Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends the annual Greek Independence Day Parade in Montreal, Sunday, March 24, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Trudeau says he, Wilson-Raybould had cordial conversation last week

Trudeau denies anything improper occurred regarding SNC-Lavalin and the PMO

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he spoke with former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould last week about a way forward following her allegations of political interference in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

Speaking in Maple Ridge, B.C. on Monday, Trudeau said he spoke with Wilson-Raybould March 18 and that the conversation was ”cordial.” They discussed “next steps,” but Trudeau did not elaborate on what that meant.

Trudeau is also signalling that Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott will remain in the Liberal caucus despite their outspoken criticism of his government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair.

“I look forward to continuing to engage with both Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott as they make their way forward,” Trudeau said.

“They have both indicated they look forward to running again as Liberals in the next election and I look forward to continuing to have their strong and thoughtful voices as part of our team.”

Almost a month ago Wilson-Raybould appeared at the House of Commons justice committee where she said Trudeau and other top government officials repeatedly pressured her to intervene in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin for bribery in its business dealings in Libya. She testified she was shuffled to the veterans affairs portfolio because she didn’t agree.

Trudeau denies anything improper occurred.

The same day Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould spoke, Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council, announced he would leave his post before the fall election, citing a loss of trust with the opposition parties. Wilson-Raybould accused him of being among a group of top officials that pushed her to help SNC-Lavalin land a deferred prosecution agreement — a kind of plea deal to avoid criminal prosecution that involves paying fines and being monitored for a length of time.

It was also the day Trudeau appointed former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan to look into whether the job of justice minister and attorney general should be split.

The day after the two spoke, the Liberals on the Commons justice committee voted to end the committee probe of the SNC-Lavalin matter, saying they had heard from enough witnesses. And three days after that Wilson-Raybould wrote to that committee saying she would provide a written statement, as well as emails and text messages, that corroborate and clarify both her earlier testimony and that of witnesses who came after her.

These developments have only added fuel to Opposition parties’ desires to see a full public airing of details of the SNC-Lavalin affair, which has become one of the biggest political controversies the Trudeau Liberals have yet faced.

Opposition MPs on the House of Commons ethics committee will push for a fresh investigation of Wilson-Raybould’s allegations when the committee meets on Tuesday. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Monday Trudeau should fully waive confidentiality for both Wilson-Raybould and Philpott so they can testify freely.

“If they really want us to believe that they want the truth to come out, if Justin Trudeau truly has nothing to hide, he will make it official — he will send a letter to Ms. Wilson-Raybould and now Ms. Philpott, allowing them to complete their testimony, to speak freely and openly,” Scheer said.

Philpott breathed new life into the controversy last week in a published interview with Maclean’s magazine where she said there is “much more” to the story that has not been told.

Liberal MPs are challenging both former cabinet ministers to have their say publicly and be done with the issue.

Wilson-Raybould and Philpott could speak under the shield of parliamentary privilege, which protects parliamentarians from legal ramifications for anything they say in the House of Commons, but Scheer maintains this privilege does not nullify an oath of cabinet confidentiality.

READ MORE: Sources say Trudeau rejected Wilson-Raybould’s conservative pick for high court

READ MORE: Scheer calls on Trudeau to resign over SNC-Lavalin affair

Trudeau said Monday whether or not Wilson-Raybould or Philpott speak further is up to them but he indicated no willingness to expand the confidentiality waiver.

New Democrats Charlie Angus and Daniel Blaikie reached out Sunday to an international economic group that oversees a global anti-bribery convention asking it to pay attention to recent developments in this case, including the justice committee ending its investigation.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said earlier this month it is “concerned” by the accusations and would determine if Canada was offside with the convention.

Angus said the Liberals promised the OECD the investigation would be robust and independent.

“Well, the justice committee got shut down, that’s not robust,” he said.

SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce also issued a “clarification statement” Monday afternoon backtracking on statements he made in an interview last week in which he said the company never cited the protection of 9,000 Canadian jobs as a reason it should get a remediation agreement to avoid a criminal trial.

The company never threatened government, but did make it clear through its lobbying efforts that getting an agreement would be the “best way to protect and grow the almost 9,000 direct Canadian SNC-Lavalin jobs,” SNC-Lavalin said in its statement.

—Follow @ReporterTeresa on Twitter

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Logging protester arrested near Balfour

Jessica Ogden remains in custody until a hearing date is set

First Nations included in latest Columbia River Treaty talks

Seventh round of negotiations between Canada and U.S. wrap up in Washington D.C.

Close to 1000 people expected to hear international evangelist Angus Buchan this weekend

The Mighty Men’s Conference is taking place in Castlegar June 28-30.

Former Nelson swimmers competing in NCAA

Jordan and Kelsey Andrusak will be rivals in in the Western Athletic Conference

Video shows fireworks shot at swan in Alberta

Alberta Fish and Wildlife is investigating the incident in Grande Prairie

B.C. teen killed by fallen tree on field trip remembered as hero

13-year-old Tai Caverhill was the first to spot the tree falling and warned his friends

Surrey RCMP raises Pride flag amid din of protesters

There were about 30 protesters on either side, and 20 Mounties doing crowd control

‘Text neck’ causing bone spurs to grow from millennials’ skulls, researchers say

Technology use from early childhood causing abnormal bone growths in 41 per cent of young adults

Should B.C. get rid of Daylight Saving Time?

The province wants to know, as state governments down south make the move

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Canadians crash out of Women’s World Cup in 0-1 loss to Sweden

Canada missed a chance to tie the game on a penalty shot

Four-year-old boy assaulted at B.C. soccer game

It happened at a weekend tournament in Ashcroft

Two bear cubs saved near Revelstoke after mother hit by car

Conservation officers trapped the cubs and transported them to a wildlife sanctuary

Most Read