Sunday, 26 May, 2019

Trudeau pleased Wilson-Raybould can share her 'perspectives' on SNC-Lavalin affair

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at Armour Transportation Systems in Dartmouth N.S. on Thursday Trudeau government clears Jody Wilson-Raybould to speak to justice committee on SNC-Lavalin
Sandra Phillips | 01 March, 2019, 06:27

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it was important to waive solicitor-client privilege and cabinet onfidentiality to allow for former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to tell her side of the SNC-Lavalin story before a parliamentary committee.

Wilson-Raybould was shuffled out of the justice portfolio in January when she was named veterans affairs minister and soon afterward resigned from cabinet, though she remains in the Liberal caucus.

In extending the invitation to appear on Wednesday, committee chair and Liberal MP Anthony Housefather noted that while a 30-minute opening statement is rare, it would be allowed in this case.

"As we said, waiving privilege, waiving cabinet confidentiality is something that we had to take very seriously, but I'm pleased that Ms. Wilson-Raybould is going to be able to share her perspective". An order-in-council was released last night clearing Wilson-Raybould to tell the justice committee anything about any conversations she had with the Privy Council about her authority on the case while she was attorney general.

The waiver given to Wilson-Raybould to speak about her time as attorney general also applies to others in government with whom she spoke about the SNC-Lavalin prosecution. However, the waiver "does not extend to any information or communications" about SNC-Lavalin between Wilson-Raybould and director of public prosecutions Kathleen Roussel, who made the original decision not to permit the company a deferred prosecution agreement.

But in a letter Tuesday to the House of Commons justice committee, Wilson-Raybould said the waiver covers only her time as justice minister and attorney general.

- A September 17 meeting with Trudeau and Wernick, which the clerk said was primarily focused on the stalled Indigenous-rights agenda, over which he said Wilson-Raybould had "a very serious policy difference" with Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and other ministers.

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For his part, Singh said Wilson-Raybould's testimony painted a picture of a prime minister and other members of government who were willing to disregard the rule of law and were more interested in helping powerful friends than average Canadians.

While the NDP leader said Trudeau and others may eventually have to step down, he said that determination should come after a public inquiry is held to get the bottom of what really happened.

The Conservative leader also called for Wernick to resign and encouraged the Liberal cabinet, which is scheduled to present a federal budget next month, to find a way to govern the country in a non-partisan way without the prime minister.

An order-in-council was published lifting restrictions on the former minister and anyone she talked to about negotiating a remediation agreement with the Quebec engineering giant rather than pursuing criminal prosecution for bribery and fraud.

- A December 19 conversation Wernick had with Wilson-Raybould in which he told her Trudeau and other ministers were "quite anxious" about the potential impact of a criminal conviction on the financial viability of SNC-Lavalin and on innocent employees, shareholders, pensioners and third-party suppliers who would suffer as a result. The opposition Conservatives and New Democrats have sought testimony from Trudeau and several senior PMO staff believed to be central to the story, and called for a public inquiry, with no success.

According to Wilson-Raybould, Wernick told her that Trudeau wanted to know why SNC-Lavalin was not being offered a remediation agreement. Wernick said he was informing the minister of "context" surrounding her decision on the company but insisted it was not inappropriate pressure.

So far, the Liberal majority on the justice committee has balked at calling staffers as witnesses, but it may reconsider after hearing from Wilson-Raybould.

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