Trudeau denies claim PMO pressured AG to drop SNC-Lavalin case

Katie Ramirez
February 10, 2019

Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould says she can not discuss allegations that she was pressured by the Prime Minister's Office to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has said the prime minister should have nothing to fear from an independent investigation by the federal ethics commissioner if, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insists, the allegations are not true.

"As the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, I am bound by solicitor-client privilege in this matter", Wilson-Raybould wrote in a statement on Friday.

"If there is any going to be any discussion from very high levels in the government to grant an exemption ... to a company when we are talking about very serious criminal prosecutions, that must be done with full transparency".

Now, following a report by the Globe and Mail, we have learned what lies behind Wilson-Raybould's dispatch to what effectively appears to be the federal Liberals' ministerial gulag, Veterans Affairs (with no disrespect meant to military veterans).

Wilson-Raybould has repeatedly declined comment.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada is created to make decisions independently, but it is still accountable to the attorney general and can be directed by the attorney general as long that direction is made public.

As attorney general, Wilson-Raybould could have become involved in the case against the company by directing federal prosecutors to negotiate a "remediation agreement", a way of undoing damage without admitting the company itself was at fault for things particular employees did.

"The director of public prosecutions has independence in the sense that the attorney general can not give a direction, whether it is a broad policy direction or a specific direction on any given case, without that direction being in writing and Gazetted", Wild said.

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This distinction is known as the Shawcross principle, named after a former British attorney general: cabinet members can give advice to the attorney general, but not instructions or even pressure.

He said what has transpired with the SNC Lavalin prosecution and efforts by the company to reach a negotiated settlement should be made public for Canadians.

Officials pointed to a document entitled "Open and Accountable Government" on the PMO website, which spells out the conduct expected of ministers, including a lengthy section on the dual role of the justice minister and attorney general.

None of that is likely to matter with opposition politicians, who maintain the whole affair smells like obstruction of justice.

The list includes Lametti, the prime minister's chief of staff Katie Telford, and his principal secretary Gerald Butts.

Reacting to the prime minister's comments and the report, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the allegations in the story are "incredibly shocking", and said Trudeau's "carefully crafted" answers so far, fall short.

"All this cries out for some serious investigation", he said in a telephone interview from Burnaby, B.C., where he's campaigning for a seat in the House of Commons in a February 25 byelection.

"If he truly wants to clear this up and believes there's been no wrongdoing, he should welcome an investigation from the ethics commissioner". Scheer called for committee hearings into allegations of political influence into SNC-Lavalin's criminal case.

"At the end of the day, Canadians deserve to have a government on their side, on the side of justice, not on the side of a multinational corporation".

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