Jody Wilson-Raybould to testify on SNC-Lavalin on Wednesday

Katie Ramirez
March 1, 2019

Making a reference to the Watergate scandal, former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said she had thoughts of the "Saturday Night Massacre" when she received what she characterized as "veiled threats" from her government on losing her job unless she cooperated on the SNC-Lavalin issue.

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lifted the solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality provisions keeping his former attorney from telling her side of the SNC-Lavalin prosecution story.

The order also waives "solicitor-client privilege and any other relevant duty of confidentiality to the Government of Canada" with respect to Wilson-Raybould's discussions with government officials "respecting the prosecution" of SNC-Lavalin while she was justice minister.

Wilson-Raybould accepted the committee's invitation to testify but complained in a letter to the justice committee that the waiver does not release her to talk about any communications she had after she was named minister of veteran affairs or her resignation from the Cabinet.

"I was sickened and appalled by [Wilson-Raybould's] story of inappropriate and frankly, borderline illegal pressure brought to bear on her by the highest levels of Justin Trudeau's government", Scheer said.

The former minister told the committee she was "hounded" to end the prosecution for months after the director of public prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel, had rejected the idea of negotiating a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin and long after she had unequivocally declared that she would not direct Roussel to reverse her decision.

Wilson-Raybould detailed instances of what she considered inappropriate pressure by Finance Minister Bill Morneau's chief of staff and others but said the pressure campaign escalated over the fall, even after SNC-Lavalin went to court to challenge Roussel's rejection of a remediation agreement.

- A December 18 meeting of Trudeau's chief of staff, Katie Telford, and principal secretary, Gerald Butts, with Wilson-Raybould's chief of staff, Jessica Prince.

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SNC-Lavalin, the Montreal-based engineering and construction giant, faces corruption and fraud charges over allegations it resorted to bribery while pursuing business in Libya.

While the NDP leader said Trudeau and others may eventually have to step down, he said that determination should come after a public inquiry is held to get the bottom of what really happened.

Any questioning of Wilson-Raybould along those lines will presumably lead nowhere today. Trudeau says he disagrees with how former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould characterized events in her testimony before a House of Commons committee. Butts has confirmed Wilson-Raybould raised the SNC-Lavalin matter briefly and he advised her to speak to Wernick.

The Conservative leader also called for Wernick to resign and encouraged the Liberal cabinet, which is scheduled to present a federal budget next month, to find a way to govern the country in a non-partisan way without the prime minister.

Citing her chief of staff's account of the exchange, Wilson-Raybould quoted Butts as saying: "There is no solution here that does not involve some interference". That would allow Butts and other PMO staffers to testify freely if called upon.

She said she didn't speak directly to Trudeau about SNC-Lavalin again until January 7, when he informed her he was about to move her out of the justice portfolio; she suggested the move was the result of her refusal to intervene in the prosecution, which he denied.

So far, the Liberal majority on the justice committee has balked at calling staffers as witnesses, but it could reconsider after hearing from Wilson-Raybould.

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