Wilson-Raybould Says PMO Pressured Her on SNC Lavalin
CBJ –Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservatives and official opposition leader, is calling on Prime Minister Justin Truadeau to resign following damaging testimony from Canada’s former attorney general and justice minister.
Appearing before a Commons Justice Committee in Ottawa on Wednesday, former Attorney General and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says she faced intense political pressure and veiled threats related to the SNC-Lavalin affair, and was warned directly by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the negative consequences if the Quebec-based company faced prosecution.
Wilson-Raybould confirmed there was political interference from the PMO with respect to the prosecution of Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin, a large global engineering and construction company based in Montreal. It was a jarring admission that is sure to have deep political ramifications — just how deep, only time will tell.
Wilson-Raybould maintains she was contacted by 11 officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office on the matter when she served as justice minister and attorney general.
“For a period of four months from September to December 2018, I experience a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the attorney general of Canada in an inappropriate effort to secure a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with SNC-Lavalin.”
Wilson-Raybould said she was “hounded” by various officials through phone calls, meetings and text messages.
“Within these conversations there were express statements regarding the necessity of interfering in the SNC-Lavalin matter, the potential of consequences, and veiled threats if a DPA was not made available to SNC-Lavalin,” she said.
The former Minister mentioned a number of meetings, including one that included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick. Wilson-Raybould had told them that her decision was to not overturn the decision from the director of the Public Prosecution Service to proceed with criminal prosecution against SNC-Lavalin.
However, Wilson-Raybould’s stance was met with immediate opposition from the prime minister, who responded by noting 9,000 potential job losses. The clerk also mentioned the importance of stability with an election coming in Quebec.
“At that point, the prime minister jumped in, stressing that there is an election in Quebec, and that, ‘I am an MP in Quebec, the MP for Papineau,'” she recounted. ‘I was quite taken aback.”
At that point, Wilson-Raybould said, she posed a direct question to Trudeau while looking him straight in the eye, asking if he was politically interfering with her role and her decision as the attorney general.
“I would strongly advise against it,” is what she told the committee with reference to what she told Trudeau, who responded, “No, no, no, we just need to find a solution.”
Wilson-Raybould obtained a broad waiver from the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday that allows her to disclose details of her conversations with government officials about the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. The waiver was granted after intense criticism from the political opposition and also a growing discontentment with the general public.
Based on what she said — and didn’t say — it became clear that Wilson-Raybould believes she was moved out of her high-profile position and demoted to Minister of Veteran Affairs due to her disagreement on how to handle the SNC-Lavalin affair. Trudeau and other members of his inner circle have flatly denied the allegation.
Wilson-Raybould has since resigned from cabinet but remains a Member of Parliament.