OTTAWA—Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick received messages calling him a “liar” and a “deadbeat” after he first testified before the House of Commons justice committee about the SNC-Lavalin affair.
At his second appearance before the committee on Wednesday, Wernick brought samples of the Facebook messages to the committee, which is investigating allegations of improper pressure on former attorney general Jody Wilson Raybould from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of his staff.
“You are a … liar,” read one.
“You’ll amount to an absolute nobody in Canadian history … Can’t wait for my children and grandchildren to read about you,” read another.
“Get a real job you … deadbeat!” someone wrote to the country’s top bureaucrat, whose salary range is between $277,600 and $326,500 according to government records.
“I believe that you will want to discuss this as the intimidation of a witness before your committee and a breach of the committee’s privileges,” Wernick told the justice committee.
Committee member and Conservative MP Lisa Raitt described the messages as “really disturbing” but not surprising.
“The unfortunate reality is that as female politicians we receive so many of these,” Raitt said. “And so many of them, quite frankly are associated with threats of sexual assault that you kind of become a little bit more, I don’t know, you don’t pay attention to it as much.”
NDP MP Charlie Angus said that any female MP would be “rolling their eyes” at the messages sent Wernick’s way.
“I was really stunned by his accusation that getting poked a couple times on Twitter was a breach of the privilege of the committee and involved the intimidation of a witness,” Angus said. “It really raises serious questions about his judgment.”
As clerk of the Privy Council, Wernick is supposed to be above the political fray. While he serves the government of the day, he is also the non-partisan head of the public service.
But after two combative appearances before the committee, the opposition parties have called for his resignation, accusing him of partisan behaviour while questioning his actions in the SNC-Lavalin affair.
The Privy Council Office did not return calls from the Star on Thursday afternoon.
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that Trudeau continues to have confidence in the Wernick as the clerk of the Privy Council.
Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier