Liberal MP Marco Mendicino is questioning the allegations of political interference by the Prime Minister’s Office made in a bombshell report earlier this week, pointing to the fact that the sources were granted anonymity.
In an interview airing Sunday with the West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Mendicino took part in a panel discussion about the controversy sparked by the Globe and Mail’s reporting on Wednesday alleging the Prime Minister’s Office pressured the former attorney general to cut a deal with SNC-Lavalin so the company could avoid going to trial over corruption and fraud charges.
WATCH: MPs debate political interference allegations
He repeated the assertion made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday that the report is not true — then appeared to question who was behind it.
“Ultimately, those decisions will be taken by the Government of Canada,” he said when asked if the government would waive solicitor-client privilege to let former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould talk about the allegations. She has so far declined to comment, citing the privilege, and has not denied the allegations.
“What I will say is that it is entirely counterproductive to ensuring that we have a justice system that provides access to justice when we have allegations which are not substantiated, which are not based in fact, but which are, rather, based on reports, anonymous sources.”
WATCH BELOW: Trudeau denies allegation that PMO pressured AG to drop SNC-Lavalin case
According to the report by the Globe and Mail, which has not been independently confirmed, unidentified officials within the Prime Minister’s Office pressured Wilson-Raybould to “press the public prosecution office to abandon the court proceedings” against SNC-Lavalin.
The Montreal company faced a ban on bidding for lucrative government contracts if it was convicted of the corruption and fraud charges alleged against it from its business activities in Libya during the reign of deposed dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Public prosecutors had refused in October 2018 to negotiate what’s known as a “remediation agreement” or “deferred prosecution agreement” that would have let the company accept wrongdoing, pay some penalties and potentially give back any profit made through the alleged activities.
WATCH BELOW: Andrew Scheer won’t take Justin Trudeau ‘at his word’ on SNC-Lavalin
Crucially, such a deal would also have had the effect of preventing their case from going to trial or potentially receiving a conviction if proven in court.
Sources reportedly told the Globe and Mail, however, that Wilson-Raybould refused to get involved and trusted the decision made by the prosecutors.
She was abruptly shuffled out of her high-profile portfolio last month in what has been widely characterized as a demotion.
She is now Minister of Veterans Affairs.
Nathan Cullen, NDP critic for democratic reform, said Wilson-Raybould’s “silence speaks volumes.”
“They could let her speak but they’re choosing not to.”
Both the NDP and the Conservatives are set to support an emergency motion before the House of Commons justice committee next week asking senior government officials, including Wilson-Raybould as well as Trudeau’s two closest advisers — principal secretary Gerald Butts and chief of staff Katie Telford — to testify about the allegations.
However, the Liberals hold a majority on that committee and can defeat the motion.
Lisa Raitt, Conservative deputy leader, said the goal of putting that request to the committee is to try to get answers as quickly as possible.
However, she added they also support any potential role for the ethics commissioner, whom Cullen has asked to investigate the matter.
“What we want to do is get to the bottom of it,” she explained.
“If there is [interference], it’s very severe.”
Tune in to the West Block at 11 AM EST on Sunday, February 10, to watch the full interview.
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