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

A power outage Thursday night left nearly 3,000 homes in Clinton and the 70 Mile areas in the dark. (Katie McCullough photo).
Nearly 3,000 homes in Clinton, 70 Mile left in the dark after vehicle crash into transmission pole

BC Hydro still working to restore power to 330 homes in 70 Mile House

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
115 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths in Interior Health

There are now a total of 4,970 cases in the region

Community consultation is now open regarding disposal of the former Ashcroft Elementary property, which since 2015 has operated as the Ashcroft HUB. (Photo credit: Vicci Weller)
Feedback now sought regarding disposal of Ashcroft Elementary

Residents of the region can have their say about the future of the former AES property

(from l) Ashcroft IDA store manager Irene Dumont; Christmas Hamper organizer Esther Lang; IDA staff Trish Lambert, Cheryl Scanlon, Tracey Nontell, Rod Schafer, Alicia Lake, Trina Michaud (behind Alicia), and Silvia Caston. IDA matched customer donations to the 2020 Christmas Hamper program. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
COVID couldn’t put a crimp in this year’s Christmas hamper program

171 hampers were distributed to families in Clinton, Cache Creek, Ashcroft, Spences Bridge

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. find its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials says it will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Letisha Reimer died Nov. 1, 2016 after being stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
No evidence that killer was in ‘psychotic state’ during Abbotsford school stabbing: Crown

Second day of closing arguments at ‘not criminally responsible’ hearing for Gabriel Klein

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

The first COVID-19 vaccine arrives in B.C. in temperature-controlled containers, Dec. 13, 2020. (B.C. government)
More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases

Long-term care homes remain focus for public health

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in 60 B.C. First Nations by next week

B.C. has allocated 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations for distribution by the end of February

Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone questions the NDP government in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 25, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Todd Stone says he’s not running for B.C. Liberal leadership

Kamloops MLA was widely viewed as a front-runner

Wireless voice and data services are out for those on Telus as of Thursday (Jan. 14) afternoon across Western Canada, Telus Support said in a recent Tweet. (Black Press file photo)
UPDATE: Telus services restored across Western Canada

Telus said they are monitoring the situation to ensure connections remain stable

Most Read