Trudeau's principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigns amid SNC-Lavalin furor

Pablo Tucker
February 23, 2019

The Vancouver MP said she is receiving guidance from former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell on what she can and can't say in public.

Opposition MPs are livid that no one from Justin Trudeau's office has been called to answer for their alleged roles in the affair.

The committee has also invited Justice Minister Lametti but he appears unlikely to be able to shed much light on the affair for the same reason.

The Globe and Mail has reported that Wilson-Raybould, who was shuffled into the veterans-affairs portfolio in January, was pressured by staff inside the Prime Minister's Office to help the Montreal engineering giant avoid a criminal case on corruption charges related to government contracts in Libya.

The NDP had sponsored a motion in the House calling for a public inquiry, supported by the Conservatives.

"I respect that committee process", she said.

Her comments were greeted with applause from opposition benches and added fuel to their demands that Trudeau waive solicitor-client privilege to allow Wilson-Raybould to finally speak freely.


It was two weeks later that Trudeau himself met with Wilson-Raybould to discuss the SNC-Lavalin file.

Trudeau has rejected the allegations in the Globe's report but the accusations have cost him his principal secretary and close friend, Gerald Butts, who resigned Monday despite denying he pressured Wilson-Raybould.

Longtime Liberal MP Wayne Easter classified it as an "honest and straightforward discussion" and said that the caucus is united.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, asked about the chances of the government losing its focus, said "we are working very hard to ensure that doesn't happen".

When Wilson-Raybould was asked if she was put under pressure by the PMO, she said that she was still consulting with her lawyer.

During question period, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer peppered Trudeau with questions about the September 4 refusal by the director of public prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel, to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin, which faces charges of bribery and corruption related to government contracts in Libya.

Coming out of caucus Wednesday, Liberals tried to show a common front.


Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Canada can not claim to be a country based on the rule of law if the Prime Minister's Office is dictating the course of justice.

Wilson-Raybould said Wednesday in between the votes that she didn't think it was appropriate for her to vote on the motion because she was directly implicated in the proposal.

"The prime minister has kept (Wilson-Raybould) silent in order to protect himself", Scheer alleged.

Trudeau said his government consistently stands up for the rule of law and the independence of the justice system and he is awaiting advice from Lametti on how to proceed on the question of privilege.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian PressLiberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould arrives to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on February 20, 2019.

Trudeau is in no immediate danger, since Canadian political leaders are elected by party members at formal conventions and can not be sacked after a snap vote by parliamentarians, as is the case in Britain and Australia.

Conservative senators, meanwhile, have also introduced their own motion calling for an inquiry by the Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee. It could come up for debate Wednesday but a Senate official said given the schedule it is most likely not to be heard now until Thursday.


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