While the controversy surrounding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the former cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and a criminal case against SNC-Lavalin has preoccupied Canadians for about a month, it was over the last week that it seemed to capture international attention.
We’ve been reporting on the story more or less from the beginning. And throughout that time, some broad differences have emerged in the responses from Canada and American readers. While online comments may not necessarily reflect general public opinion, many Canadians who wrote in didn’t seem to accept Mr. Trudeau’s assessment that no one in his government did anything improper.
Here’s one take on events from Ellen Buckley, a reader from Toronto:
This “erosion of trust” mentioned by Justin Trudeau is based on the fact that Jody Wilson-Raybould was not responding to the pressure that he and others were putting on her to interfere in the SNC-Lavalin case. So he removed her from her post.
I would argue that he intended to replace her with someone who would respond differently, the way he wanted the SNC-Lavalin case managed.
This issue is not going away.
But many American readers noted that, despite the attempts by Mr. Trudeau and others to settle the criminal case against SNC-Lavalin with a large fine, the prosecution continues. Combined with the fact that no one pocketed any money or obviously benefited politically, those readers seem puzzled that the issue has created so much political turmoil in Canada, particularly when contrasted with the current upheaval in Washington.
Here’s an excerpt from a comment from a user going by “astaritt,” who lives in Washington:
So we learn that Trudeau is not a saint, but a politician (how dare he!), that nobody acted out of personal profit, and that the company did not go unpunished. With your permission, I think I will continue to envy Canada’s political life!
To be sure, some Canadians said that they support the government, and some readers from outside of the country endorsed Mr. Trudeau or his aides.
For those of you who are catching up, here’s our reporting from the past week about the controversy which, inconveniently, has so far failed to develop a widely accepted shorthand name:
• Will Canadian Women Turn Their Backs on Their Feminist Prime Minister?: A story many women characterize as a group of mostly men ganging up on a female cabinet minister may have undermined Mr. Trudeau’s standing with female voters.
• An Unapologetic Trudeau Speaks Up on Political Crisis Rattling Canada: Mr. Trudeau has made saying sorry a regular ritual of his time in office — but he declined to do so in a public statement on the controversy Thursday.
Trudeau’s Ex-Adviser and Close Friend Denies Pressuring Canada’s Justice Minister in Criminal Case: Early in the scandal, Gerald Butts, Mr. Trudeau’s longtime friend, quit as his top political aide. Though now an outsider, he was the first person this week to testify on the government’s version of events.
• Friend, Adviser, Witness: Trudeau’s Fate Could Hinge on Confidant’s Testimony: They were college friends, canoeing pals, and in one another’s wedding parties. Read our profile of Gerald Butts.
• 2nd Trudeau Minister Resigns as Canada’s Political Crisis Swells: Things hit a new low for the Liberals at the start of the week when Jane Philpott, a highly respected minister, quit the cabinet in solidarity with Ms. Wilson-Raybould.
• How Justin Trudeau Was Ensnared by Scandal: A Corruption Case and ‘Veiled Threats’: Can’t make sense of it all? We break down the SNC-Lavalin affair and its origins.
And in another sign of growing interest in Mr. Trudeau’s political crisis, The Times’s Opinion section also weighed in this week:
• The Editorial Board — Oh, Trudeau. “In politics the fresher the face, the more obvious the blemishes,” writes The Times’s editorial board.
• Opinion — Canadian Politics Aren’t Cute. They’re Corrupt. The Calgary journalist Jen Gerson questioned the coziness of Canada’s elite in The Times’s Opinion section.
Regardless of your take on the affair, one thing everyone can likely agree with Ms. Buckley on is that it doesn’t seem about to imminently vanish. So please check our Canada section over the coming days, and perhaps weeks, for continued coverage.
The Times Talks China
On March 19 we’re gathering Dan Bilefsky, my colleague based in Montreal; Chris Buckley, a member of our team of correspondents in Beijing; Katie Benner, our United States Justice Department expert; and Raymond Zhong, a Times technology reporter, to talk about the Chinese telecom giant Huawei, the arrest of its chief financial officer in Vancouver and what it all means to Canada.
Times subscribers are invited to participate. Please check out the details and sign up for free, here.
Dan was in Vancouver for much of the past week, partly to look into what the city thinks about Meng Wanzhou, its globally famous detainee.
Ms. Meng, of course, is the Huawei executive and daughter of the company’s founder, who was arrested by the Mounties in early December while changing planes at Vancouver’s airport. She was picked up at the request of the United States government, which has accused her of, among other things, committing fraud by lying to banks about the company’s efforts to go around American sanctions on Iran.
The case has left Canada trapped between two global superpowers. Dan found that many people in Vancouver are not thrilled by Ms. Meng’s protracted stay under house arrest in the city, where she owns two homes with her husband.
“To some, she is yet another wealthy foreigner who has used the city as a real estate investment, helping make it one of the most unaffordable cities in North America,” Dan wrote. “And they contrast her predicament — able to travel relatively freely about the city, if with a GPS tracker around her ankle and under 24-hour surveillance — with that of their fellow citizens, several of whom have been arrested by China in apparent retaliation for Ms. Meng’s arrest.”
This week, China ratcheted up tensions by formally accusing two of the Canadians it arrested of involvement in a spy plot.
Finally, be sure to check out Dan’s explainer about Ms. Meng and her deportation hearing, which began this week.
Around The Times
—Sebastian Modak, our Travel columnist who is making his way through The Times’s 52 Place to Go list, visited Lake Superior’s ice caves near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and found an unusual adventure: “There are no signboards. I didn’t come across any organized tours to the caves and going out on the ice in search of them is dangerous.”
— Expressions of support and offers of help poured in for Alex Trebek, the son of Sudbury, Ontario, whose role as the longtime host of “Jeopardy!” has made him a celebrity in the United States, after he revealed a cancer diagnosis this week.
— Twenty-one years have passed since Michael J. Fox, another Canadian who found fame across the border, revealed his Parkinson’s diagnosis. He told The New York Times magazine that he’s “developed a relationship with Parkinson’s where I gave the disease its room to do what it needed to do and it left me areas I could still flourish in.”
— Duncan Keith, the three-time Stanley Cup champion from Penticton, British Columbia, shares his workout and wellness secrets.
— Costas Spiliadis made Milos a global restaurant empire, one that’s long had a Montreal outpost. A competitor in Montreal said that before Milos, a Greek restaurant was a place with a couple of guys in “paper hats standing in front of a shawarma machine.”
— Norway may move to divest some of the energy industry holdingsin its national wealth fund that were based on oil and gas revenues. For Canada, which is struggling to find foreign investment in the sector, the move is worrying.