Supporters of Jody Wilson-Raybould in her Vancouver Granville riding say they’re disappointed she was ejected from the Liberal caucus but they would back her in the federal election if she ran as an Independent.
Tracy Beshara, executive director of Marpole Oakridge Family Place in south Vancouver, said she has met Wilson-Raybould and she is a woman of “integrity and quality.”
“All that is going on with her is a disappointment, and we support her fully,” said Beshara. “She’s honest. She’s real and she can tell you both sides. She won’t tell you what you want to hear. She’ll tell you the way it is. Most politicians don’t do that.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott were no longer in caucus on Tuesday, moments after Liberal MPs held an emergency meeting to determine their future. Trudeau said the trust that previously existed between the two MPs and his team had been broken.
Trudeau’s government has been tormented for weeks by allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office pressured Wilson-Raybould, the former attorney general, to intervene in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. Last week, a fresh uproar erupted over a key phone call with former top bureaucrat Michael Wernick, which Wilson-Raybould secretly recorded.
Throughout it all, many supporters in Vancouver Granville have stood by their MP, who they describe as direct, honest and genuine. Beshara said she hadn’t kept up with every news development but she would “absolutely” support Wilson-Raybould if she ran independently or for a different party.
“I don’t really think it matters what party she’s with, because she’ll represent with integrity with whatever party she’s with.”
Walter Wells of the community group Vancouver Odd Fellows, which is based just around the corner from Wilson-Raybould’s constituency office, said Tuesday afternoon he was sitting at his desk, looking at the news, and felt simply “astounded.”
“I’m not sure what adjective to use,” he said, adding he had never been particularly involved in politics before he met the MP.
“Because I had met her … I started paying more attention and honestly what I see happening here — I listened to the tape and I read as much as I can on (the SNC-Lavalin scandal). I believe she was acting with integrity, with honour,” he said.
Wells lives outside the riding, but said he still intends to volunteer for Wilson-Raybould’s campaign, should she run as an Independent or for a different party. He also said he’ll vote against the Liberals in the next election.
“I believe she is a very talented, very skilled, very knowledgeable person and they’re making a big mistake in throwing her away,” he said.
“She’s seems to be continuing the path of truthfulness and embracing the Liberal principles and the rest of them seem to be doing whatever they have to do to stay in power, and that’s typical politics.
“She is not engaging in typical politics. She’s trying to do the right thing and she’s being punished for it and it disgusts me.”
Wilson-Raybould was a first-time federal candidate in 2015 when she won the newly created riding with 43 per cent of the vote. She had previously served in high-ranking roles in Indigenous organizations, including as regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations.
The Vancouver Granville Liberal Riding Association, which had previously voiced support for Wilson-Raybould, did not immediately respond to requests for comment
Rev. Steven Epperson of the Unitarian Church of Vancouver said the decision to oust Wilson-Raybould was “unfortunate.”
“I am really impressed with Jody and her dedication to serving Canada. I want to sort of underline that. I really think she has the best interests of the nation at heart,” he said. “I think she is a person of integrity and honesty and I hope she has a future — she should — in politics in this country. I think we would be well-served by people like her.”
Epperson said if Wilson-Raybould chose to run as an Independent, he’d volunteer for her campaign, as an individual and not as a representative of the church.
“Just after she was elected she reached out to me — I didn’t reach out to her — recognizing we were an important constituency within her riding. She’s an excellent retail politician and that’s a compliment.”
Laura Kane and Hina Alam, The Canadian Press