Opposition keeps heat on Liberals over Wilson-Raybould

Trudeau's office pressured Justice Minister to drop case against company with deep Liberal ties

Opposition keeps heat on Liberals over Wilson-Raybould

Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould says she can not discuss allegations that she was pressured by the Prime Minister's Office to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution.

SNC-Lavalin faces legal trouble over allegations it paid millions of dollars in bribes to obtain government business in Libya, which would be a crime under Canadian law.

As attorney general, Wilson-Raybould could have become involved in the case against the company by directing federal prosecutors to negotiate a "remediation agreement", a way of holding an organization to account for wrongdoing without a formal finding of guilt.

Justin Trudeau calls the story false.

The newspaper also suggests Wilson-Raybould was demoted in a cabinet shuffle last month because she didn't made a deal with the company.

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.

In response, Arif Virani, parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, repeated over and over the same line that has been the Liberals' only response on the matter: "At no point has the current minister of justice or the former minister of justice been directed or pressured by the prime minister or the prime minister's office to make any decision on this or any other matter".

However, the question is: Did anyone in the Prime Minister's Office, at any time, communicate with anyone in the former Attorney General's office on the matter of the criminal prosecution of SNC Lavalin, yes or no?

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

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer told reporters on Friday that MPs from his party, with the help of the NDP, will call an emergency meeting of the committee next week, where they'll present a motion to hear from nine members of the Trudeau inner circle.

"Nothing short of full disclosure is acceptable".

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

"If he continues to fail to be transparent with Canadians, Conservatives will make every effort and explore every option to make sure Justin Trudeau and his office are held accountable", Scheer said.

In the extensive conversations with Lametti about his new job, the matter was never mentioned, the source added.

As to whether Wilson-Raybould is truly bound to secrecy on this by solicitor-client privilege, as she insists she is, it is hard to say for certain without knowing exactly what she discussed with the Prime Minister's Office.

McLeod said while the prime minister may not have "directed" Wilson-Raybould to abandon prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, even asking, suggesting or pressuring is "totally inappropriate".

Conservative MP Mark Strahl baldly accused the government of firing Wilson-Raybould for failing to follow orders.

According to the Globe, Wilson-Raybould was unwilling to play along and did not follow through despite the high-level pressure. "The attorney general of Canada is the chief law officer of the Crown and provides legal advice to the government with the responsibility to act in the public interest".

The fact that such directives must be done publicly would seem to constrain a justice minister from doing anything overtly political.

The case is now before a court, and if convicted, SNC-Lavalin could be barred from competing for Canadian government contracts for up to 10 years.

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