Saturday, 23 February, 2019

Wilson-Raybould entered federal politics hoping to be a bridge builder

Jody Wilson-Raybould Trudeau denies report his office pressured attorney general to help SNC-Lavalin
Theresa Hayes | 10 February, 2019, 02:11

The Globe and Mail says the Prime Minister's Office put pressure on then-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to broker a deal in a case involving fraud allegations against engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

The company is facing allegations that it bribed Libyan officials millions of dollars to secure government contracts.

Wilson-Raybould says she can not discuss allegations that she was pressured by the Prime Minister's Office to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution.

Now, following a report by the Globe and Mail, we have learned what lies behind Wilson-Raybould's dispatch to what effectively appears to be the federal Liberals' ministerial gulag, Veterans Affairs (with no disrespect meant to military veterans).

Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was involved in extensive, internal government discussions last fall about whether SNC-Lavalin should be allowed to avoid criminal prosecution - and government officials maintain there's nothing wrong with that.

McLeod said MPs were "puzzled" when Trudeau shuffled Wilson-Raybould to Veterans Affairs.

SNC-Lavalin was charged in 2015 by the RCMP and openly called for a remediation agreement to avoid damaging the company, a major employer in Quebec.

Speaking to reporters in the House of Commons foyer, he said "the Prime Minister himself appears to have fired his own attorney-general for refusing to bow to his demands".

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer holds a press conference on Parliament Hill on February 8, 2019. If the attorney general directs the Public Prosecution Service of Canada on a case, it gets published publically in the Canada Gazette.

NDP MPs Charlie Angus and Nathan Cullen on Friday wrote to ethics commissioner Mario Dion, suggesting the allegations could represent a breach of a provision of the Conflict of Interest Act that prohibits public office holders from giving "preferential treatment to any person or organization".

"All this cries out for some serious investigation", Singh said in a telephone interview with the Canadian Press. The Conservatives' Scheer and the New Democrats' Singh both called Friday for an ethics probe into the allegations.

SNC-Lavalin has taken out newspaper ads and heavily lobbied ministers, government officials and even Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to make its case for avoiding a prosecution.

"If he truly wants to clear this up and believes there's been no wrongdoing, he should welcome an investigation from the ethics commissioner". Singh also pointed to sections in the Act which govern "Influence" and "Insider Information" as potential sources of other violations.

That left her successor at Justice, Lametti, to fend off opposition charges on Thursday of political interference in the justice system.

If passed, the committee would hear from Wilson-Raybould, new Attorney General David Lametti, Trudeau's chief of staff, Katie Telford, Trudeau's principal secretary Gerald Butts, Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick, director of public prosecutions Kathleen Roussel, senior PMO advisers Mathieu Bouchard and Elder Marques; and Wilson-Raybould's chief of staff Jessica Prince. Lametti said neither he nor Wilson-Raybould were ever directed or pressured to intervene with the director of public prosecutions to drop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

Wilson-Raybould's father, Bill Wilson, said in a Facebook post Thursday that his daughter's cabinet demotion "makes sense now - ugly political sense".