Wilson-Raybould, out of cabinet, seeks place in Liberal caucus

Cristina Cross
February 23, 2019

The accusation facing Trudeau and his office is that the Prime Minister's Office pressured Wilson-Raybould to give the well connected SNC-Lavalin the sweetheart deal.

Meanwhile, Wilson-Raybould showed up for the weekly Liberal caucus meeting today but wouldn't say if she will provide any explanations to her fellow MPs. 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.

The Globe and Mail newspaper 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 SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution related to contracts in Libya.

Wilson-Raybould has cited concerns over solicitor-client privilege in saying she can't speak further about the circumstances around her departure from cabinet. But Wilson-Raybould, demoted in a January reshuffle, quit on February 12 and then Trudeau's principal private secretary and close ally Gerald Butts resigned on Monday.

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.

Liberal members of parliament, including Wilson-Raybould, met for nearly three hours on Wednesday and had what participants called a useful session to clear the air. Then Gerald Butts, having resigned from the PMO, will be free to defend his reputation.

In her first comments in the chamber since the SNC-Lavalin scandal erupted, the MP rose to explain why she did not vote on a motion introduced by NDP MP Charlie Angus that called on the government to launch a public inquiry into the brewing controversy. I understand fully that Canadians want to know the truth and want transparency.

"I want to highlight something I said at caucus this morning", Trudeau said on his way into the Commons. "Privilege and confidentiality are not mine to waive and I hope that I have the opportunity to speak my truth", she said.

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Wilson-Raybould would not comment on what was discussed during the meeting, and whether she addressed more than 170 of her colleagues, but Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said that the "mood and the human feelings were just fine", inside the room.

"We had a good discussion", he said, in French.

Attorney General and Justice Minister David Lametti will be the first witness to appear, followed by his deputy minster Nathalie Drouin, and Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick.

This scandal is hurting the Liberals with voters that are paying attention and anxious what it means for the justice system in Canada.

Trudeau said Wednesday the government welcomes her testimony.

"We have a number of things going on".

"The way in which this story has unfolded - with nearly daily changes to the Prime Minister's version of events, with high-profile resignations, with anonymously sourced smear campaigns, and with co-ordinated cover-up manoeuvring - suggests this is not an ordinary political scandal", Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said in the Commons.

The Liberals have faced considerable backlash from Indigenous leaders and women in Canada over the way Trudeau and those with ties to the Liberal Party were speaking about Wilson-Raybould in the days after the scandal broke and how her shuffling out of the justice minister role was handled, with some calling it "gendered".

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