Martyn Brown: Dr. Philpott’s unspoken sage advice to Liberals—lance the boil beneath the Band-Aid

    1 of 3 2 of 3

      Furuncles are painful things.

      Those festering swollen sores we all know as boils are not easily remedied by covering them up with Band-Aids. Filled, as they are, with so much puss and dead tissue, they can lead to no end of horrid complications if left unattended.

      Such infections can even be deadly if they get into the bloodstream and attack the heart or strike bone. 

      No one knows that better than Canada’s ultimate Good Doctor: Dr. Jane Philpott, whose well-meaning sage advice to all Liberals in Paul Wells’s Macleans scoop interview has been predictably not well received by her caucus colleagues.

      Yet far from being offered with intent to hurt, her brave words should be heeded in the spirit intended, as urgently needed action to heal her party, which is now a very sick puppy.

      Instead of being vilified by those who are still in denial about their political predicament, she should be thanked for her ongoing efforts. 

      A physician by trade, Philpott knows a thing or two about sickness and rot when she sees it—and also, about what needs to be done to treat it, no matter how agonizing.

      In the context of the prime minister’s ongoing LavScam cover-up, that means not only ripping off the Band-Aid with a full airing of the facts. But also, lancing the metaphorical boil. 

      Which, as it now pertains to the Liberal body politic, is Canada’s prime minister—a real raging beauty who won’t be pricked or removed without tears of courage and uncommon toughness.

      That uncomfortable fact will become screamingly urgent after Jody Wilson-Raybould delivers her forthcoming submission to the Commons justice committee. 

      When Puglaas and Philpott (P&P) have their say, as they inevitably will, it will become patently clear that it is Trudeau who is the root source of the Liberals’ misery—and he must be dealt with as such. 

      The pain that he invited and perpetuates will not easily subside by holding him harmless. Nor will it be aided by casting aspersions on the messengers sounding the alarm on all that marks his conduct in this matter as evil. 

      Listen to Dr. Philpott’s damning diagnosis: 

      “I resigned because I could not maintain solidarity with cabinet on the specific issue of the management of the SNC-Lavalin issue."

      “I felt that there was evidence of an attempt to politically interfere with the justice system in its work on the criminal trial that has been described by some as the most important and serious prosecution of corporate corruption in modern Canadian history.” 

      “I believe the former attorney general has further points to make. I believe that I have further issues of concern that I’m not free to share … There’s much more to the story that should be told.” 

      “I believe we actually owe it to Canadians as politicians to ensure that they have the truth. They need to have confidence in the very basic constitutional principle of the independence of the justice system.”

      “If nothing wrong took place, then why don’t we waive privilege on the whole issue and let those who have something to say on it speak their minds and share their stories?”

      That is what’s known as a rhetorical question.

      Because Philpott and JWR both know that a whole world of wrong did take place.

      And it points directly to the real boil on the Liberals’ backside—the carbuncle in the PMO. 

      Healing the hurt that he wished upon us all is two-step process; one that all Liberals should now see is indicated for their own political health and survival, to say nothing of the public interest.

      Step One is explicitly urged by the Good Doctor.

      It starts with exposing the whole truth that lies beneath their leader’s failed attempts to mask and sanitize his whole stinky affair, so that we can all see the full extent of his assault on the people, offices, and constitutional tenets that were sorely touched by his tortuous logic.

      A new assault on that messy enterprise will be made with JWR’s pending submission to the justice committee, which she promised in the letter she sent on Friday to its obstructionist-in-chief, Anthony Housefather. 

      Yes, that would be the same Trudeau acolyte who suggested JWR might have been turfed as AG for not speaking French. Apparently, he has learned nothing from his own sad role in the fiasco that he and his committee members have done so much to exacerbate. 

      Puglaas will rip off yet another bandage with that pending submission, which surely won’t be her last word.

      Jody Wilson-Raybould (seen on a recent Georgia Straight cover) is preparing to deliver more "truth to power" in a written submission to the Commons justice committee.

      Whether it is the Liberals on that justice committee, or the ones on the ethics committee who will probably likewise try to shut down the opposition’s efforts to have that forum “let her speak”, from Trudeau on down, they are all suckers for punishment. And so, there will almost certainly be many more bandages to be ripped off after this next one is torn off with JWR’s missive.

      “A request was made for ‘copies of text messages and emails’ that I referred to in my testimony … I will provide copies,” she wrote.

      “I also have relevant facts and evidence in my possession that further clarify statements I made and elucidate the accuracy and nature of statements by witnesses in testimony that came after my committee appearance.”

      She was careful to stress that her written submission would only be “in relation to matters within the confine of the waiver of cabinet confidence and solicitor-client privilege in Order in Council number 2019-0105”.

      As such, the prime minister’s gag order preventing her from divulging the other pertinent information that she and Philpott both hope to submit for the period not covered by his limited waiver will still apply.

      To all the retired law clerks, pundits, fellow caucus members, and assorted politicos who counsel her to just ignore her sworn oaths of cabinet confidentiality and solicitor-client privilege, and simply use her parliamentary privilege to say her piece, I say this: 

      Easy for you to say. And thank God, she has not readily accepted your poor counsel.

      After all, it won’t be you who might be disbarred for such questionable conduct, as JWR could well be if she ever took your advice, as Warren Kinsella has pointedly argued.

      It would also fly in the face of the advice rendered years ago by the Senate committee that explored that question during the Pearson Airport fiasco. Tread softly and very carefully it said, whenever relying upon parliamentary privilege to trump cabinet confidence or solicitor-client privilege. Preferably upon the considered requests of parliamentary committees. 

      Have those questionable legal beagles and frustrated columnists and caucus colleagues forgotten that JWR is actually being legally counselled by a former Supreme Court of Canada justice on what she can appropriately say?

      As for Philpott, she hasn’t had her oath of cabinet confidentiality waived at all. Nor was she invited to speak to the justice committee before its Liberal-hack majority shut down that investigation, despite her significance in properly understanding this whole controversy.

      She hasn’t been allowed to say anything about the “evidence” of “sustained and inappropriate political interference” that she was aware of, which may well help to explain JWR’s untimely demise as AG.

      Why is it that only the prime minister’s close friend and former principal secretary, Gerald Butts, and Trudeau have been allowed to tell us their version of what Philpott supposedly told the prime minister on January 6?

      Why has she not been afforded the chance to tell us what she really said and how it all went down? 

      Like JWR, Philpott is also not legally allowed to tell us anything about what caused her to resign from cabinet, or why she could not maintain “cabinet solidarity”.

      That very specific doctrine of cabinet solidarity speaks to decisions that might have been made by cabinet, to positions that it is collectively bound to support, and to courses of action that it has resolved to take.

      It's week six of the SNC-Lavalin story being in the news—and there's no sign that it's going to end soon for Justin Trudeau.
      Prime Minister's Office

      Which leads me to ask, was Trudeau’s cabinet also misled by false threats or false information about SNC-Lavalin leaving Montreal and Canada standing to lose 9,000 jobs if it didn’t get a special deal to save it from a criminal trial?

      And as we now know, the company’s president and CEO, Neil Bruce, has said those threatened risks and outcomes were never made by him or by his agents. Because they were simply never true.

      He never threatened to move his company. He never suggested that 9,000 jobs were at stake. He never asked for a deferred prosecution agreement based on economic considerations, if only because that would in itself be illegal under the Criminal Code.

      The prime minister’s central rationale for his political interference has now been exposed as pure fabrication—a flat-out lie or ill-informed b.s., believed by him and his minions or not.

      Yet incredibly, Trudeau continues to spew his discredited argument for his abuse of justice. In fact, during a March 22 town-hall meeting in Thunder Bay, he doubled down on his specious rationale and actually claimed that 10,000 SNC-Lavalin jobs might be at risk if the company is forced to face its criminal charges for bribery and fraud in court.

      Instead of conceding that he was dead-wrong to use that false proposition in pressuring his former AG to inappropriately intervene to save SNC’s bacon with a DPA that its CEO claims he never asked for on economic grounds, the PM continues to bullshit Canadians with job threats in defence of his indefensible actions that he hopes will save his own political ass.

      Unbelievable. That is what ugly really looks like, Canada.

      What, if anything, was cabinet told before or after the cabinet shuffle about how the government might intend to act, if the director of public prosecutions persisted in refusing to grant the company its de facto plea bargain in lieu of a trial?

      Did anyone at any time indicate to cabinet that action would be taken to ensure SNC gets a DPA? Especially during that post-January 14 period that JWR is still legally precluded from talking about? 

      Was there more interference that Philpott and/or cabinet knows about, particularly in relation to the cabinet shuffle and the reasons for JWR’s firing as AG?

      What decisions, positions, strategies, and tactics relating to cabinet’s agreed-to handling of this scandal have caused such consternation that Philpott and perhaps JWR could not abide by that direction taken under cover of cabinet solidarity?

      JWR’s promised new evidence might shed new light of some of those questions.

      But she still won’t be free to share her full truth of what really happened, from her appointment as veterans affairs minister, to her resignation from cabinet, to what transpired in cabinet after the scandal broke. 

      The prime minister’s palpable fear of that ever coming to light should alarm all Canadians.

      It should also serve as a signal to all Liberals that he is trying very hard indeed to hide something that is very bad.

      Something that he fears could cost him his job. Because it probably should.

      His whole crew is now duly lawyered up. They all live in terror of the truth that they know is just waiting to be found. Why?

      Because there is something criminal we don’t know about, perhaps? 

      Because they fear that ripping off that bandage once and for all might put their own careers, reputations, or lives in further jeopardy?

      Surely not, if they have nothing to hide.

      Fact is, they all desperately hope to somehow avoid the unspoken Step Two of the Good Doctor’s recommended prescription to save her own party from losing its soul as it also increasingly risks political oblivion.

      And that Step Two is this: lancing the boil itself, not just exposing its ugly truth.

      It demands pricking the prime minister’s self-entitled bubble and telling him in no uncertain terms that you, sir, are the problem.

      And you must go. Drain away and take your poison with you.

      Many in caucus might still believe that Trudeau remains their saving grace.

      P&P have a different prescription. One that is far nobler, wiser and more instantly effective in addressing what ails all Liberals.

      For whether they recognize it or not, their party’s political antibodies are in short supply. Their own recourse to retreat is a dead-end street.

      It’s time for real affirmative action, from the other strong women in caucus especially.

      There is plenty of time left on the political calendar to get rid of their source of misery. There is time enough to choose a new leader who is worthier of the mantle entrusted to Canada’s prime minister.

      Andrew Scheer’s worst nightmare would be having to face a new Liberal leader. The last thing he wants is to face a morally renewed Liberal party that has the strong backing of the heroines Wilson-Raybould, Philpott, and the recently independent MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes.

      The last thing he really wants Trudeau to do is the right thing for his own party and for our country.

      Which, ironically, is the thing that Scheer first demanded: for the prime minister to resign or to be sent packing by his own morally challenged party.

      A new Liberal leader would also be Jagmeet Singh and Elizabeth May’s worst-case scenario. Because their best argument right now to left-leaning progressives is that they are each so much more honourable, trustworthy, and deserving than Trudeau.

      The minority government that they hope will come to pass, with their parties holding the balance of power, would probably evaporate if a new Liberal leader was elected.

      Lance the boil, I say, if JWR’s new testimony is as bad and damning as I believe it will be. 

      It is also what P&P are both saying, if only implicitly, to like-minded Liberals of good conscience.

      Do it now, before the RCMP announces that the rot is too deep to ignore any longer. It won’t get any easier if and when that happens, but by then, it just might too late to save the sick patient.

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic adviser to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, and in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact him via email at