'A line … was crossed' in SNC-Lavalin affair, says New Democrat MP

01 March, 2019, 06:27 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Privy Council Clerk Michael WernickCHRIS WATTIE  REUTERS

During her testimony, Wilson-Raybould told the committee that she withstood four months of relentless pressure to reverse a decision not to make a plea-bargain-type deal with SNC-Lavalin.

Wilson-Raybould has said very little publicly since the Globe and Mail first reported the allegations, having maintained that she was bound by solicitor-client privilege, meaning that the government and its leader, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, had the final word about whether she was allowed to share details about their conversations that involved SNC-Lavalin.

However, in a letter to the committee Tuesday, Wilson-Raybould warned that the waiver "falls short of what is required" for her to fully tell her side of the story.

She has so far invoked client-solicitor privilege to avoid answering any questions.

Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould had both been awaiting legal advice on the extent of solicitor-client privilege protecting their conversations, restrictions that Justice Minister David Lametti said are needed.

Following a justice committee meeting this morning, Wilson-Raybould was asked to appear at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday where she will be given her requested 30-minute opening statement before taking questions.

"Jody Wilson-Raybould tells the story of a prime minister who has lost the moral authority to govern", Scheer said.

The waiver covers Wilson-Raybould's time as justice minister and attorney general - the post she held when Trudeau's office is alleged to have exerted improper pressure on her last fall to halt the criminal prosecution of Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin on charges of corruption and bribery related to government contracts in Libya.

She cited several senior officials in the offices of Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau as among those weighing in.

Gerald Butts, a top advisor for Trudeau and long-time friend, also resigned in the wake of the controversy surrounding the PMO and possible interference.

"I mention this simply to alert the committee to the fact that the order-in-council leaves in place whatever restraints there are on my ability to speak freely about matters that occurred after I left the post of attorney general", Wilson-Raybould wrote. The newspaper indicated Wilson-Raybould resisted before she was shuffled to Veterans Affairs.

SNC-Lavalin was seeking a so-called deferred prosecution agreement to allow the firm to escape with a fine.

She said she didn't speak directly to Trudeau about SNC-Lavalin again until January 7, when he informed her he was about to move her out of the justice portfolio; she suggested the move was the result of her refusal to intervene in the prosecution, which he denied.

Some of her former cabinet colleagues seemed relieved Tuesday that whatever complaint Wilson-Raybould may have about the way the SNC-Lavalin matter was handled, it will finally be out in the open after weeks of shadow boxing with anonymous sources.

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.

- 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. Butts has insisted that at no time did he apply improper pressure on the former minister.

The Liberals don't appear ready to support the Conservative motion to call Trudeau to testify.


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