To the editor:
In following the SNC-Lavalin affair, I have concluded that it shows a clash between the politics of conviction and the more flexible politics of pragmatism.
When the law creating deferred prosecution agreements was newly passed in 2018, Jody Wilson-Raybould would have been aware that her cabinet colleagues were thinking of applying it to the SNC-Lavalin case.
After she told the prime minister on Sept. 17 that SNC-Lavalin was “not eligible” for the DPA, she instructed her staff to document every related interaction with government officials. This suggests an embattled stance even before any “interference” had occurred.
Wilson-Raybould’s government job was ambiguous. As attorney general, she had a legal role and was responsible for legal decisions on SNC-Lavalin. But, as the minister of justice, she had a political role and was responsible for exploring legal options with the cabinet team.
When the PMO asked that she seek outside legal advice, Wilson-Raybould saw this suggestion as “interference.” This despite the fact that her own deputy minister had written a document stating that one of the legitimate options of the Attorney-General was to seek outside legal advice.
On another matter, too, Wilson-Raybould went against her own deputy minister. At the request of the privy council, the deputy minister had produced a study of the possible effects of a criminal conviction on SNC-Lavalin.
Wilson-Raybould vetoed the release of this document to the privy council. At every point, Ms. Wilson-Raybould has acted as though, not only did she make the legal decisions, but she had no obligation to communicate with other government members on those decisions.
Why is SNC-Lavalin “not eligible” for use of the DPA? Wilson-Raybould has never stated her reasons. On the contrary, she has acted as though she had no need to do so.
I see Wilson-Raybould as demonstrating the unbending politics of conviction. She shows no willingness to consider alternative perspectives, and seems to doubt the integrity of anyone who questions her perspective.
I agree with Gerald Butts that the SNC-Lavalin case raises public-policy concerns. The stated purpose of DPA’s is to prevent harm to workers unconnected with corruption charges.
It also aims to help corporations rebuild after proven corruption. Nowadays, people are debating whether or not SNC-Lavalin would be crippled by a 10-year moratorium on federal contracts.
However, we know for certain that its efforts to rebuild would be significantly impeded. In my view, the 10-year moratorium is bad law. It is too punitive and should be shortened.
The politics of conviction is moral and rigid. Good politics can be both moral and flexible.