I have no problem with Prime Minster Justin Trudeau kicking former cabinet ministers Judy Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpot out of the Liberal caucus.
After all, it was clear from comments they had made over the past few weeks following their resignations from their cabinet positions that they were never going to be productive members of the Liberal team again.
But I disagree with what the prime minister is using as his reason for parting company with them – a lack of trust that resulted from Wilson Raybould’s taping of a phone conversation she had with Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council, while she was attorney-general.
I think this is hogwash.
I believe the writing was on the door marked out for Wilson-Raybould ever since she wouldn’t force the independent director of public prosecutions to drop charges of fraud and corruption against SNC-Lavalin and replace them with a remediation agreement, which would see the company pay a hefty fine but escape any time fighting the charges in court.
Wilson-Raybould was demoted from her position as attorney-general to minister of veterans affairs in January and the reason for that became evident in February when The Globe and Mail broke the story about the pressure she had been under to do what Trudeau wanted.
Trudeau called the taping of her conversation with Wernick “unconscionable” and his minions piled on.
“When you break the trust that you have with caucus, it’s all over. It’s done. And that’s what happened here,” Wayne Easter, MP for Prince Edward Island, said of the release of the conversation Wilson-Raybould taped without Wernick’s knowledge.
“To tape a conversation without informing the person and that person being the clerk of the Privy Council, that is, as the prime minister said, unconscionable.”
Sault MP Terry Sheehan told The Sault Star the release of a taped telephone conversation Wilson-Raybould had with Wernick was the final straw.
“For a lot of MPs across the country, the trust issue, and in particular the taped telephone conversation, was difficult,” he said. “It’s extremely difficult to work as a team when the trust is not there.”
Sheehan also said he was told you cannot tape a client’s conversation without permission.
He should have checked that statement out before he said it and the reporter should have called him on it because in this country that is not the case.
In fact, considering I talked with Sheehan many times when he was on our city council representing the residents of Ward 2, I probably taped him on many of those occasions.
However, that is beside the point.
Wilson-Raybould was under fire. Wernick was disputing her claim that she was being pressured by representatives of the prime minister.
She made the tape public to back up her claim and it did.
I applaud her for doing so.
The Canadian public should be entitled to the truth and it was obvious we weren’t getting it from the prime minister or his staff members.
A tape, at least an undoctored one, which no one has claimed this one was, doesn’t lie.
I got into this last summer in regard to U.S. President Donald Trump being upset that his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, released a secretly-recorded tape of a conversation in which the two men are heard discussing a potential payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claimed to have had an affair with Trump before he was president.
The tape was seized by the FBI during raids on Cohen’s residence and office in April as part of a larger investigation by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
Trump said he did nothing wrong and also questioned the legality of both the raids and the tape, writing: “Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) – almost unheard of. Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client – totally unheard of and perhaps illegal. Sad.”
I said in my column at the time that a tape is a great arbiter of disputes, as it has been in the case at hand.
There is no longer any dispute as to whether Wilson-Raybould was telling the truth.
All the Liberals can complain about now is that it was unethical or inappropriate for her to make the tape of her conversation with Wernick in the first place..
In the U.S., 11 states require that all parties in a conversation must agree to the taping of it. However, the District of Columbia, like the state of New York, has a “one-party consent” wiretapping law.
Canada follows the “one-party consent” rule, meaning it is legal to record your own conversations, whether they are had on the telephone or in person.
I fully subscribe to this.
Toronto MP Adam Vaughan said the revelation “impacts the frankness by which we have conversations with people.”
A former journalist, Vaughan said: “I know that when you use a microphone and you know it’s being recorded and the other person doesn’t, it puts the other person at a significant disadvantage. It also puts the person recording it at inappropriate advantage. I think for those reasons there are rules for lawyers, there are rules for journalists, there are rules in place for how recorded conversations are used as evidence.”
As a journalist, I had a hard time believing that comment came out of a former journalist’s mouth.
There is no margin of error in taping; if you want absolute accuracy in quotes, this is how to get it. I have had to correct things I have said but I have never had to correct a quote.
Taping protects those on both ends of a conversation, the one asking the questions and the one providing the answers.
The only reason the Liberals are complaining in the case at hand is because they were caught out. If it had been a case of Wernick having a tape that backed him up, they would have been all for the tapiing, whether it was with Wilson-Raybould’s knowledge or not.
I ended my column on Trump’s complaint about Cohen taping him with the following:
“Those who have control of their thoughts and mouths should have no fear of having their conversations taped.
“That, of course, is probably why Trump, who has no control of either, is railing against it.”
ALTHOUGH I FULLY SUPPORT Wilson-Raybould sticking with the decision of the independent public prosecutor to charge SNC-Lavalin, I do have some issues with how she handled her job as attorney-general, especially in regard to a couple of cases of wrongful convictions. I will address these matters next week.