Wilson-Raybould complains she won't be able to tell full story

Cristina Cross
March 1, 2019

Wilson-Raybould could now appear at the House of Commons justice committee as early as Wednesday to explain what type of pressure she felt she was under not to pursue a criminal prosecution of the Quebec engineering giant, and allow the firm to negotiate a remediation agreement instead.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it was important to waive solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality to allow for former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to tell her side of the SNC-Lavalin story before a parliamentary committee.

Michael Wernick, the top civil servant in the government, has also said that no inappropriate pressure was put on Wilson-Raybould and that Trudeau repeatedly assured Wilson-Raybould the decision on the SNC-Lavalin prosecution was hers alone.

Ms Wilson-Raybould said she and her staff were faced with four months of "sustained" and "inappropriate effort" to advocate for a potential deferred prosecution agreement for SNS-Lavalin.

In a recently issued order in council the Prime Minister has waived Jody Wilson-Raybould's solicitor-client privilege.

Wilson-Raybould's appearance is also likely to focus on hearing more details about several related meetings or conversations, both before and after the Director of Public Prosecutions made a decision to pursue the criminal case.

Following a justice committee meeting this morning, Wilson-Raybould was asked to appear at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday where she will be given her requested 30-minute opening statement before taking questions.

In all, Wilson-Raybould said pressure was exerted on her or her staff by 11 people through approximately 10 phone calls, 10 meetings and numerous emails and text messages.

Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt noted SNC-Lavalin was told September 4 that it would face criminal prosecution.

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"I'm not sure how that question is relevant", she said when asked by a Liberal colleague if she still has confidence in the prime minister.

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.

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. In 2015, as a member of Carleton University's Board of Governors, Wernick referred publicly to student protests against tuition hikes that disrupted a board meeting, as having "no place in a lawful democratic society - (the) tactics of Brownshirts and Maoists".

"I therefore completely disagree with (Wilson-Raybould's) characterization of events", he added, brushing off a demand from Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer that he step down.

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.

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. Butts has insisted that at no time did he apply improper pressure on the former minister.

- A December 18 meeting of Butts and Trudeau's chief of staff, Katie Telford, with Wilson-Raybould's chief of staff, Jessica Prince.

So far, the Liberal majority on the justice committee has balked at calling staffers as witnesses, but it may reconsider after hearing from Wilson-Raybould.

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