When Justin Trudeau was elected their prime minister at 43, in 2015, Canadians greeted him as a breath of fresh air. He seemed to be an inspiring young man who wanted to change the world for the better.
A lot has changed since then. The Liberal prime minister is no longer the domestic and international political flavor of the day. His popularity dropped to 35 percent late in December, and his Liberal government fell behind the Tories in some opinion polls.
With voters going to back to the polls this Oct. 21, Mr. Trudeau’s reelection bid was shaping up as a struggle.
But nothing could have prepared Mr. Trudeau for what he has had to deal with lately. He is in the fight of his political life, and his main rival sits in his own party caucus.
This would be Jody Wilson-Raybould. She’s a former crown prosecutor and Liberal member of Parliament from Vancouver. She became Canada’s first indigenous person to serve as attorney general and justice minister, and worked on important government files related to criminal justice, euthanasia and marijuana.
Things began to unravel on Jan. 14, when Ms. Wilson-Raybould was unexpectedly shuffled to a lesser Cabinet role, minister of Veterans Affairs. The frustration on her face that day spoke volumes, and Canadians wondered why it was happening.
A possible explanation emerged rather quickly.
On Feb. 7, The Globe and Mail newspaper unveiled a stunning investigative report into SNC-Lavalin, a Montreal-based construction company that was suspected of illegally bribing the Libyan government. The newspaper reported that the prime minister’s office had tried to pressure the former attorney general to back off criminal prosecution of the company, which has many powerful friends in the Liberal Party, and work out a plea deal that would permit SNC-Lavalin to keep on receiving lucrative government contracts.
Five days later, Ms. Wilson-Raybould resigned from her Veterans post. She said she could not discuss the details, unless Mr. Trudeau waived the government’s lawyer-client privilege. The prime minister said he was disappointed she was leaving, denied the Globe and Mail report, and insisted he never “directed” her to do anything. But he refused to let his former attorney general speak.
The Feb. 18 resignation of Gerald Butts, a friend, close political adviser and principal secretary to Mr. Trudeau, changed that. The prime minister finally waived privilege, although Cabinet confidentiality would prevent certain details from being revealed.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould spoke on Feb. 27 to the House of Commons Justice Committee. Her testimony was devastating to Mr. Trudeau. She meticulously cited dates and times of meetings with 11 senior Liberal officials, including Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Butts. She also revealed there were several attempts to pressure her, along with “veiled threats” about her job security, when she refused, for ethical reasons, to intervene on behalf of the company.
Mr. Trudeau responded that he disagreed with Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s “characterization of events,” and said the decision was “the attorney general’s alone.”
An Ipsos poll released last week showed respondents by an overwhelming margin (67-33 percent) found Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s version more believable than Mr. Trudeau’s. The same poll showed Tories had opened a 40-31 percent lead over the Liberals.
Mr. Trudeau seems to be counting on a generally friendly news media to sustain him, but the events of recent days raise serious questions about his continued leadership.