There are times in this business when it’s simply great to be wrong.
And being wrong about the low expectations of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s testimony before the House of Commons justice committee was one of those times.
The past couple weeks hasn’t just been about setting Canadian politics on its head and perhaps toppling the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.
While that might very well be result and might very well be what a lot of Western Canadians — especially, rural Canadians — want to see, what Wilson-Raybould has done may be more important than even that.
It could be that Wilson-Raybould has injected a new standard of public ministerial accountability for all governments.
Her forthright testimony wreaked of credibility in its detailed and note-backed assertions of multiple examples of Trudeau, his former principle secretary Gerald Butts and that even the privy council applying undue pressure on the former attorney-general to give SNC-Lavalin an out-of-court prosecution deal.
Wilson-Raybould’s testimony was unprecedented and it has forced others in the Liberal government to consider that there needs to be another way to do politics. This is demonstrated by Jane Philpott’s decision to follow suit and also resign from cabinet.
Of course, the federal Conservatives and several of their close allies those in the Saskatchewan Party giddy at the Liberal misfortunate… but maybe others in politics need to be careful here.
As unlikely as it may seem, there’s always the chance the federal Liberals will get their act together.
After all, what happens if Trudeau is forced out and replaced by someone like Wilson-Raybould as leader? What then happens to the Sask. Party’s entire political narrative that’s been all about opposing the Trudeau brand?
But here is a perhaps the most intriguing question: What happens to the other existing governments are now held to the same standard of credibility and accountability as the federal Liberals now are?
That thought is worth pondering if you compare what’s gone with the SNC-Lavalin file in Ottawa the Global Transportation Hub file here in this province.
For three years now, the Sask. Party government has been haunted by the Global Transportation Hub scandal in which former minister and Kindersley MLA Bill Boyd rented farmland from a businessman who made $6 million by buying 204 acres of land under government expropriation. That land was then sold to a Regina businessman who made $5 million when he sold it to the GTH for $103,000 an acre.
Notwithstanding an RCMP investigation that found no grounds for criminal charge and notwithstanding early attempts by the then Brad Wall-led Sask. Party to claim there was no wrong-doing here, the matter has been nothing short of a political scandal.
While running for the Sask. Party leadership last year, most of the six candidates raised this as a concern _ the most critical being, former Saskatchewan attorney general Gord Wyant.
“We need to shine a very, very bright light on this,” Wyant told the CBC at the time. “And the only way to do that is to give the commissioner the power that he needs not only to compel witnesses and compel documents and testimony but to make some findings and so that we can put this whole thing behind us as a party.”
Well, fast forward to today when Wyant is deputy premier and education minister … and suddenly sees no need for the examination into the matter.
On at least 30 occasions, Sask. Party government backbenchers blocked GTH or government employees from having to testify before legislative committees examining the GTH.
Suffice to say, Saskatchewan taxpayers need more disclosure. This is also what Wyant once believed.
Right now, the contrast with Wilson-Raybould could not be more stark.
If Wilson-Raybould is the new standard, governments everywhere will struggle to step up to meet it.