Prime Minister disagrees with Wilson-Raybould, says he acted professionally in SNC-Lavalin case
Following the testimony delivered by the former Attorney General in front of a House of Commons justice committee, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that he and his staff always acted appropriately and professionally with regards to SNC-Lavalin and the company's legal troubles.
Jody Wilson-Raybould testified on Wednesday that she was under considerable pressure from the prime minister's office concerning SNC-Lavalin.
The company was charged in February 2015 with fraud and corruption over allegation it bribed officials in order to win contracts in Libya.
If convicted in this case, SNC-Lavalin would not be allowed to bid on federal contracts in Canada for a decade.
However in 2018 the federal government introduced legislation that would change the Criminal Code to permit "remediation agreements," a plea-bargain-like deal that would allow corporations to avoid a criminal trial by making reparations.
Repeated pressure by PMO
Such deals can only be made at the discretion of the Attorney General, and Wilson-Raybould said Wednesday that over four months she was repeatedly pressured by senior government officials to make such a deal with SNC-Lavalin.
Wilson-Raybould said she had decided in September 2018 that SNC-Lavalin would face charges, but government officials said such a decision could force the company to move to another country.
"At that point the Prime Minister jumped in stressing that there is an election in Quebec and that quote I am an MP in Quebec, the member for Papineau, endquote. I was quite taken aback. My response and I quite vividly remember this as well, was to ask him a direct question while looking him in the eye. I asked, quote, are you politically interfering with my role, my decision, as the Attorney General? I would strongly advise against that, endquote. The Prime Minister said no no no, we just need to find a solution," testified Wilson-Raybould.
One member of the committee asked Wilson-Raybould if she still had confidence in the prime minister, and she was cautious in her response.
"I'll say this, and I'm not going to get into any conversations about why I resigned other than to say this. I resigned from cabinet because I did not have confidence to sit around the table, the cabinet table," said Wilson-Raybould.
Later in the day Trudeau said he and his staff accepted that only Wilson-Raybould could decide what would happen to SNC-Lavalin.
"I want to be absolutely clear here. The decision around SNC-Lavalin was Ms. Wilson-Rabyould's and hers alone. I want to confirm this again for Canadians as Ms. Wilson-Raybould herself confirmed today. This decision is the Attorney General's alone," said Trudeau.
Trudeau may boot Wilson-Raybould from caucus
On Thursday, at an announcement for the Canada Space Agency, Trudeau reiterated that he had done nothing wrong, and was simply doing everything he could to preserve the economy.
"Canadians expect their government to look for ways to protect jobs, to grow the economy, and that's exactly what we've done every step of the way," said Trudeau.
"We've also done it in a way that has respected our lots and respected the independence of the judiciary, of that there actually is no doubt. There are disagreements in perspective on this, but I can reassure Canadians that we were doing our job and we were doing it in a way that respects and defends our institutions."
Trudeau said he had not yet heard Wilson-Raybould's full testimony, but that once he does he will decide if she will remain a member of the Liberal party.
Following Wilson-Raybould's appearance before the Justice Committee, opposition leader Andrew Scheer said Trudeau had lost the "moral authority" to govern.
"Justin Trudeau simply cannot continue to govern this country now that Canadians know what he has done. That is why I am calling on Mr. Trudeau to do the right thing and to resign. Further, the RCMP must immediately open an investigation if it has not already done so into the numerous examples of obstruction of justice," said Scheer.
Trudeau said he was not going to resign, and that he welcomed an investigation by the ethics commissioner into his actions.
Meanwhile NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who was elected on Monday, called on Trudeau to fully waive solicitor-client privilege so that Canadians can get the full story about what took place.
Singh also said there should be a public inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Quebec MNAs support SNC-Lavalin
In Quebec's National Assembly MNAs were quick to support the 'fleuron' company, but were cautious when saying if they thought Trudeau and the Prime Minister's Office had done the right thing.
Premier Francois Legault said it was important to distinguish the illegal actions of former SNC-Lavalin employees from other matters.
"I think we have two matters here. First I don't know what happened between Mr. Trudeau and the former Minister of Justice. I don't know what kind of pressure he put. Now regarding the jobs at SNC-Lavalin, we're already in discussion with Michael Sabia (President of the Caisse de Depot), with the president of SNC-Lavalin to see how we can together protect the very good jobs," said Legault.
Justice Minister Sonia Lebel say it was crucial that politicians uphold the legal and legislative system, sometimes at the expense of corporations.
"It is troubling because I very deeply believe in our institutions. I really deeply believe in the rule of law. And without taking sides, if what was said is true, it's troubling, because we have to put our institutions... protect them and make sure that there's no undue pressure and political pressure. Everything must be done in the interest of the public, not for corporate interests or political interests," said Lebel.
Parti Quebecois interim leader Pascal Berubé said this reminds him of the sponsorship scandal and said "it's very bad for the federal Liberals."
Berubé added it was correct to fight for jobs in Quebec, and said his party would do the same thing, but would never interfere with the justice system to do that.