troubled by one thing. You went to great lengths in telling us at your last testimony about how you had only a few meetings with them and indeed you had several email request for meetings and on September 18, a meeting you took and you registered it and then you told us about running into SNC Executives at the NAC Gala and that you left right away, indeed the clerk contact also indicates there were further requests for more meetings; until October 15th, and you took a call from the former clerk of the Privy Council, Kevin Lynch.

……(brief discussion of the date)

Here is my concern. You rejected everybody else in terms of speaking about SNC –Lavalin but you took the meeting from a former clerk of the Privy Council. My concern is this, that section 33 of the conflict of interest codes sets out exactly what a previous office holder can and can’t do. And what it says is no former office holder shall act in such a manner as to take improper advantage of his or her previous public office. Now you rejected all SNC, you told us with great glee that you walked out of an important dinner that you wanted to go to because you didn’t want to be seen with them and yet you took a call from the former clerk.

Do you have concerns that the former clerk breached his duties and obligations to Canada?

Mr. Wernick: No.

Ms. Raitt: You don’t think that you took the call from Kevin Lynch because he was the former Clerk of the Privy Council?

Mr. Wernick: No.

Ms. Raitt: Why did you take the call from Mr. Lynch?

Mr. Wernick: Mr. Lynch was the Chair of the Board. I knew this was an active issue. In October, I took a meeting with the company. They are not a pariah. It was not improper to have communications with the company. The conversation was a telephone conversation, not a meeting and it lasted less than 10 minutes. Mr. Lynch, as the Chair of the Board expressed frustration; did not understand why a DPA was not being considered and he knew that the Board in its trustee relationship for the shareholders was going to have to make some tough decisions in October and November. My recollection of the conversation is, he asked, “Isn’t there anything to be done?” and I told him in the firmest and curtest possible terms, no: he would have to go through the Attorney General and the DPP through his counsel.

Ms. Raitt: Wow! So not more than two weeks ago when you gave your first testimony about having no contact with SNC-Lavalin you said nothing about this phone call and yet today …

Mr. Wernick (interrupting): I was cut off, if you recall Ms. Raitt. I was proceeding to read the chronology and I was cut off with it incomplete and undertook to provide the chronology to the committee – which I have done.

Ms. Raitt: Well, thank you for cutting me off Clerk. But as I was going to say, I think it is incredibly pertinent and you must have had knowledge of it because you gave us almost a verbatim about what the content of that telephone call was. Can you not see how disturbing this could be for Canadians, to see that former clerks who are now Chairs of Boards of SNC-Lavalin have easy access and immediate access into the central office of this government? Into your office when you turned down everybody else and walked out of a Gala because you didn’t want to see SNC anymore? Do you not see that as a problem for this country?

Mr. Wernick: No

Comment: Ms. Raitt begins by accusing Mr. Wernick of incredibly conflicted testimony—an assertion that is not borne out by the subsequent discussion but likely served to put Mr. Wernick into a defensive posture. She then describes a fairly normal reaction of an official connected to a sensitive matter in a social situation. Mr. Wernick says he left a Gala to avoid SNC officials (and a possible incorrect perception). Ms. Raitt describes his statement as “with great glee”. She then takes up the fact that Mr. Wernick accepted a phone call from Kevin Lynch, current Chair of SNC (and former Clerk of the Privy Council). Note that that information had been provided to the committee by Mr. Wernick himself but Ms. Raitt attempts to paint it as inappropriate. She eventually asks him why he took the call and he responds with a reasonably credible statement to the effect that taking a call from the company was not, in itself, inappropriate but that when the conversation turned to ‘could anything be done about the situation’, he informed Mr. Lynch he would have to query the Attorney General through his legal counsel. At this point Ms. Raitt interrupts to accuse him of neglecting to mention this contact in previous testimony and he interjects that he had been interrupted and agreed to provide the chronology in writing which he did (as she obviously knew). Ms. Raitt tries to sidestep his explanation, saying …” it is incredibly pertinent and you must have had knowledge of it” … Of course he had just stated that, so she is simply trying to confuse both him and listeners. Then she asks her series of questions implying his taking the call is an ethical problem. He responded no, and while it is true he could have expounded on that or simply reiterated what he had just said, I believe he was now unsettled by the hostility and chose to avoid providing further opening for misrepresentation.
Ms. Raitt had tried a similar tactic with Mr. Butts earlier by misstating something Butts had just said and adding–because that is what you just told us. Mr. Butts challenged her, stating that is not what he had said, and proceeded to correct her. The difference in responses likely stems from the fact that Mr. Butts is a political operative, undoubtedly used to people misrepresenting his words, and so he was more prepared for this ploy. Mr. Wernick was a career civil servant who was not expecting the hostility and misrepresentation and was somewhat thrown off by it.
In my opinion, Ms. Raitt established no contradictions or inappropriate behaviour, yet the approach was itself inappropriate, unfair, and misleading.

Transcript: Charlie Angus questioning

I’m looking at your statement and I find it pretty thin gruel, given the fact that five former Attorney’s General have asked for an RCMP investigation. Former Liberal Attorney general Michael Bryant said he’s never seen such “brazen and reckless interference in an independent prosecution”. We’ve had two cabinet Ministers resign, Ms. Philpott saying she had constitutional and ethical obligations in the face of political interference. You are one of the key political actors in this Mr. Wernick and yet I find what’s missing from here is any attempt to explain what happened in that key meeting of December 19th where we asked Ms. Wilson-Raybould, on record, if you threatened her and she said she wasn’t threatened once, she was threatened three times by you. And then she said that you wanted to find a way to talk directly to the Prosecutor which would be a direct interference in the prosecution case and she warned you that you were on dangerous ground. How come you haven’t even tried to rebut her testimony?

(Hour 1.31) Mr. Wernick: I haven’t been asked the question Mr. Angus. I do not have independent recollection of what I said, I did not record the conversation; I did not wear a wire; I did not take contemporaneous notes and that is not my recollection of the way the conversation flowed.

Mr. Angus: I put it to you Mr. Wernick. You are asked about threatening the Attorney General. You are asked about treading on dangerous ground. And you tell our committee well, I wasn’t wearing a wire. Sorry I don’t remember; Mr. Wernick that is not a credible answer. You are to be the Clerk of the Privy Council. If you come to a meeting and you can’t remember threatening the Attorney General and tell us well, I’m sorry I wasn’t wearing a wire, I suggest Mr. Wernick that the brazen and reckless interference referred to by five former Attorney’s General refers directly to you and if you cannot answer that question you have no business being in that job.

Mr. Wernick: So I have said at this committee before and I will say again, I did not threaten the Attorney General in any way…

Mr. Angus (interrupting): But you don’t remember, you told us you don’t remember!

Mr. Wernick (interrupting): If you want the answer …

(Chairman directs the answer be heard.)

Mr. Wernick: I have never raised partisan considerations. I reminded her repeatedly she was the final decision-maker. I did not attempt to influence her decision. I was giving her relevant context about public interest considerations. I did not suggest any consequences for her. I made no threats to the former Attorney General.

Mr. Angus: Oh, so now you remember. Well I’ll just end on this. She said she expected a Saturday night Massacre which is a reference to Richard Millhouse Nixon who fired a special prosecutor and lo and behold she was replaced two weeks later so I think Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s testimony is very credible and I’m very sad that you get a second kick at the can and She’s not given a chance to rebut what you’re saying today.

Mr. Wernick: I note that several members of this committee have said that they believe every word of the former Attorney General’s testimony. Part of what she testified is that she does not believe that any behaviour crossed the threshold of criminal behaviour so your ….

Several Interruptions: (Chairman ends discussion saying “no crosstalk back and forth”.)

Comment: The behaviour of Mr. Angus is even more egregious and insubstantial. He first calls Mr. Wernicks testimony thin gruel citing five former Attorneys General (albeit provincial) including an Ontario Liberal who describes what happened as brazen …interference. Of course, these individuals have no direct knowledge of anything that occurred but Mr. Angus is happy to incorporate their opinions. Then he brings up the two ministers who resigned, even though Ms. Philpott is another who was not directly involved and so has no direct knowledge either. After inappropriately referring to Mr. Wernick as a political actor in this matter, Mr. Angus gets to the question as to why Mr. Wernick has not tried to rebut the testimony of Ms. Wilson-Raybould. Mr. Wernick starts well—pointing out that no one has asked him specifically but then gives Mr. Angus an opening by saying that he did not wear a wire etc. and that is not his recollection of how the conversation flowed. Mr. Angus reacted with anger and insults. Mr. Wernick’s initial testimony had, of course, addressed the accusation by simply providing his view of the interaction with the former AG. The subsequent submission of a tape of the conversation, in my opinion as addressed in my initial post on this subject, supports his contention that he did not threaten her. Although a few things might have been phrased better, his tone was questioning, deferential, and in no way threatening. Mr. Wernick then provides a more complete and definitive answer to which Mr. Angus has no response so he finishes with an irrelevant comment about Richard Nixon’s firing of a special prosecutor, deceptively conflating that with the reassignment of the former AG, a matter over which Mr. Wernick had no authority and which had been credibly explained by Mr. Butts .

In sum, these two interrogations elicited nothing of significance about Mr. Wernick, other than that he strongly disagreed with the former AG. However, the antagonistic approach left an impression that he had been deceitful. These tactics by an aggressive lawyer and an even more hostile interrogator were essentially bullying by two members of Parliament who sought political advantage and had no qualms about misrepresenting Mr. Wernick and his testimony to achieve that. Mr. Angus later publicly (and absurdly) called for the resignation of Mr. Wernick putting him in an untenable position, since the Clerk of the Privy Council must have the confidence of all parties. So Mr. Wernick resigned under a contrived cloud after 37 years of public service in both Liberal and Conservative governments. That resignation has been used by others as being more smoke that suggests there was a fire. A more reasonable interpretation is that the former Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick, is a person of integrity.

[1] “Inconsistent with democratic values”: Internal conflict flared over Wilson-Raybould’s controversial last act as Justice Minister, Maura Forrest, updated: April 16, 2019,

[2] About those 9,000 jobs, Mr. Prime Minister, Fraser Forum Blog  — April 16, 2019