Emergency SNC-Lavalin debate set as Trudeau rebuts Wilson-Raybould, Scheer asks for RCMP investigation
There will be an emergency debate in the House of Commons on explosive details of attempted political interference in the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
That comes after stunning testimony by former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould Wednesday night before the House of Commons justice committee in which she outlined a “consistent and sustained effort” to pressure her into intervening in the decision not to offer the Montreal engineering firm a deal to avoid criminal trial on corruption and fraud charges.
It also comes as Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer officially requested the RCMP open criminal investigations into whether there were attempts to obstruct justice and “provoke fear” in the attorney general, both offences under the Criminal Code.
“Somebody is lying and I would say that it is not the former attorney general,” said Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen in her request for the debate. “We need to find out what has happened and we need to get to the bottom of this.”
Speaker Geoff Regan granted the request, which was also supported by the NDP.
It is set to take place at 7PM EST on Thursday, just before MPs head back to their constituencies for two weeks.
It could go as late as midnight depending on how many MPs want to speak to it.
WATCH BELOW: Trudeau dodged questions on who Canadians should believe in SNC-Lavalin affair
“We have to reassure them that the rule of law in Canada will not be monkey-wrenched for partisan purposes,” said Angus in his appeal for the request to be granted. “This is why this emergency debate is needed now.”
Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rebutted Wilson-Raybould’s testimony from his home territory of Montreal, saying her version of what happened came down to “disagreements in perspective.”
WATCH BELOW: Wilson-Raybould reads transcript of remarkable conversation with her chief of staff
“There are disagreements in perspective on this but I can reassure Canadians that we were doing our jobs,” Trudeau said when asked about the testimony on Thursday morning.
He refused to offer clear answers when asked directly about several of the specific assertions made by Wilson-Raybould, including concerns she raised before the committee that Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick made “veiled threats” against her before she was demoted less than a month later.
“Myself and my team have always acted appropriately and professionally.”
Eleven people including Trudeau were part of a campaign to get Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the decision of the director of public prosecutions not to offer a newly created legal tool called a remediation agreement to the Montreal engineering firm, according to her first public remarks explaining her side of the story.
“For a period of approximately four months, between September and December of 2018, I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere … in an inappropriate effort to secure a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin,” she said.
Wilson-Raybould also outlined there were 10 phone calls and in-person meetings as well as emails and texts exchanged about the affair between September 2018 and January 2019, including senior advisers within the Prime Minister’s Office, the Clerk of the Privy Council, the prime minister himself, and the chief of staff to Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
She said she told officials early on the campaign of pressure had to stop.
Despite that, they did not and instead, only escalated, she said.
WATCH: Opposition hammers Liberals over Jody Wilson-Raybould testimony in SNC-Lavalin affair
Morneau on Thursday also pushed back at Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, saying Ben Chin, his chief of staff, acted appropriately despite assertions from Wilson-Raybould he continued to pressure her to change her mind after she had made it clear she would not intervene.
“I want to be really clear, what Ben’s role, my chief of staff’s job is to make sure that we engage with other parts of the government to make sure they understand economic consequences of decisions,” said Morneau.
Morneau also said he never raised the issue with Wilson-Raybould but that his job “is to talk about the importance of ensuring that Canadian have and can continue to get great jobs.”
WATCH BELOW: Morneau won’t say if there was pressure put on Wilson-Raybould, says his focus is jobs
Wilson-Raybould’s testimony prompted Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to immediately call for Trudeau to resign, saying he had lost the “moral authority” to govern.
Trudeau rejected those calls Wednesday night and also pushed back at Wilson-Raybould’s testimony despite admitting he had not yet seen all of it.
He also said he has not decided yet whether she will be allowed to remain in the Liberal caucus or run for the party this fall.
“I have taken knowledge of her testimony,” he said. “There’s still reflections to have on next steps.”
Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigned abruptly on Feb. 18 amid the controversy but insisted he never acted inappropriately.
WATCH BELOW: Wilson-Raybould describes ‘consistent, sustained effort’ to interfere in SNC-Lavalin case
But Wilson-Raybould read out text messages from her chief of staff, Jessica Prince, describing a meeting with Butts and Katie Telford, Trudeau’s chief of staff, on Dec. 18.
In that exchange, Wilson-Raybould quoted Prince as saying Butts told her, “Jess, there is no solution here that does not involve some interference.”
WATCH: Liberal MP apologizes for saying Wilson-Raybould’s father ‘pulling the strings’ in SNC-Lavalin affair
When asked whether he had spoken with Butts since his resignation, Trudeau said that he had done so “a couple of days after his decision to step down, to check in on my friend and see how he was doing.”
Trudeau said that happened last Wednesday.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.