As I’ve spoken about a few times now on this blog, with the rise of the Green Party so far in this election cycle, they are getting more attention paid to them. That attention includes looking more into their policies, their platforms, their candidates and their ideas. This is new for the Greens, as most people or media frankly haven’t dug into their ideas and such because there wasn’t much of a reason to.

So with that happening, it’s been interesting for me to watch their reaction to this activity and how they react when stories come out that point some of the issues with their policies or candidates out. I wrote about one such example back in Mid-May, when Indigenous writer Robert Jago looked at the Greens policies on Indigenous issues. He found many glaring problems with them and wrote a polite and solid piece in The Tyee pointing that all out. That brought forward a reaction from Elizabeth May’s team that I found to be lacking and frankly, disappointing. Instead of addressing what he raised, they went on the attack, which led me to write a piece pointing out that they owed Mr. Jago an apology. That apology never came, and instead when asked about Mr. Jago’s commentary by a Washington Post journalist almost two months later, Elizabeth May doubled-double and went after Jago, calling him biased and dismissed his correct critiques. I’d suggest that apology again but I think that the Green team isn’t interested in giving it at this point. Fingers crossed they change their minds.

But that aside, people are watching what the Greens are doing and with that increased scrutiny comes increased attention to mistakes and policy ideas that leave you scratching your head. We saw a shining example of that come out yesterday from the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal, a small paper from Ashcroft, British Columbia. And yes folks, this one is a head scratcher indeed:

Okay, wow, where to begin with this one? Well let’s start with the obvious problems with this “novel solution”, as the journalist put it. The first one is very straight forward, and quite striking given the SNC/PMO Scandal that’s driven Ottawa for half of year. Remember how Lavscam took off? When the government was accused of trying to interfere in the independent judicial process, accused of trying to get the Attorney General to let SNC Lavalin off easy for “the good of the country”? Oh and the lost jobs, don’t forget about all the jobs that we were told would be lost. That scandal drove the Liberals poll numbers into the ground, created multiple cabinet shuffles, resignations and eventual expulsions from the Liberal caucus. All of this because the government allegedly tried to interfere in a judicial process, which is independent and free of political interference.

So after all of that, all that scandal, all the heat and news around it, Elizabeth May suggests that “hey, the government should interfere in the trial at sentencing.” Or as she put it, in her own words:

““The Government could say ‘We’re not letting the judge decide what your penalty is, we want you to do community service, and this is what we’re telling you to do.’ It’s absolutely viable. And maybe there are other projects we’d like them to do too.

“Community service, for a large corporation, would be a very interesting approach. It would keep the workers working, the shareholders of SNC-Lavalin wouldn’t like it, but maybe they should have paid more attention. We’ll see what the verdict is. This is an obvious place where we can get a lot of work done that doesn’t break the bank on the federal taxpayer.””

Let me just highlight this part: “The Government could say ‘We’re not letting the judge decide what your penalty is….”. Let that sink in folks. She is suggesting that the government interfere with the sentencing in a criminal trial, to induce a penalty that would have nothing to do with the alleged crime itself, but would help solve a political problem for the government. It was wrong when the Liberals suggested doing it to “save jobs” and it’s equally wrong to do here.

On top of the whole “political interference in a criminal trial” issue comes the outcome piece of this, one that left me with a lot of unanswered questions too. If this idea were somehow to overcome the serious legal and ethical issues raised above, there are a lot of logistical problems here. By “forcing” SNC to build all these water systems, are they taking work away from firms who haven’t allegedly acted improperly? Doesn’t this become a massive sole-sourcing deal that freezes out other Canadian companies and workers? Who actually owns the infrastructure after? Who is responsible for maintenance and repairs? Given that companies like SNC have been looking at purchasing municipal infrastructure like this all over the place, does this create a privatization of water services in those communities that received a water treatment system out of this? Better yet, is this not dictating to First Nations communities who will be providing their water supplies and how it’s done? Those are a lot of big, unanswered questions that this idea brings about, and I’m sure there are more out there.

In my view, this proposal is not an example of working in collaboration with Indigenous governments and wouldn’t meet the expected standards that exist today. Also, it doesn’t meet the spirit of the treaties, the Constitution and what the Crown owes to Indigenous peoples across the country. The fact is the Government of Canada has to do these things, that’s the agreement, and trying to turn piece of that into a “community service” deal just comes off all wrong.

Ms. May calls this idea is “absolutely viable” but I’m sorry, it’s just not. It’s not viable to interfere with a criminal proceeding, ever, even for the most altruistic reasons. That was the argument the Liberal government tried to make when they said they were trying to protect jobs and it didn’t fly there either and this isn’t any different.

A more realistic and achievable policy would be to stay out of the criminal case against SNC all together, wait for the judge to rule on it, and if he or she hands down financial penalties, promise to take every cent of that money and invest it into water treatment services in First Nations communities that need them. That would get you to the same spot, taking this case and getting a good result for people with less cost from the public treasury. That is not just a viable approach, but also a legal and ethical one, one that avoids lots of scandal and recriminations while making lives better for people.

So as we get closer to the campaign, I’m sure we’ll see more stories like these come out from the Greens and from other parties too. For one, I’ll be watching to see not just the next stories that come, but how the different parties will react to them. It’s never too late to say you’ve gotten something wrong and correct the record, and the sooner you do it, the better the result. Or at least that’s just my humble opinion.