Published: Fri, March 01, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Now it is Jody Wilson-Raybould's turn to speak

Now it is Jody Wilson-Raybould's turn to speak

"The government can waive solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidence".

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier today he is looking forward to hearing her testimony.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it was important to waive solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality to allow for former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to tell her side of the SNC-Lavalin story before a parliamentary committee.

The remarks by Jody Wilson-Raybould, made during nearly four hours of sometimes dramatic testimony to the House of Commons justice committee, deepened the worst crisis of Trudeau's tenure months before an October election. After 30 days it's only $5 a month.

"I mention this simply to alert the committee to the fact that the order-in-council leaves in place whatever restraints there are on my ability to speak freely about matters that occurred after I left the post of attorney general", Wilson-Raybould wrote.

She was referring to events on Saturday, Oct. 20, 1973, when U.S. President Richard Nixon ordered his attorney general to fire the special prosecutor assigned to the Watergate scandal.

As he headed to the caucus meeting, caucus chair Francis Scarpaleggia told reporters that he thinks the historic waiver Trudeau issued goes far enough to let her speak to the core issue at the heart of the affair.

Mr Trudeau is being pressured to reveal what he knows about whether officials from his office inappropriately pressured a former cabinet minister to become involved with a prosecution on construction giant SNC-Lavalin.

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Wilson-Raybould said those exchanges prompted her to think of the so-called Saturday Night Massacre of 1973, when the US attorney general and his top deputy quit rather than obey an order from President Richard Nixon to fire an investigator probing the Watergate scandal.

Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould were awaiting legal advice on the extent of solicitor-client privilege protecting their conversations. 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.

Former Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould walks to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. To which she said Trudeau responded, "No, no, no-we just need to find a solution".

Wilson-Raybould said officials imposed "consistent and sustained pressure" on her from September to December a year ago to ensure SNC-Lavalin pay a large fine rather than go to trial. The newspaper indicated Wilson-Raybould resisted before she was shuffled to Veterans Affairs.

Trudeau has insisted he was always clear that the decision whether to prosecute was hers and hers alone. But she said Trudeau and Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick continued to express concerns, with Wernick noting that Quebec was holding an election in a couple of weeks and Trudeau stressing that he is himself a Quebec MP.

She disputed that version of events, saying Trudeau only offered some vague assurance after she confronted him directly at the September 17 meeting, two weeks after Roussel had decided not to consider a remediation agreement.

"I was quite taken aback", she said, adding that she looked Trudeau in the eye and asked: "Are you politically interfering with my role, my decision as the attorney general?". The opposition Conservatives and New Democrats have sought testimony from Trudeau and several senior PMO staff believed to be central to the story, and called for a public inquiry, with no success.

Trudeau did not dispute that the SNC-Lavalin case was a hot topic of discussion with Wilson-Raybould.

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