An opening inventory of take-aways from the SNC-Lavalin affair

We could choke the internet with take-aways from the SNC-Lavalin controversy. It’s far from over, but let’s start with these:

1. The combined cabinet portfolio of justice and attorney general has to go. The government of the day put Jody Wilson-Raybould, like her predecessors, in an impractical situation. The justice portfolio advocates the government’s agenda and the attorney general impartially determines the prosecutorial path. Tension naturally ensues, the hats can’t switch, so fix the unique-to-Canada anachronism.

2. If Justin Trudeau is trying to bring emotional intelligence into the political sphere, he has to learn how to empathize and apologize with a disposition less resistant than a reluctant root canal patient.

3. The tide has turned, and when someone asserts that advocacy is persuasion and when someone else asserts that advocacy is pressure, we no longer see it as a saw-off or as a matter of agreeing to disagree on the interpretation of the discord. In this circumstance in 2019, the person pressured is to be believed.

4. As a principle politicians need to attract, build and protect jobs as a duty of office, but not when companies break and conduct themselves consciously outside the rules, even with eventual contrition.

5. A Quebec engineering company job to be protected at almost all cost appears to be worth about 10 Alberta resource jobs to be protected at some cost.

6. Media have to stop permitting political cowards to spread anonymous disparagement of others as some sort of punch in the blindfolded face. The practice is a long-standing disgrace to the craft and corrodes hard-earned and easily frittered trust.

7. The unelected Prime Minister’s Office is preposterously powerful. Can’t anyone please pledge to diminish it?

8. Gerald Butts need not have resigned his role as the most important adviser to Justin Trudeau in order to speak about this matter. He, and those who establish the rules of conduct, should have found a way for him to publicly state his position without professionally abandoning his post. No matter your political perspective, his unsuccessful attempt to shield his boss cost the country an important element in running it.

9. It is difficult to see how Wilson-Raybould is permitted to run for the Liberals this fall, but it is much more difficult to see how Trudeau rescinds his permission.

10. Libya and many other countries have been cesspools of corruption, but that doesn’t mean we should consider bribery and paying for prostitutes for visiting officials as an acceptable price of doing business. What are we saying about our own moral standards when we shrug?

11. Once the Public Prosecution Service of Canada renders its view, game over.

12. Administrations are systems, and one system is to figure out who can prod whom, when and how. The exertion of influence in the SNC-Lavalin affair suggests it is time for the Trudeau administration to figure out who stays in which lane.

13. An election is when we get to decide if a government has earned renewal. How the government has dealt with scandal is one way we judge. But the notion of calling an election over any scandal short of a public crisis is unhealthy.

14. As we head into October, the single largest accomplishment of the Liberal government appears to be the legalization of cannabis – and even that has been a hot mess.

15. We have said this for decades: the Indian Act cannot disappear soon enough. Nor can omnibus legislation.

16. Given the rush by various parties to tap into former Supreme Court justices, maybe we’d better create an Eminent Court of Canada to get a few of these tricky bones thrown their way for consideration.

17. Scott Brison must shake his head at how he went safely from being a Conservative MP to a leadership candidate to a Liberal MP to a scandal-free cabinet minister to a bank executive and only now in departing politics generated any kind of cascade of woe.

18. As far as I can tell, Donald Trump had nothing to do with any of this – at least, as of this writing. Any moment I stand to be corrected. •

Kirk LaPointe is editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.