Trudeau’s cry of libel sounds hollow
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/04/2019 (1522 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s threat to sue Andrew Scheer for libel hit the Conservative leader with all the force of a wet noodle. Mr. Scheer welcomed the chance to debate the SNC-Lavalin case in a court of law and dared Mr. Trudeau to press his claim. He also had reason to thank the prime minister for fanning a new flame from the dying embers of this year’s Liberal cabinet resignations.
Jody Wilson-Raybould quit cabinet on Feb. 12 and Jane Philpott followed her out on March 4 on account of a quarrel in cabinet over prosecuting engineering firm SNC-Lavalin for bribery, as opposed to cutting a deal with the firm.
Mr. Scheer proudly disclosed on Sunday the letter he had received a week earlier from Toronto litigator Julian Porter, representing Mr. Trudeau, threatening a suit for libel. On a quick read, the letter seems to announce dire consequences for Mr. Scheer. On closer examination, it is pretty thin stuff.
Mr. Scheer had complained that the prime minister “led a campaign to politically interfere with SNC-Lavalin’s criminal prosecution.” That’s false, Mr. Trudeau’s champion says, because there was no actual interference.
The underlying facts are well-known: Mr. Trudeau tried through multiple channels to get Wilson-Raybould, his justice minister, to tell her prosecutors to grant a deferred prosecution agreement to SNC-Lavalin. The minister refused. Mr. Trudeau’s purpose may or may not have been legitimate, but in the court of public opinion, there is no doubt he led a campaign to change her mind. His lawyer’s attempt to deny it misfired.
Mr. Scheer described Mr. Trudeau’s role in the case as “corruption upon corruption upon corruption.” Mr. Trudeau’s lawyer thinks that is false because in the Criminal Code, corruption is a crime good for up to 14 years in prison. But corruption is also a term thrown around freely in Canadian political debate to mean something the speaker doesn’t like — just a run-of-the-mill rant.
Mr. Scheer had complained that Mr. Trudeau gave the orders to grant SNC-Lavalin a free pass around bribery charges and when the justice minister refused, he fired her. That is a tendentious reading of the events, but only a little way off the mark. Mr. Trudeau’s lawyer supplies the words “he acted with malice and an improper purpose” and attributes that meaning to Mr. Scheer, then denies the malice and the improper purpose. And so, another strawman bites the dust.
No doubt Mr. Porter did the best he could with the material available, but his letter on Mr. Trudeau’s behalf was a dud. As intimidation, it failed, as seen by Mr. Scheer’s response. As a contribution to Canadian political debate, it was merely a series of evasions.
Mr. Porter would have served his client better by telling him to pursue the political debate in the political arena. A political solution is available since an election will be held this year, much sooner than a libel action started now would ever come to court. Already, the Conservatives have abandoned their House of Commons filibuster, sensing, perhaps, that the public is growing bored with the SNC-Lavalin story.
Mr. Scheer’s version of events should not be suppressed or judicially punished. Canadians are perfectly capable of comparing his version with the known facts and judging whether he is right.