OTTAWA — After weeks of sympathizing with his plight to save SNC-Lavalin from the potential penalties of criminal prosecution, Quebec’s pundit classes have now concluded that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau crossed the line in his dealings with former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.
In the hours after Wilson-Raybould’s scathing testimony at a Commons justice committee Wednesday evening, commentary emanating from the home province of the embattled engineering firm, which is being prosecuted for corruption, took on a harsher tone. Chantal Hébert, a Montreal-based columnist for the Toronto Star and L’actualité, put it this way on a Radio-Canada morning radio show Thursday: After a review of the newspapers, she said in French, “nobody is a friend of Trudeau this morning.”
Quebecers could think that Wilson-Raybould had made an error in judgment by deciding not to pursue a deferred prosecution agreement for SNC-Lavalin, in light of thousands of jobs that could be put at risk if a conviction resulted in a ban on bidding for public contracts. But they could at the same time agree that it was deeply inappropriate for the prime minister to spend four months trying to twist her arm after a decision had been made, Hébert argued.
The committee testimony was front page news for the likes of Le Devoir and the Journal de Montreal. But at midday you had to scroll down to find stories about Wilson-Raybould on the websites of most Quebec-based media outlets.