Prime minister's Regina trip cancelled in favour of private meetings in Ottawa

07 March, 2019, 05:40 | Author: Kevin Carter
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a Liberal Climate Action Rally in Toronto Monday

In his testimony on SNC-Lavalin before the House of Commons justice committee Wednesday, the prime minister's former principal secretary made it clear that he didn't want to call anyone names.

Butts presented an alternative narrative, that what had happened was basically an internal Liberal party feud, where Wilson-Raybould and the people she was talking to in the PMO interpreted the same events differently.

Then she asked Butts if they had sought any independent evidence that those 9,000 jobs really were at risk if SNC-Lavalin had been forced to face the legal music. Wilson-Raybould and Treasury Board President Jane Philpott both resigned from cabinet.

A public inquiry is needed, and, if merited, an RCMP investigation, although Wilson-Raybould herself says she doesn't think Trudeau and the Liberals broke the law.

"I did not and I do not see how our brief discussion on that file constituted pressure of any kind", Butts told the justice committee.

Drouin, who is the top bureaucrat at the Justice Department, said that the Privy Council Office had asked for a copy but it wasn't provided at the request of Wilson-Raybould's office.

Senior Trudeau government figures lobbying Wilson-Raybould on the DPA were doing so because of concerns of how a guilty conviction against SNC-Lavalin on bribery charges would affect its 9,000 employees and countless others working as suppliers for the engineering and construction firm, according to Butts.

Since leaving office, she has told politicians she experienced "consistent and sustained" pressure from Trudeau's inner circle to interfere in the case, including "veiled threats".

More news: Bernie Sanders Kicks Off Presidential Campaign In His Brooklyn Hometown

During her testimony, Wilson-Raybould alleged that she faced high-level "veiled threats" and "sustained" political interference from almost a dozen senior officials between September and December 2018 - including Wernick and former principal secretary Gerald Butts - to seek a deferred prosecution agreement for SNC-Lavalin, which is facing bribery and corruption charges over business dealings in Libya.

Based on the briefings he received, Butts said the DPA could be reached anytime before a verdict is rendered, and as such, Wilson-Raybould could not have completely made up her mind. "Imagine for a moment that on September the 16th-the day the former attorney general told this committee the decision was made, firmly and finally-that she made a public announcement to inform Canadians of that decision".

In the wake of testimony from the prime minister's former right hand man Gerald Butts and new information from Michael Wernick, clerk of the privy council, Chris Hall sits down with Peter Donolo, director of communications for former prime minister Jean Chretien, for his take on the SNC-Lavalin scandal and what should happen next.

Butts said the only reason Trudeau shuffled his cabinet in January was that Scott Brison quit politics. But he advised Trudeau that he couldn't set a precedent for a minister to refuse to be shuffled, and therefore they moved Wilson-Raybould to Veterans Affairs. He also wondered aloud why Wilson-Raybould - someone he said tended to communicate in writing on the most important topics - failed to so on this one. "They have a very secure financial situation, with gross revenues of $10 billion", she said.

What's not in dispute - and hasn't been for the past month - is that the SNC-Lavalin affair is taking a heavy toll on the government.

"(Butts') evidence simply defies all logic", he said. "I share these message so you can appreciate why I was so surprised to hear months later that the minister experienced that dinner as pressure".

"I would of course make myself available to the committee if requested to give additional testimony, to answer any further questions and to provide further clarity that may be required", Ms. Wilson-Raybould said in a statement.

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