Opposition keeps heat on Liberals over Wilson-Raybould

Gwen Vasquez
February 12, 2019

The House of Commons justice committee will hold an emergency meeting next week in the wake of multiple calls for an investigation into allegations that former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was pressured by the Prime Minister's Office to help construction giant SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution.

SNC-Lavalin faces legal trouble over allegations it paid millions of dollars in bribes to obtain government business in Libya, which would be a crime under Canadian law.

The report says some of Trudeau's aides pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to negotiate a "remediation agreement".

Trudeau has called the allegation false, saying nobody in his office gave direction on the case to Wilson-Raybould.

Canada's current Minister of Justice is David Lametti, he was appointed to cabinet in January in a shuffle that saw Wilson-Raybould moved into the Veterans' Affairs portfolio, which was viewed by some as a demotion.

The SNC Lavalin affair dominated the House of Commons question period on Thursday. They are also owed more answers than the Prime Minister has so far offered. "MPs have a duty to determine what exactly happened here and Justin Trudeau and his office must be forthcoming".

Wilson-Raybould did not rise in the House to answer questions.

"All this cries out for some serious investigation", Singh said in a telephone interview with the Canadian Press.

Justice Minister David Lametti speaks during question period in the House of Commons on February 7, 2019.

"At no point has the current minister of justice, or the former minister of justice, been pressured or directed", Arif Virani said.

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The agreement is a way of holding a company accountable for what it did, but the company itself would not be accountable for the actions of its employees.

The New Democrats have since officially requested an investigation from the Ethic's Commissioner.

"If he truly wants to clear this up and believes there's been no wrongdoing, he should welcome an investigation from the ethics commissioner".

Lametti repeatedly said the Prime Minister's Office had not given directives to him or his predecessor on the matter, nor had he or Wilson-Raybould been pressed on the case.

The attorney general is thus allowed to direct prosecutors - but crucially, the direction must appear in a government publication called the Canada Gazette, which is viewable by the public.

"Canadians deserve a government that is on their side, not on the side of a massive multinational corporation with deep ties to the Liberal Party", said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

Singh said the allegations suggest there may have been possible violations of three sections of the federal Conflict of Interest Act: the prohibitions against public office holders giving preferential treatment to any individual or organization, using insider information to improperly further a person's private interests or seeking to influence a decision to further another person's private interests.

During the heady days of Justin Trudeau's "because it's 2015" declaration, Wilson-Raybould's ascension to the role of the nation's top justice official defined the moment.

When asked about any conversations with Ms. Wilson-Raybould about the SNC-Lavalin prosecution, Mr. Trudeau would only say "we have a tremendous, positive working relationship with all members of our cabinet".

The fact that such directives must be done publicly is meant to constrain a justice minister from doing anything overtly political.

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