Saturday, 11 Jul 2020

Trudeau, Scheer shunned as some Daughters of the Vote attendees turn backs, walk out on speeches

Each of the 338 seats in the House of Commons has — for a little while, at least — been filled by a young woman.

The Daughters of the Vote are in Ottawa today to learn about the challenges that a life in politics entails in a bid to get more women to run for office.

But as they take their seats in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing questions over his decision to eject former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould and former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus last night after both criticized his handling of the allegations of political interference at the heart of the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

“I think we continue to work extremely hard on issues that matter to all Canadians, including gender equality,” Trudeau told reporters when asked if he can still call himself a feminist after kicking out two women who raised alarm bells over alleged “inappropriate” political meddling in the firm’s criminal case.

“I look forward to not just speaking to those young women who are here for Daughters of the Vote but listening to them … I have no doubt there will be questions about the internal challenges of the Liberal Party.”

Both Wilson-Raybould and Philpott were in the gallery overlooking the House of Commons as roughly a dozen of the young women rose to give speeches focusing on the need for electoral reform to bring a more diverse range of voices into the chamber and for more concrete Indigenous reconciliation measures.

Trudeau was the last of the leaders to speak following first Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. As he did, dozens of the delegates rose and turned their backs to him.

Estimates from reporters in the viewing galleries estimated between 25 and 40 of the delegates doing so.

His brief speech began by directly addressing the controversy and the criticisms facing him for his handling of the matter.

“I know there’s a lot of issues on people’s minds,” he said before pointing to the media coverage of the controversy and suggesting he believed there had been significant work to try to address concerns expressed by Wilson-Raybould and Philpott. “This is part of what politics is about.”

He continued, adding that “there is never going to be an absolute one side or another. There are always going to be multiple voices.”

“I know nobody in here wants to have to pick who to believe between Jody Wilson-Raybould and Chrystia Freeland,” Trudeau said. “There are always going to be a range of perspectives that we need to listen to.”

He then repeated the justification offered during remarks on Tuesday night in which he announced and defended kicking Wilson-Raybould and Philpott out.

“Diversity only works if there is trust,” he said. “In a team, when trust is broken we have to find way to move forward.”

Wilson-Raybould has described herself as doing just that in previous statements.

In contrast, several of the delegates walked out of a speech by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

His speech came after NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh got a standing ovation from the delegates for his speech, in which he called on those in politics to feel empowered to “speak truth to power” in what appeared to be a reference to the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

The shunning of Trudeau specifically came after several of the delegates took to social media on Tuesday night to condemn Trudeau for his decision to kick out Wilson-Raybould and Philpott from the Liberal caucus.

Wilson-Raybould described a “consistent and sustained effort” by top political staffers as well as Trudeau to pressure her “inappropriately” into overruling the decision of the director of public prosecutions not to offer SNC-Lavalin a way to avoid criminal trial on corruption charges.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation has called the allegations “concerning” and indicated that it planned to monitor the investigations into the allegations closely.

However, Liberal members of the House of Commons justice committee shut down their limited probe of the allegations earlier this month.

That came after they refused to allow Wilson-Raybould the opportunity to appear a second time before the committee to address challenges made to her explosive four-hour testimony in late February.

In response, Wilson-Raybould submitted a package of material to the committee corroborating the details of her original testimony and also included a secretly recorded conversation with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, who she accused of making “veiled threats” against her if she did not agree to cut a deal.

The revelation of that recording on Friday prompted a stunning reversal in the number of Liberal MPs willing to openly condemn Wilson-Raybould.

Just days later, Trudeau announced on Tuesday night that he had decided to kick her out of caucus, as well as Philpott, who had quit cabinet after saying she had “lost confidence” in his handling of the allegations.

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