OTTAWA — In a testimony to the explosive, the ex-minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould has argued that they have been subject to pressure “constant and sustained” – including “veiled threats” – on the part of the office of the prime minister, the privy Council office and the office of the minister of Finance to stop the criminal prosecution against the giant montreal engineering SNC-Lavalin.
She offered Wednesday an account of four months, between September and December 2017, during which the prime minister Justin Trudeau and others have discussed several times the risks incurred by the company if it was found guilty of corruption and fraud in connection with the contracts that it wished to achieve in Libya.
The former attorney general has, in particular focused, in the speech of more than 30 minutes that it delivered before the standing committee on justice and human rights, to a meeting she had with the first minister on 17 September. The meeting should focus on other issues, but quickly, Justin Trudeau has raised SNC-Lavalin, she recounted.
He referred to the negative consequences that could have a lawsuit on the firm in quebec, including the loss of thousands of jobs, and explained that if SNC-Lavalin did not prosecution agreement suspended (ASP), it would leave Montreal, where it has its headquarters.
But this is when Justin Trudeau has ventured into a policy terrain that Jody Wilson-Raybould has said to have been shaken to the core. According to her, it would be referred to the provincial election that was coming up in Quebec, and then the prime minister would have said to him this : “I am an mp in quebec”, which was “taken aback”.
She was told to have it looked into eyes and asked : “Are you trying to interfere politically in my role (attorney-general)?”, what the prime minister is said to have replied, “no, no, no, we just want to find a solution” to the problem of SNC-Lavalin.
Mp Wilson-Raybould has also said that the pressures on it and its staff continued. In October, Mathieu Bouchard, adviser to the prime minister’s office, pleaded with his chief of cabinet that the folder had to be set.
“If SNC announced that he was leaving (Quebec) six months before the election (federal), that would be bad. We can have the best policies in the world, but we need to be re-elected”, he argued, according to the story of the old minister, whose testimony has been religiously listened to.
Last January, Ms. Wilson-Raybould has been ruled out of the Justice portfolio in a cabinet reshuffle. It was informed on 7 January, by telephone, that it was changing ministry. “I said that I believed that this was due to the matter of SNC-Lavalin. They denied it,” she said at the committee table.
The mp continued by saying that a few days before the reshuffle, the deputy minister of Justice had received a call from the clerk of the privy Council, Michael Wernick, informing him that a new minister would come in the post, and that one of the first conversations that he would have to prepare was on SNC-Lavalin.
In conclusion, she wished that “Canadians understand very well that these events (the story of the exchanges on which SNC-Lavalin), constituted an interference policy” which has no place in a system of law. “I am a person who tells the truth. This is who I am, and this is who I’ll always be”, she started.
The opposition mps on the committee believed entirely her version of the facts. “I’m very shaken. I believe you totally. What Canadians have heard would shock them deeply. (…) No one can reach any other conclusion that it has tried to interfere in the institution,” said new democrat Murray Rankin.
Trudeau defends himself, and attacks the opposition
Before that his old minister takes the floor, Justin Trudeau had insisted on the exceptional character of the decree issued on Monday evening, which lifts the obligation of professional secrecy and ministerial, and accused the opposition of exploiting the issue for political purposes.
The prime minister, who was again bombarded with questions in the Room, on Wednesday, defended to maintain the gag order on the ex-minister of Justice and argued that conservatives and neo-democrats are seeking to “maximize the political impact” of the matter for their benefit.
The day before, Ms. Wilson-Raybould had cast a new stone into the pond, claiming in a letter sent to the chairman of the standing committee on justice and human rights that she could not speak quite freely in spite of the adoption of this decree.
In this missive sent on the eve of its appearance, the member of parliament for Vancouver-Granville argued that she could not tell the whole truth, as the decree relates only to his term as attorney general.
This new release has provided further ammunition to the opposition parties, who heels the liberals for nearly three weeks. But Justin Trudeau, did not budge : the government has responded appropriately.
“We took the unprecedented step of removing the protection (…) of the professional secrecy and the confidentiality of the council of ministers,” argued the prime minister on his arrival at the office, Wednesday morning.
This gesture is intended to “allow Mrs Raybould to express themselves freely on the issue at the level of Lavalin and the pressure that she would have to suffer (sic),” continued the prime minister before the weekly meeting of the liberal caucus – including Jody Wilson-Raybould is always a part.
However, it has not been noticed at the meeting on Wednesday.
The minister of Justice and attorney general, David Lametti, has defended the scope of the decree adopted on Monday evening. “The fact that from his point of view, it has been subjected to pressure, that is the question. And she has (…) plenty of latitude to respond to the issues,” he said.
The liberal ministers crossed in the corridors of parliament in the morning swore that they had no concern about what might come out of the testimony of their former colleague of the cabinet in committee Wednesday afternoon.
“No, not at all. I think mrs. (Wilson-)Raybould will say what she has to say, and then there are institutions in place that will ensure that all must think as Canadians want”, he commented minister Diane called to order.