GAIL LETHBRIDGE: Griping about ‘youth today’ is a rite of passage
A few questions with Halifax artist Élana Camille Saimovici
Why can’t it be you? The driving force behind success
SUCCESS = career + money ... or does it?
Should I stay or should I go? A look at graduate retention
A conversation with Canadian Armed Forces veteran and health ...
Generational value gaps shifting as individualist thinking warps view ...
Success: Two women. Two lives. One take.
Five questions, 10 answers: let's make prejudice, inequality history
Money. Happiness. Family. How do we define success?
Albert Furtwangler’s letter was unexpected. As was the advice in it.
He’d read I was co-writing a story about serial killer Allan Legere, who’d spent seven murderous months in 1989 in my hometown.
‘Avoid telling stories about damsels and dragons,’ Furtwangler urged.
‘English professors,’ I snorted to my co-author. We were rushing to meet a 21-day deadline – the time we’d been given between agreeing to write the book and when it had to be ready.
‘Furtwangler taught a poetry course my first year at Mount Allison,’ I explained. ‘Great prof. Loved the course. Hated my mark.’
My fellow deadline slave rolled his eyes and turned back to the computer we shared as we banged out 200 pages of true crime reporting.
But Furtwangler was right. Storytellers need their audience. And there’s nothing quite like a damsel, a dragon and a knight to hold the crowd. Just ask the folks behind Game of Thrones.
So when the SNC-Lavalin scandal exploded, I noticed was how quickly it became a good guy (woman in this case) versus bad guy story. The role of the dragon was assigned to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Now, I’d never jumped on the Justin bandwagon.
The hair didn’t bother me. Nor did the grin. Or his popularity. He seemed more likeable than the guy he replaced, a man whose smile never seemed to reach his eyes. But he was a professional politician, with all the baggage that brings.
So I wasn’t itching to put a scratch in his Teflon image. But some of the reporting that unfolded over SNC-Lavalin suggested others might be, even if it wasn’t being done consciously.
Here’s the case in a nutshell. The company allegedly paid bribes and generally misbehaved to get business overseas from 2001-2011. Charges followed. A conviction could make it difficult for the firm to survive in Quebec, where it employs thousands. Remember, I said an election’s coming.
There’s a legal out, but it takes special permission.
Enter attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould. She wasn’t having it. And when the prime minister’s office urged her to reconsider, more than once, things got tense. Eventually, she quit, then testified saying Trudeau was a bad dude.
She’s a hero, political pundits declared.
Cool. A political scandal with legal issues. Mix in the federal election this fall and it’s a story made in reporter heaven. All we need is a real dragon.
Then I noticed two things.
One. Wilson-Raybould said she first faced pressure in September. But she didn’t start pointing fingers until Feb. 12. In between? She was bumped by Trudeau on Jan. 14 from the attorney-general’s job to Veteran’s Affairs. A move considered a demotion.
Why did she wait to point fingers? No one’s saying.
Two. During her testimony she was asked The Question.
“Is it illegal for someone just to pressure the attorney general to intervene on a case?”
“In my opinion it’s not illegal. It is very inappropriate..” a statement she went on to qualify.
Your principles let you remain a federal cabinet minister until you landed in a job you didn’t like. And the thing you’re complaining about isn’t “illegal,” but it is “inappropriate.”
Gee, this is starting to sound more and more like politics, and less and less like a legal scandal.
Where are those dragons when you need them?
Rick MacLean is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.