‘I hope I have the opportunity to speak my truth’: Wilson-Raybould as vote on public inquiry quashed
The former attorney general made a stunning statement to cheers from the opposition in the House of Commons on Wednesday as her government colleagues quashed a motion from the NDP calling for a public inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin inquiry — all except two of them.
“Privilege and confidentiality are not mine to waive and I hope I have the opportunity to speak my truth,” Wilson-Raybould said after rising on a point of order.
WATCH: PM apologizes to Wilson-Raybould; JWR speaks in House
Liberal MPs Nathaniel Erskine-Smith and Wayne Long were the only two members of the government to vote with the NDP and Conservatives in favour of a public inquiry and to demand Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waive the solicitor-client privilege Wilson-Raybould says is gagging her from speaking on the matter.
While Wilson-Raybould abstained from voting on the motion, Trudeau did not.
WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses SNC-Lavalin affair saying it’s important there be an “airing” of the issue.
Trudeau said earlier in the day it’s important there be an “airing” of what happened in the SNC-Lavalin affair.
But he and his government refused to support a public inquiry into allegations of political interference at the heart of the matter during the Wednesday vote.
It’s expected Wilson-Raybould could also appear before a House of Commons committee on the matter early next week.
“I think we have a number of things going on: there’s the ethics commissioner doing an investigation into this, there’s the parliamentary committee,” he told reporters on the way into a caucus meeting in Ottawa on Wednesday morning when asked about calls for an inquiry.
“It is important that there be an airing on this situation at the same time as we continue to work on a broad range of big issues that matter.”
WATCH: Wilson-Raybould attends Liberal caucus as justice committee hearing begin without her
Arif Virani, parliamentary secretary to Minister of Justice David Lametti, said during debate on that motion on Tuesday that the government believed the investigation opened by Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion is the appropriate venue for looking into the matter.
“In this context, on a matter on which transparency is wanted and clearly sought on both sides of the chamber, the ethics commissioner’s investigation that has been opened on this matter provides a more robust mechanism for that investigation. It provides for clearer tools that can be used, greater powers that can be used, and most important, an apolitical and non-partisan forum for seeking that information being sought,” he said.
“That forum is clearly a more appropriate forum, given the tenor of the debate we have seen in just the first hour of debate on this motion.”
The House of Commons justice committee had also been set to hear from its first witness in a limited probe of the affair later in the afternoon.
That witness was supposed to be Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, senior associate counsel at Woodward & Company LLP, one of Canada’s leading Indigenous rights law firms. However, the meeting is now cancelled for unknown reasons.
The committee has also agreed to call former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, though no witnesses from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, chair of that committee, told reporters no date has formally been set but that she could appear during meetings the committee is scheduling for Monday and Tuesday next week.
WATCH: Wilson-Raybould meets with cabinet after Butts resigns
Wilson-Raybould spoke with reporters on her way into the caucus meeting on Wednesday morning, saying she knows it is frustrating for Canadians who want to hear her side of the story following a bombshell report by the Globe and Mail roughly two weeks ago.
That report alleged unknown individuals within the Prime Minister’s Office had pressured Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the decision of the public prosecution service not to offer what’s known as a “remediation agreement” or “deferred prosecution agreement” to SNC-Lavalin.
Such an agreement would have let the company pay a fine and admit wrongdoing but avoid a criminal trial and potential conviction on the corruption and fraud charges against it over business activities in Libya between 2001 and 2011.
Wilson-Raybould reportedly refused.
She was demoted from the position of attorney general in January in a cabinet shuffle sparked by the resignation of Scott Brison.
However, the decision to not only replace Brison, who had been president of the Treasury Board, but also to move Wilson-Raybould from the high-profile portfolio into the lower-profile position of Minister of Veterans Affairs raised questions, exacerbated when she issued an unusual letter defending the important of the role being free from political interference.
Wilson-Raybould did not deny the allegations in the Globe and Mail report but has said she cannot speak on the matter because of solicitor-client privilege.
She has retained former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell to advise her on what she may be able to say.
Trudeau has asked Lametti, who replaced Wilson-Raybould as attorney general last month, to provide him with recommendations on the question of whether solicitor-client privilege should be waived given the two ongoing court cases involving SNC-Lavalin.
One of the case involving the corruption and fraud charges; the second is the company’s appeal at Federal Court of the decision not to give it a remediation deal.
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