Timeline: SNC-Lavalin and Jody Wilson-Raybould

23 February, 2019, 16:26 | Author: Sherry Houston
  • Centre Block Parliament Hill

Ambitious backbenchers like Khalid do not immolate their own careers, so there had to be a degree of comfort among the now depleted ranks in the Prime Minister's Office that Wilson-Raybould is not going to make incendiary allegations if and when she appears at committee.

They spoke two weeks after the September 4th decision, at which time it was up to Wilson-Raybould to decide if she would publicly instruct prosecutors to instead cut a deal.

"I categorically deny the accusation that I or anyone else in (Trudeau's) office pressured Ms. Wilson-Raybould", Butts said in a statement when he resigned on Monday.

There's the ethics commissioner who is doing an investigation into this issue.

But the Liberal, who asked for anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation, said Trudeau side-stepped questions about why exactly Butts quit and did not give a detailed idea of what the government planned to do next.

The date for her committee appearance has not yet been set but it is the appropriate venue to investigate who said what, when and to whom. These investigations often take months to conclude.

There was not, however, complete solidarity a short time later when it came to the vote on the NDP motion for a public inquiry.

Up until now, information available to the public indicated that Trudeau spoke to Wilson-Raybould before a decision was made by the prosecutors, announced by SNC-Lavalin on October 10th.

The motion, which also implored the prime minister to waive solicitor-client privilege to allow Wilson-Raybould to speak, was defeated by the Liberals with a vote of 134 in favour and 160 against. "Shine the light on what is possibly a criminal matter and do it today", she said.

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New Democrat justice critic Murray Rankin said it appears that Wilson-Raybould and the government have reached some sort of internal resolution to the affair that will allow her to remain in the Liberal caucus and testify to the committee without saying anything damaging to the government.

The Liberal House Justice Committee members have twice shot down opposition requests to call anyone from the PMO, or Butts, to appear, though that's now an avenue of inquiry that Conservative senators are keen to see revived in the Upper Chamber.

Thursday's meeting will likely feature academics on the underlying legal aspects at the heart of the affair: the legal provision tucked into a recent omnibus bill known as remediation or deferred prosecution agreements, the Shawcross doctrine-which has to do with the independence of the attorney general in making decisions-and the discussions between the AG and government colleagues on SNC-Lavalin. She is the first Indigenous person to hold the post, which combines duties as a politician (heading the Department of Justice) and a legal official (overseeing prosecutions). Trudeau said she had asked to speak there and was invited to do so but cabinet confidentiality meant nothing could be told about why or what was said.

Wilson-Raybould, who remains the Liberal MP for Vancouver-Granville and attended Wednesday's caucus meeting, told reporters she knows it is frustrating for many people that she has not commented further on her cabinet resignation. "When she comes, she could quite properly say I suppose, based on legal advice, that I can tell you nothing because of solicitor-client privilege".

"There will be nobody from the Prime Minister's Office at this", he said.

Coming out of caucus Wednesday, Liberals tried to show a common front.

Wilson-Raybould would not comment on what was discussed during the meeting, and whether she addressed more than 170 of her colleagues, but Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said that the "mood and the human feelings were just fine", inside the room. He defended the ongoing probes as "orderly" and "logical".

"I have said that I am seeking council on this matter of what I can and cannot say".

Yet, whatever Trudeau heard, it can't have been too bad or he would not have sanctioned the witness invitation to the justice committee.


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