Now it is Jody Wilson-Raybould's turn to speak

Olive Hawkins
February 28, 2019

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it was important to waive solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality to allow for former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to tell her side of the SNC-Lavalin story before a parliamentary committee.

Trudeau said the waiver addresses the matter that is under study by the justice committee and the federal ethics commissioner: whether Wilson-Raybould, as attorney general, was improperly pressured to instruct the director of public prosecutions to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin.

The Liberal government has been on the defensive since February 7, when the Globe and Mail said senior officials pressured Wilson-Raybould past year to help SNC-Lavalin Group Inc avoid a trial on charges of bribing Libyan officials and to pay a fine instead.

OTTAWA _ Jody Wilson-Raybould has been asked to appear at the House of Commons justice committee on Wednesday afternoon.

Last week, Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick told the committee that in his view everyone in the PMO conducted themselves with "the highest standards of integrity", that no inappropriate pressure was put on Wilson-Raybould and that Trudeau repeatedly assured her the decision on the SNC-Lavalin prosecution was hers alone.

Opposition parties pounced on Wilson-Raybould's letter to accuse Trudeau of gagging his former minister.

Wilson-Raybould - who was demoted in January and resigned from her new post this month - has not said a word so far about the affair.

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.

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Wilson-Raybould is widely expected to testify as early as Tuesday at a Commons committee that is looking into the allegations, although the Vancouver Liberal MP has not said definitively when she might appear.

"I therefore completely disagree with (Wilson-Raybould's) characterization of events", he continued, brushing off a demand from Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer that he resign.

It has been almost three weeks since the allegation first surfaced that Trudeau's office pressured Wilson-Raybould last fall to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin, rather than pursue a criminal prosecution for corruption and bribery related to government contracts in Libya. Gerald Butts, Trudeau's closet adviser, resigned last week but denied that he or anyone else pressured Wilson-Raybould. Remediation agreements are a kind of plea bargain that would require the company to pay restitution but avoid the potentially crippling impact of a criminal conviction.

The committee will allow Wilson-Raybould to make a 30-minute opening statement, as she requested, to be followed by at least an hour of questions from committee members. Trudeau and other officials insist there was no wrongdoing.

Wernick told MPs at that committee that he used his meeting to "convey consequences" of not offering a remediation agreement to Wilson-Raybould.

The goal is to protect the employees and innocent clients or customers of a corporation from being negatively impacted if a company is convicted of an economic crime like bribery and fraud.

He would surely have had to have that extrasensory capabilities to know that, quite aside from the cabinet meetings - which he does attend and where one would hardly expect illicit pressures to be openly spoken of - nothing was said in any other face-to-face meeting or phone call with the likes of mover-and-shaker Butts.

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