Wilson-Raybould vs Trudeau: What political interference looks like

Former Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson Raybould walks to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 26 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS  Sean Kilpatrick

During her testimony on Wednesday, Wilson-Raybould said she catalogued 10 phone calls and 10 in-person meetings about the case, in which there were "express statements" made about the potential for "consequences" should she continue to pursue a trial instead of a DPA, which would allow SNC-Lavalin to pay a fine for their alleged bribery and fraud. A guilty verdict on corruption for SNC-Lavalin would mean the massive engineering-construction firm would be barred from bidding on federal procurement contracts for 10 years.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is up for re-election in eight months, and he's suddenly facing the biggest political scandal of his career.

Wilson-Raybould compared the situation to President Richard Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre" firing of the independent special prosecutor overseeing the Watergate investigation in 1973.

She also said she faced "veiled threats" and suggestions from the Clerk of the Privy Council - Canada's top bureaucrat - that "a collision with the prime minister on these matters should be avoided".

In her testimony, Wilson-Raybould did not specify details on why she resigned from Trudeau's cabinet last week, except to say that she received a call from the prime minister on January 7 advising her that she was being shuffled into the veteran affairs portfolio.

He joined the Opposition Conservative party leader Andrew Seers to seek the Canadian prime minister's resignation following a gruelling four-hour non-stop testimony by Wilson-Raybould before parliament's justice committee.

"I have 100 percent faith in the prime minister", she said.

He, too, sidestepped commenting on the actions of the Trudeau government, saying only that he liked her suggestion that Parliament should review the notion of splitting the role of attorney general from the justice portfolio, as is done in Britain.

In the weeks since the allegations were first leveraged, Trudeau's principal secretary and advisor Gerald Butts resigned.

After Prince said that would amount to interference in the case, Butts allegedly told her "there is no solution that does not involve some interference".

In a speech to the Empire Club of Canada, Wilson-Raybould's successor as justice minister and attorney general, David Lametti, said her testimony was an extraordinary symbol of transparency in the government.

Trudeau said Wednesday he won't resign and has essentially dismissed his former minister's testimony as a fabrication. The political fallout, however, is hard to predict. Trudeau's path to re-election runs through the largely French-speaking province, where his defense of SNC-Lavalin is being applauded.

Wilson-Raybould resigned from the Cabinet on February 12 as veteran affairs minister but gave no reasons.

The former minister told the committee she was "hounded" to end the prosecution for months after the director of public prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel, had rejected the idea of negotiating a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin and long after she had unequivocally declared that she would not direct Roussel to reverse her decision. He said the prime minister no longer had the "moral authority" to lead the country.

Wilson-Raybould said she had decided in September 2018 that SNC-Lavalin would face charges, but government officials said such a decision could force the company to move to another country.

Yes, that really was on the prime minister's agenda on a significant, day-after-disaster itinerary - a golden opportunity for would-be political comedians, who got to tell all kinds of jokes about who else should be hurtled into the stratosphere right now as Trudeau's PMO is still reeling here on Earth with Wilson-Raybould's detailed condemnations.

"I totally disagree with the former attorney general's characterization [of discussions] in her testimony", said Trudeau. That is why I am calling on Justin Trudeau to resign.

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