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

Pablo Tucker
March 1, 2019

During that meeting, held two weeks after the director of public prosecutions had ruled out a remediation agreement for SNC-Lavalin, Wernick said Wilson-Raybould informed the prime minister that she had "no intention of intervening" in the matter, although as attorney general she was legally entitled to give direction to the public prosecutor.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he's pleased that Jody Wilson-Raybould will be able to "share her perspectives" on the SNC-Lavalin affair.

In response to her testimony, Trudeau said he completely disagrees with how Wilson-Raybould characterized the events, and maintained that he and his staff "always acted appropriately and professionally".

Trudeau said later in the day that he would waive solicitor-client privilege to allow Wilson-Raybould to speak freely about the affair.

"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.

Wilson-Raybould said that during a September 17 meeting with Trudeau and Michael Wernick, the government's top public servant, she was warned that if SNC-Lavalin is not given a remediation agreement-a type of plea bargain that would allow the company to avoid a criminal conviction-it would mean the loss of many jobs and SNC-Lavalin moving out of Montreal.

Wilson-Raybould also complained to the committee Tuesday that the 30-minute opening statement she has been granted - at her request - won't be sufficient time to provide a "full, complete version of events".

A Morneau spokesman denied the minister or his staff had ever pressured Wilson-Raybould.

"On Sept. 17, Jody Wilson-Raybould told the prime minister and the clerk of the Privy Council in no uncertain terms she wasn't going to overrule her deputy on the matter", Raitt told CTV. "And that is why I am calling on Mr. Trudeau to do the right thing and to resign".

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.

She cited several senior officials in the offices of Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau as among those weighing in. Remediation agreements are a kind of plea bargain that would require the company to pay restitution but avoid the potentially crippling impact of a criminal conviction.

Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet on February 12, and has remained silent on the matter, insisting she's still bound by solicitor-client confidentiality from her time as attorney general.

"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.

It has been 20 days since the story first broke and since then, Wilson-Raybould has resigned from cabinet, Trudeau's top adviser has resigned while claiming no wrongdoing, and Trudeau continues to say that there was nothing improper about the interactions with Wilson-Raybould on this matter.

According to Wilson-Raybould, Wernick told her that Trudeau wanted to know why SNC-Lavalin was not being offered a remediation agreement.

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.

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

Other reports by iNewsToday