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 HaywardJody 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)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 VaughanGlen 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 KilpatrickPrime 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)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 WyldThe 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

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Albertans need to keep making safe choices to start bending the curve back down. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, 257 additional cases province-wide

Red Deer sits at 459 active cases of the virus

File photo
Norris Beach Road Tender Approved

County of Wetaskiwin Council awarded the tender for Range Road 11 to Crow Enterprises Ltd.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday that the province may consider a regional approach to loosening COVID-19 restrictions if numbers continue to decline. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Province further easing health restrictions

Numbers of people hospitalized and in intensive care has dropped dramatically, says premier

Government of Alberta COVID-19 Aggregate Data Map. Screen Grab/ https://www.alberta.ca/stats/covid-19-alberta-statistics.htm#geospatial
City of Wetaskiwin under 10 active cases; single active case in County

Active COVID-19 cases in the City and County of Wetaskiwin continue to drop.

File photo
Alberta’s central zone has 670 active cases

301 new cases identified Sunday

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

Samantha Sharpe, 25, was stabbed to death at Sunchild First Nation on Dec. 12, 2018. Chelsey Lagrelle was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for manslaughter in a Red Deer courtroom on Tuesday. Photo contributed
Central Alberta woman sentenced to 4 1/2 years for stabbing friend to death in 2018

Chelsey Lagrelle earlier pleaded guilty to stabbing Samantha Sharpe during argument

Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. (Pixabay)
‘Racism is a real problem:’ Muslim women fearful following attacks in Edmonton

So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime-related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro speaks during a news conference in Calgary on May 29, 2020. Shandro says Alberta is considering whether to extend the time between COVID-19 vaccine shots to four months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta may follow B.C.’s lead on faster rollout of first COVID-19 dose

Tyler Shandro says a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision is coming

A locally-produced video project aims to preserve Canada’s railway history

‘Railways have been an integral part of Canadian history since 1836’

Ryan Jake Applegarth of Ponoka, 28, is scheduled to appear at Ponoka Provincial Court on March 12, 2021. (File photo)
Discussions about justice continue as Ponoka murder victim’s case proceeds

Reaction to comments Ponoka Staff Sgt. Chris Smiley made to town council last month

Dr. Stanley Read
Hometown Bashaw doctor recognized with alumni award for AIDS work

Dr. Stanley Read, born and raised in Bashaw, is considered a global health leader

A copy of the book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” by Dr. Seuss, rests in a chair, Monday, March 1, 2021, in Walpole, Mass. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author and illustrator’s legacy, announced on his birthday, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, that it would cease publication of several children’s titles including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo,” because of insensitive and racist imagery. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
6 Dr. Seuss books won’t be published for racist images

Books affected include McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat’s Quizzer

AstraZeneca’s vaccine ready for use at the vaccination centre in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Reichel/dpa via AP
National panel advises against using Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on seniors

NACI panel said vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are preferred for seniors ‘due to suggested superior efficacy’

Most Read