March 24, 2019

Canada's ex-attorney general to testify about SNC scandal

01 March 2019, 06:24 | Edward Lowe

Unpacking the politics of the SNC-Lavalin affair

Unpacking the politics of the SNC-Lavalin affair

According to the order, the Governor General on the recommendation from the Prime Minister "authorizes the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former Attorney General, and any persons who directly participated in discussions with her relating to the exercise of her authority under the Director of Public Prosecutions Act respecting the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin".

Former Canadian justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould on Wednesday will publicly address ethics allegations fueling the biggest crisis of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's career, officials said on Tuesday.

It has been almost three weeks since the allegation first surfaced that Trudeau's office pressured Wilson-Raybould last fall to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin, rather than pursue a criminal prosecution for corruption and bribery related to government contracts in Libya.

Wilson-Raybould - who was demoted in January and resigned from her new post this month - has not said a word so far about the affair.

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Wilson-Raybould provided a detailed accounting of meetings and phone calls to back up her accusations, breaking three weeks of silence on the affair that has rocked the government, prompting her resignation from cabinet and the departure of Trudeau's most trusted adviser, Gerald Butts.

"There will be a clear choice to be made between the Liberal Party, this government that ... has consistently stood up for Canadian jobs, consistently defended Canadian jobs while defending our institutions and the independence of our judiciary", he said. She did not resign or directly raise her concerns with Trudeau after September 17, when she first informed him that she would not intervene in the SNC-Lavalin matter. Wernick said he was informing the minister of "context" surrounding her decision on the company but insisted it was not inappropriate pressure.

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.

She also sought permission to deliver a 30-minute opening statement instead of the usual five to 10 minutes, a request which has been granted.

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"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 Liberals don't appear ready to support the Conservative motion to call Trudeau to testify. Telford said an external legal opinion would give the government "cover" and allow Trudeau to say he was doing something.

"She lost her job because she wouldn't let his friends off the hook", Scheer charged. The country's top civil servant last week told the committee he believes there was no improper pressure applied to Wilson-Raybould by him or anyone else.

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. He told her that the prime minister was "going to find a way to get it done one way or the other" and that it was not good for the attorney general to be "at loggerheads" with the prime minister.

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Mr Trudeau is being pressured to reveal what he knows about whether officials from his office inappropriately pressured a former cabinet minister to become involved with a prosecution on construction giant SNC-Lavalin. "So, he is in that kind (of) mood and I wanted you to be aware of that". Wilson-Raybould had the power to scrap the decision to go to trial but decided against it.

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