Published: Sat, February 23, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

The complicated legality behind Wilson-Raybould silence on SNC-Lavalin scandal

The complicated legality behind Wilson-Raybould silence on SNC-Lavalin scandal

Former cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould will be called before the House of Commons justice committee to address allegations she was pressured by the Prime Minister's Office not to prosecute a Quebec engineering giant.

The PM's former attorney general made the comments moments before a vote calling for a public inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin affair that has seen Wilson-Raybould resign from cabinet and Trudeau's top advisor Gerry Butts walk the plank all over allegations the government doesn't want to talk about and wishes would go away.

Earlier Wednesday, on his way into the caucus meeting, Trudeau insisted he wants a full airing of the accusation that his office pressured Wilson-Raybould to instruct the director of public prosecutions to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin - a kind of plea bargain in corporate corruption cases that forces a company to pay restitution but avoid a criminal conviction that could bankrupt it.

Wilson-Raybould has cited concerns over solicitor-client privilege in saying she can't speak further about the circumstances around her departure from cabinet.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale suggested that "anything is possible" when asked if there was a "path" for Wilson-Raybould to return to cabinet. For her part, Wilson-Raybould continued to say nothing about the furor around her.

"My reputation is my responsibility and that is for me to defend".

In her first comments in the chamber since the SNC-Lavalin scandal erupted, the MP rose to explain why she did not vote on a motion introduced by NDP MP Charlie Angus that called on the government to launch a public inquiry into the brewing controversy. "Privilege and confidentiality are not mine to waive and I hope that I have the opportunity to speak my truth", she concluded, as even louder applause broke out through the House.

The ethics commissioner's probe will focus on whether there was a breach of the Conflict of Interest Act, while the justice committee is set to hear from witnesses including Wilson-Raybould.

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Veteran MP John McKay sounded like a kid that had been ordered to eat his Brussel sprouts as he said, "Everything's fine", while leaving the caucus meeting.

He said he planned to do the same when he saw Jody Wilson-Raybould sitting on the government front-benches before question period on Tuesday.

Wilson-Raybould is consulting lawyers about how much she can reveal about what happened with SNC-Lavalin.

Trudeau has said that he spoke with Wilson-Raybould about the SNC-Lavalin case 13 days later, on September 17. The former minister said she would remain in the Liberal caucus, and another lawmaker said she will indeed be called to speak to the justice committee.

This scandal is hurting the Liberals with voters that are paying attention and anxious what it means for the justice system in Canada.

Asked about this in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Trudeau bobbed and weaved.

Unless those two accounts are glaringly at odds, that may well be the end of the matter and we are all going to wonder whether it was worth paralyzing the government of Canada for much of the past month.

"The way in which this story has unfolded - with nearly daily changes to the Prime Minister's version of events, with high-profile resignations, with anonymously sourced smear campaigns, and with co-ordinated cover-up manoeuvring - suggests this is not an ordinary political scandal", Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said in the Commons.

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