“I completely disagree with the characterization of the former attorney general,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Outremont Wednesday night, hours after Jody Wilson-Raybould testified before a House of Commons committee.
Ryan Remiorz / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted in Montreal on Wednesday evening that neither he, nor any members of his staff, put undue pressure on former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould in an effort to encourage her to end the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.“I and my staff always acted appropriately and professionally,” he said. “I completely disagree with the characterization of the former attorney general about these events.”The comments came hours after Wilson-Raybould, testifying before a House of Commons committee, said that she came under relentless pressure — including veiled threats — from Trudeau, his senior staff, the top public servant and the finance minister’s office to instruct federal prosecutors to reach a remediation agreement, a type of plea bargain, with SNC-Lavalin.If SNC-Lavalin is convicted of the charges, it could be banned from bidding on federal contracts for 10 years.“The decision around SNC-Lavalin was Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s and hers alone,” Trudeau said at short press conference. “This decision is the attorney general’s alone.”In her testimony, Wilson-Raybould said she experienced a “consistent and sustained effort” by 11 people in the government — including Trudeau himself — “to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the attorney general of Canada in an inappropriate effort to secure a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin.”That effort, which included “express statements regarding the necessity for interference in the SNC-Lavalin matter, the potential for consequences, and veiled threats,” lasted for a four month period, she said.Wilson-Raybould, who was also justice minister at the time, was demoted to minister of veterans affairs in mid-January. She has since resigned from cabinet.Trudeau said that while he discussed the issue with Wilson-Raybould, he maintained that was not inappropriate.“We of course had discussions about the potential loss of 9,000 jobs in communities across the country, including the potential impact on pensions. My job as Prime Minister has always been to stand up for Canadians and Canadian workers,” he said.Earlier in the day, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called for Trudeau’s resignation, saying in statement that Wilson-Raybould’s testimony “tells the story of a Prime Minister who has lost the moral authority to govern.”Scheer also called on the RCMP to open an investigation “if it has not already done so.”Asked about the call for him to resign and whether he thought any members of his staff should resign, Trudeau responded: “Canadians will have a very clear choice in a few months’ time about who they want to be prime minister of this country and what party they want to form government.”Trudeau’s top aide, Gerald Butts, resigned on Feb. 18. Butts, who was named by Wilson-Raybould in her testimony on Wednesday, maintained he did not pressure anybody and that leaving the prime minister’s office would allow him to defend his reputation.Trudeau wouldn’t say on Wednesday whether Wilson-Raybould would remain a member of the Liberal caucus and whether she will be allowed to stand as a Liberal in the coming October election.“I haven’t yet had the opportunity to review her entire testimony, I will do that before making any further decision,” he said.Among those who pressured her, Wilson-Raybould testified, was Michael Wernick, the Clerk of the Privy Council — Canada’s top civil servant. According to her testimony, Wernick was present at a meeting that she expected would be a one-on-one with Trudeau.Trudeau defended Wernick’s actions, saying they weren’t partisan.The civil service, he said, “is always focused on the best interest of Canadians, which also includes making sure we’re standing up for jobs, protecting economic growth — that is something that the Clerk and, indeed, all civil servants are very much focused on.”The charges against SNC-Lavalin stem from the company’s operations in Libya. There, the RCMP allege, SNC-Lavalin executives took kickbacks from suppliers, keeping some of the money for themselves and the rest to bribe Libyan officials — including members of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s family — in order to secure contracts in the company.SNC-Lavalin, the largest engineering firm in Canada, says no one who has been accused of any crimes still works at the company and that its corporate culture has changed.With files from the Canadian Press.email@example.comRelated