PHOTOS: Jody Wilson-Raybould chosen as Canada’s newsmaker of the year

Jody Wilson-Raybould announces that she will run as a independent in the fall election during a news conference in Vancouver, Monday, May 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Cameras follow Jody Wilson Raybould as she waits to appear in front of the Justice committee in Ottawa, Wednesday February 27, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Glen Assoun is embraced by family members at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on March 1, 2019. Glen Assoun’s lawyer says the wrongfully convicted Halifax man suffered “every single day” as he waited to be exonerated for a murder he didn’t commit – a wait that was prolonged for months as his case sat on former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s desk. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Veterans Affairs Minister Jodie Wilson-Raybould attend a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. The Globe and Mail says former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould disappointed the Prime Minister’s Office by refusing to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)
The vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations says she would have welcomed the presence of Jody Wilson-Raybould as minister of Indigenous Services to help address long-standing concerns. Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould walks from West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The SNC-Lavalin affair cost Justin Trudeau two cabinet ministers, his most trusted aide, the top federal public servant and possibly a second majority mandate; and now the woman at the centre of it all — Jody Wilson-Raybould — is the 2019 Newsmaker of the Year.

The former justice minister was the runaway choice of news editors across the country surveyed by The Canadian Press.

Prime Minister Trudeau, whose Liberal government was reduced to a minority in the Oct. 21 election, polled a distant second.

“Jody Wilson-Raybould made us think about governance and fairness and loyalty and how all of those things play out every day behind the scenes on Parliament Hill,” said Toronto Star senior editor Janet Hurley.

“She lifted the curtain and let us see inside and, as the election results ultimately revealed, not everyone liked what they saw. Some called her courageous; others were less kind — but in the face of all that she created a national dialogue unmatched this year.”

This time last year, Sun News editor-in-chief Mark Towhey said, ”The number of Canadians who could tell you who Jody Wilson-Raybould was would fit in a mid-size restaurant.

“In 2019, she became a household name at the centre of the biggest political story of the year.”

It began with an anonymously sourced story in the Globe and Mail in early February, alleging that Trudeau and his staff had inappropriately pressured Wilson-Raybould to stop a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, the Montreal engineering giant facing corruption charges related to contracts in Libya.

It suggested Trudeau’s demotion of Wilson-Raybould, Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister, to Veterans Affairs in a mid-January cabinet shuffle was punishment for her refusal to override the director of public prosecutions, who had declined to negotiate a remediation agreement — a kind of plea bargain in corporate-corruption cases — for SNC-Lavalin.

The controversy quickly spiralled out of control for the government.

ALSO READ: Five things we learned from Wilson-Raybould at the justice committee

Within a week, Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet. Less than a week after that, Trudeau’s long-time friend and most trusted political adviser, Gerald Butts, resigned as the prime minister’s principal secretary.

The controversy dragged on for months and would eventually trigger the early resignation of the top public servant, Michael Wernick, and prompt senior minister Jane Philpott to resign from cabinet in solidarity with Wilson-Raybould.

In almost four hours of explosive testimony before the Commons justice committee, Wilson-Raybould detailed what she described as relentless pressure to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin case from Trudeau, senior staff in the Prime Minister’s Office and Finance Minister Bill Morneau and his aides. She accused Wernick of issuing veiled threats, on behalf of Trudeau, that her refusal to comply could cost her her job as justice minister and attorney general.

She would later reveal that she had secretly recorded a phone conversation with Wernick — a revelation that proved to be the last straw for her former Liberal colleagues. At the behest of Liberal MPs, Trudeau booted both Wilson-Raybould and Philpott from the governing party’s caucus and informed them they would not be allowed to seek re-election under the Liberal banner.

Trudeau, Butts, Wernick and others maintained they’d done nothing wrong, that their conduct was entirely within the law and motivated solely by the desire to protect the thousands of innocent employees, shareholders, pensioners and others who could be hurt if SNC-Lavalin were to be convicted criminally and forced to scale back its Canadian operations or relocate to another country.

Although she felt it was inappropriate to pressure the attorney general, who is supposed to be independent and above partisan considerations, Wilson-Raybould herself said she didn’t think anyone had done anything illegal.

But for opposition parties, just months away from an election, it was the gift that kept on giving. The Conservatives asked the RCMP to investigate possible obstruction of justice. The NDP demanded a full public inquiry.

In August, a month before the start of the campaign and just as Liberal poll numbers had begun to recover somewhat from the downward plunge precipitated by the SNC affair, federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion issued a scathing report that concluded Trudeau violated federal ethics law by improperly pressuring Wilson-Raybould.

Both Wilson-Raybould and Philpott ran for re-election as Independent candidates. Philpott lost but Wilson-Raybould defied the odds and handily won her Vancouver Granville riding.

Just this month, she was in the news again for refusing to move out of the offices on Parliament Hill assigned to her when she was a minister.

Some news editors surveyed saw Wilson-Raybould as an inspiring example — “a beacon of hope” who spoke “truth to power” and left Trudeau’s feminist credentials in tatters.

“She chose principle over politics and will not be soon forgotten for staying true to her convictions, regardless of the consequences,” said Danny Kingsbury, national format director for Rogers Media.

Others took a more nuanced view.

“The Wilson-Raybould saga laid bare for many Canadians the sort of wheeling and dealing that goes on inside governments — a necessary evil if you buy the prime minister’s arguments, a corruption of the justice system if you accept her viewpoint,” said Christina Spencer, editorial page editor at the Ottawa Citizen.

Either way, the scope of the story and its repercussions left little doubt among news editors that the woman at the centre of it was this year’s dominant newsmaker. She may well continue to influence events as the SNC-Lavalin case makes its way through the judicial system and Wilson-Raybould’s successor as justice minister, David Lametti, grapples with whether to order a remediation agreement.

As Spencer put it: “It involved Quebec, jobs, justice, a woman, an Indigenous cabinet minister, two senior officials who had to leave their jobs — and the issues that loom ahead have yet to be resolved.”

WATCH: Jody Wilson-Raybould announces she will run as an independent

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Best of 2019

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Provincial Election candidates for the North Island riding. (Campbell River Mirror graphic)
Over 4,300 mail-in ballots returned so far in North Island district

Elections BC provides progress report before vote count

MMFN First Nation has said that it will restrict access to portion of Highway 28 that passes through the Nation’s land until a road use agreement is reached. (Black Press file photo)
Vancouver Island First Nation blocks highway access to logging trucks in Gold River

Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation restricting access for Western Forest Products pending road deal

Campbell River Remembrance Day Ceremony 2019. Campbell River Mirror file photo
Campbell River Remembrance Day Ceremony to go ahead in reduced form

Public asked not to attend; event will be streamed on social media, Shaw TV

Father Charles Brandt, a hermit priest. File Photo
Black Creek environmentalist and Catholic priest-hermit Father Charles Brandt passes away

He devoted his life to protecting and preserving natural habitats

Two suspects seen outside of Gord Knight Auto on Oct. 27 at around 4:15 a.m. Campbell River RCMP are looking for information on these suspects’ identities. Photo supplied by RCMP
RCMP look for suspects in break-in cases

Two suspects caught on surveilance video

Sooke’s Paul Larouche, aka PioneerPauly on YouTube, uses a metal detector in hopes to find gold flakes along his claim of the Sooke River. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

MNP senior economist Susan Mowbray presents the State of the Island Economic Report on Thursday night to conclude the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s virtual summit. (VIEA image)
Not-so-rosy State of the Island report caps off virtual summit

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s summit took place online Oct. 27-29

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A study by SlotsOnlineCanada notes there is at least 88 hours of top-rated horror movies for Canadians to consume this Halloween. (Unsplash)
Spooks and Chill study reveals Canada’s favourite horror flicks

88 hours of top-rated horror movies can fill COVID-19 Halloween

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

Most Read