Trudeau says Wilson-Raybould will be able to answer ‘relevant’ SNC-Lavalin questions
One day before former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was expected to face committee questioning over the SNC-Lavalin affair, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government will offer further details later this afternoon that will let her speak about “relevant matters.”
“Later today the government will confirm the member from Vancouver Granville will be able to address relevant matters at committee while ensuring that the two active court cases are not jeopardized,” Trudeau said during question period.
“We of course continue to welcome studies by the ethics commissioner and the parliamentary committee.”
Last week, members of the House of Commons justice committee had said Wilson-Raybould would be appearing there on Tuesday.
But sources now say while she has agreed to appear, she has not agreed to a specific date and it is no longer clear when she might appear.
Trudeau’s remarks also do not indicate whether the government will waive solicitor-client privilege, which Wilson-Raybould has claimed is blocking her from answering questions on the allegations of attempts by the Prime Minister’s Office to get her to interfere in the SNC-Lavalin court case to help the firm avoid a criminal trial, which could lead to a ban on bidding for government contracts.
His comments could also indicate the government has determined there are aspects of the matter that are not covered by solicitor-client privilege and which she should feel free to speak about, and more information is expected shortly.
In a letter sent Monday and addressed to the committee’s chair, Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, Wilson-Raybould says she wants to speak to the committee but first wants to meet with members to discuss what she feels she can and cannot talk about.
“I am anxious to appear at the first available time,” she wrote in the letter.
“However, I believe that in advance of my appearance, the Members of the Committee and I should have as much clarity as we can in regards to the possible constraints on the matters about which I may properly testify.”
Those constraints, outlined by her in the letter, include claimed solicitor-client privilege, which she says only the government can waive, and the sub judice rule, which bars parliamentarians from saying anything that could impact ongoing court cases.
SNC-Lavalin is involved in two.
WATCH BELOW: Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer calls SNC-Lavalin controversy ‘textbook’ government corruption
Trudeau’s remarks came after Conservative leader Andrew Scheer launched a bid in the House of Commons to get Trudeau to appear before committee, too.
The House of Commons is debating an opposition motion put forward by Scheer asking MPs to “order the Prime Minister to appear, testify and answer questions at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, under oath, for a televised two-hour meeting, before Friday, March 15, 2019.”
“We are a country of the rule of law and nobody, no matter their status, their wealth or their connections, should be entitled to special treatment under it,” said Scheer to reporters shortly before he introduced his motion on Monday morning.
“What we’ve seen unfold over the last few weeks is a textbook case of government corruption.”
WATCH BELOW: Liberals face continued questions on SNC-Lavalin affair
Given the Liberals hold a majority in the House of Commons, defeat for the motion is all but guaranteed.
However, it keeps the myriad of questions swirling around the controversy in the spotlight and could force the government to explain its reasoning if members and Trudeau himself vote against the motion.
It also comes just days after Liberal members — all but two — voted against a separate motion from the NDP last week calling on the government to allow a public inquiry into the controversy, which was sparked by reporting three weeks ago from The Globe and Mail.
WATCH BELOW: Wilson-Raybould says “I hope I have the opportunity to speak my truth”
The report cited unnamed sources alleging Wilson-Raybould — who was shuffled from the high-profile position of attorney general to Minister of Veterans Affairs in January in what is widely considered a demotion — was pressured by officials in the Prime Minister’s Office to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal trial.
The Montreal engineering giant is facing corruption and fraud charges for allegedly bribing Libyan officials between 2001 and 2011.
If convicted, it faces a 10-year ban on bidding for lucrative government contracts.
The allegations in the report assert that officials pressured Wilson-Raybould to intervene and urge the director of public prosecutions to reverse the decision not to offer a newly-created, untested legal tool called a remediation agreement or deferred prosecution agreement to the firm.
While Trudeau has called the report “false,” his story has also been consistently evolving since the allegations first emerged.
He acknowledged discussing the matter with Wilson-Raybould but says he told her in the meeting that the decision of how to handle the matter was “hers alone.” He also appeared to suggest on Feb. 11 that her continued presence in cabinet indicated there was nothing wrong.
She resigned the following day and told the House of Commons last week she wants the opportunity to “speak my truth.”
WATCH BELOW: Trudeau needs to answer Justice Committee questions on SNC-Lavalin: Scheer
At the justice committee last week, Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick expanded on what happened in the meeting between Wilson-Raybould and Trudeau, as well as two others in December 2018 — months after the decision not to offer a remediation agreement was made — with both PMO officials and himself.
Wernick told MPs at that committee that he used his meeting to “convey consequences” of not offering a remediation agreement to Wilson-Raybould.
But he said those consequences were related to the threats to jobs and suppliers to the company, not to her.
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