Saturday, 25 May, 2019

Trans Mountain pipeline court decision weighed on SNC strategy: Butts

Canadian PM Trudeau's former top aide testifies in his defence Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancels visit to Regina
Russell Knight | 09 March, 2019, 07:04

"That is a fact". Instead, she was moved to the Veterans Affairs post.

Gerald Butts, Trudeau top aide and close friend, resigned last week and denied that he or anyone in the Trudeau's office pressured Wilson-Raybould.

Trudeau, who came to power in November 2015 promising to do more for women, has now lost two high-profile female ministers and his principal personal secretary in less than a month as the crisis deepens.

As for what constitutes inappropriate pressure, Wilkinson said, in his past experience as a civil servant, the types of communications Wilson-Raybould testified about are well within the norm.

"There certainly are different interpretations but I think from my perspective, nothing here is anything but what one would expect of your public officials".

Wilson-Raybould was demoted from her role as attorney general and named veterans affairs minister in January as part of a Cabinet shuffle and resigned weeks later.

If testimony from Gerald Butts was supposed to be the Hail Mary pass that would let the Liberals pull victory from the jaws of defeat after Jody Wilson-Raybould's devastating testimony, the ball ended up six rows into the bleachers.

She could ask the director of public prosecutions for more information about the decision to proceed with a criminal trial rather than a remediation agreement, appoint another prosecutor to reassess the matter, or take over the prosecution personally. "Imagine for a moment that on September the 16th-the day the former attorney general told this committee the decision was made, firmly and finally-that she made a public announcement to inform Canadians of that decision". Minister Jane Philpott resigned this week, citing the stress Wilson-Raybould faced. "It reveals deep division in the Cabinet about how to deal with Jody Wilson-Raybould".

Butts said all officials working on the file knew that the decision to direct Director of Public Prosecutions Kathleen Roussel to enter into negotiations on a DPA or remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin was exclusively at the discretion of the attorney general.

Butts presented an alternative narrative, that what had happened was basically an internal Liberal party feud, where Wilson-Raybould and the people she was talking to in the PMO interpreted the same events differently.

Since leaving office, she has told politicians she experienced "consistent and sustained" pressure from Trudeau's inner circle to interfere in the case, including "veiled threats".

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This comes a month to the day after The Globe and Mail first reported that senior members of his government tried to pressure Wilson-Raybould into dropping a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

At the time, Wilson-Raybould could have legally instructed the public prosecutor to negotiate a remediation agreement - a legal tool in corporate corruption cases, somewhat akin to a plea bargain.

If there was a running theme through Butts's testimony, it was a line of neon tubing that arranged itself to spell out "JOBS JOBS JOBS".

Butts echoed the sentiment at the time of his resignation earlier this month, and again on Wednesday to the House of Commons justice committee.

That's news to some of his cabinet ministers.

"That is not what I said", Butts responded, when asked about the allegation. He also said Indigenous files were critical because Trudeau might invite the new minister to attend meetings with Indigenous leaders the following week.

He said that if it were not for that decision, the SNC-Lavalin situation would have never come to light. Butts said all they wanted was for Wilson-Raybould to seek an outside legal opinion on the matter from an eminent retired judge.

Jordan said she does not have concerns that her own future decisions as a cabinet minister could be undermined, and said she's always felt that Trudeau has "had her back".

Butts said he did not recall Wilson-Raybould saying anything about anyone pressuring her inappropriately.

Butts also said the December 18 meeting was not urgent and that all Prince was told was that he couldn't see how seeking advice from someone like former Supreme Court chief justice Beverley McLachlin constituted political interference.

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