Conservatives call for emergency meeting after PMO, SNC-Lavalin report

10 February, 2019, 02:15 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • Trudeau's office pressured Justice Minister to drop case against company with deep Liberal ties

The allegation is the prime minister's office leaned on former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to have her influence a criminal case involving engineering company SNC-Lavalin.

Wilson-Raybould, now minister of Veterans Affairs, said Friday she would not comment on claims that the Prime Minister's Office tried to pressure her to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution in pending legal action against the construction company. Moreover, as justice minister, Wilson-Raybould was responsible for a 2018 Criminal Code amendment at the heart of the current controversy - which specifically allowed for what's known as deferred prosecutions or remediation agreements to be negotiated rather than pursue criminal prosecutions against corporations.

Neither Wilson-Raybould nor SNC-Lavalin has responded to questions from The Canadian Press about the story.

If the Prime Minister's Office was trying to pressure Wilson-Raybould on a decision on a criminal case, rather than just discuss general issues, that would violate a constitutional principle.

SNC-Lavalin was charged in 2015 by the RCMP and openly called for a remediation agreement to avoid damaging the company, a major employer in Quebec.

The federal director of public prosecutions told SNC-Lavalin in October that negotiating a remediation agreement would be inappropriate in this particular case. "Neither the current nor the previous attorney general was ever directed by me or by anyone in my office to take a decision in this matter".

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer holds a press conference on Parliament Hill on February 8, 2019.

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.

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says the allegations suggest Trudeau demoted his attorney general for defying his orders and called on the prime minister to immediately come clean about what he knew, and when he knew it.

The prime minister should have nothing to fear from an independent investigation by the federal ethics commissioner, Singh said separately.

NDP MPs Charlie Angus and Nathan Cullen on Friday wrote to ethics commissioner Mario Dion, suggesting the allegations could represent a breach of a provision of the Conflict of Interest Act that prohibits public office holders from giving "preferential treatment to any person or organization".

"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.

The federal director of public prosecutions is officially asking a court to toss out a plea from SNC-Lavalin to spare the company from criminal proceedings.

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

In her letter to Canadians she warned that an attorney general must speak truth to power and that "It is a pillar of our democracy that our system of justice be free from even the perception of political interference". A spokesperson for the PMO said in a statement that Wilson-Raybould raised the SNC-Lavalin case with Butts, and he told her to speak with Michael Wernick, the clerk of the privy council.

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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