Liberal MP Wayne Long is calling for an investigation into bombshell allegations published last week that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or his officials pressured the former attorney general to cut a deal to save SNC-Lavalin from criminal prosecution.
In a statement posted on his Twitter account on Monday morning, Long, who represents the New Brunswick riding of Saint John-Rothesay, wrote that the allegations published by the Globe and Mail last week left him “deeply unsettled.”
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Those allegations quoted unnamed sources saying that the Prime Minister’s Office pressured Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former attorney general, to get public prosecutors to reconsider cutting what’s known as a “remediation agreement” or “deferred prosecution agreement” with the Montreal engineering firm, which faces a decade-long ban on bidding for federal contracts if it is convicted of charges of corruption and fraud related to business activities in Libya.
The allegations, which Global News has not independently confirmed, come after Wilson-Raybould was abruptly shuffled out of her high-profile portfolio and into the position of Minister of Veterans Affairs, after which she wrote an unusual letter stressing the need to avoid political interference in the justice system.
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Trudeau has stated the Globe and Mail report is “false” and that he never “directed” her to reach any particular decision.
However, Wilson-Raybould has so far refused to deny the allegations, saying only that she cannot comment because of solicitor-client privilege.
Those responses have only fuelled speculation and concerns about what actually happened.
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Long said not allowing an investigation would “undermine the progress” made by the government.
As a result, he said, “a full and transparent investigation is necessary.”
“Just like the people of Saint John-Rothesay, I also am seeking answers that will clear the air regarding exactly what happened here,” wrote Long, who is not a member of the committee that will be voting on whether to support an opposition motion to investigate this week.
“That’s why I support the opposition’s motion to launch an investigation of these allegations at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.”
Long has said he will run for re-election in the 2019 campaign and last month ruled out running for the leadership of the New Brunswick Liberals.
This is not his first split from his party, however — the rookie MP said in 2017 he was uncomfortable with a series of proposed small business tax changes.
As a result, he was removed from two parliamentary committees: the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, as well as the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.
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The House of Commons justice committee is set to meet on Wednesday to vote on a motion from Conservative and NDP members that asks that senior government officials, including Trudeau’s two closest advisors, be called to testify about the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Liberal members outnumber opposition MPs on the committee and have the numbers to defeat the motion.
It remains unclear whether they will do so.
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On Sunday, Montreal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather disputed a report that Liberals on the committee would block the motion.
In a tweet, he called such suggestions “incorrect” and said he is “closely following” all of the information emerging about the matter.
“I intend to independently determine whether Committee study of the issue will be useful for Canadians & colleagues will do same,” he said.
“Nobody has attempted to influence me.”
The opposition motion seeks to call two senior advisors from the Prime Minister’s Office as well as Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s principal secretary, and Katie Telford, his chief of staff, along with Wilson-Raybould and the head of the public prosecution service, among others, to explain the allegations.
Refusing to allow the investigation would show Canadians that the government has something to hide, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer argued last week.
He said the opposition has not ruled out pursuing legal avenues to get answers, if warranted.
NDP MP Nathan Cullen also submitted a request for the ethics commissioner to investigate, which Conservative Deputy Leader Lisa Raitt said the party also supports but noted such investigations can stretch out over months while a committee investigation can take place almost immediately.
The Conservatives and NDP also want Trudeau to waive solicitor-client privilege to let Wilson-Raybould confirm or deny the allegations.
With files from Global News’ Alexander Quon.