Trudeau Should Be Ordered to Committee to Explain His Actions: Scheer

February 25, 2019 Updated: February 25, 2019

Canadians should be outraged that Liberal politicians made any attempt to influence the outcome of a criminal case, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says.

Scheer introduced a House of Commons motion Monday afternoon that would demand Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appear at the Commons justice committee to explain his role in allegations former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was pressured not to proceed with a criminal prosecution of Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

“Quite simply what we’ve seen unfold over the last two weeks is a textbook case of government corruption with those at the very top of the Prime Minister’s Office implicated in what could very well be the obstruction of justice,” Scheer said in a news conference before introducing the motion.

Scheer said Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick’s testimony to the justice committee last week made it clear that SNC-Lavalin successfully lobbied the government for the Criminal Code to be changed to allow for remediation agreements. Those allow companies to avoid a criminal prosecution in exchange for accepting responsibility for wrongdoing, paying fines and reparation to any victims, relinquishing any financial benefit from the actions and showing changes to prevent misdeeds from being repeated.

Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 4, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 4, 2018. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Striking such an agreement would mean SNC-Lavalin could avoid a criminal prosecution in Canada for allegations it bribed officials in Libya to win contracts there.

But the director of public prosecutions decided in September that SNC-Lavalin wasn’t eligible for a remediation agreement. Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould could have overruled her.

Scheer said the Liberals launched “an unsolicited, co-ordinated and sustained effort by the PM himself to get the former attorney general to change her decision.

“Canadians need to be outraged at the suggestion that politicians were putting pressure on independent agents of the Crown, independent legal officers, to try to get a better deal for well connected friends of the Liberal party,” Scheer said. “That is unacceptable and we need to be outraged about this because of the implications it has on the entire justice system across the country.”

The Liberals don’t appear ready to support the Conservative motion to call Trudeau to testify. The motion would not be binding in any event, and a Commons committee can’t summon a sitting MP to appear before it.

Arif Virani, the Liberal parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, said in the House of Commons there isn’t a need for the Commons to inject itself into the proceedings of the justice committee. If the committee wants to call certain witnesses the committee members can decide who they want to hear from, he said.

“Committees of this house do exemplary work,” said Virani. “We’re confident that the committee hearings will continue to be thoroughly and fairly conducted and will provide Canadians with the answers and information that they seek.”

Thus far the committee has heard from Wernick, deputy justice minister Nathalie Drouin and current Justice Minister David Lametti.

Lametti replaced Wilson-Raybould in the job in January, when she was shuffled to veterans affairs. She resigned from cabinet altogether a few days after the allegations of improper pressure were first raised, but continues to sit as a Liberal MP.

She is expected to testify at the committee this week but no date or time has been confirmed.

Trudeau denies any improper conduct occurred and that any conversations on the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin were done with Wilson-Raybould knowing the final decision was hers alone.

Wilson Raybould Can Speak About SNC-Lavalin Affair at Committee: Trudeau

Trudeau says former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould will be permitted to speak publicly about some of the details of the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Trudeau is telling the House of Commons that the government will waive some of the solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidences that have so far kept Wilson-Raybould silent.

Trudeau says she would be able to address “relevant matters” when questioned by members of the Commons justice committee while also ensuring two active court cases involving Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin are not jeopardized.

Wilson-Raybould sent a letter to the chair of the committee today saying she is anxious to appear, but wants to hold off scheduling an appearance until clarity has been reached about what she is legally allowed to share.

She says once she has that clarity, she will appear at the first available opportunity.

Wilson-Raybould also asked that she be allowed to make an extended opening statement lasting about 30 minutes when she does appear so she can offer her best recollections of all relevant communications she had on the SNC-Lavalin affair.

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