A Quebec Liberal MP says SNC-Lavalin is “entitled” to cut a deal to avoid a criminal trial and potential conviction.
In an interview with CBC’s Power & Politics on Monday, Gatineau MP Steve MacKinnon addressed questions on behalf of the government regarding the stunning resignation of Treasury Board President Jane Philpott just hours earlier, a decision Philpott said was driven by “lost confidence” in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the deepening controversy.
When asked about the impact of Philpott’s resignation from cabinet — the second in the past month — MacKinnon echoed remarks from Trudeau, saying that the matter comes down to a difference in perspective, before going one step further.
His remarks come as SNC-Lavalin has two active cases before the courts, including a judicial appeal of the decision not to grant the company a deal to avoid trial.
MacKinnon also rejected the notion the government is effectively shopping around for an attorney general who will agree to offer such a deal but said: “We absolutely have a disagreement here.”
WATCH: As Mercedes Stephenson explains, Philpott’s resignation letter clearly spells out she can no longer toe the line about the SNC-Lavalin affair
Also known as a remediation agreement, a deferred prosecution agreement offers a way for a company to admit wrongdoing and pay a fine rather than go through a criminal trial and potential conviction.
SNC-Lavalin is facing charges of corruption and fraud, which could result in a 10-year ban on bidding for federal contracts if convicted.
The Liberals amended the Criminal Code last year to make remediation tools an available option to companies following extensive lobbying by SNC-Lavalin on “justice and law enforcement” matters.
No company can get a deal automatically under the law, neither in Canada nor any other jurisdiction where it is offered.
And it is the refusal by former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the decision of the director of public prosecutions, who chose not to offer a deferred prosecution agreement to the company, that is at the root of allegations of attempted political interference, as outlined by the Globe and Mail in its original bombshell report last month.
Following four months of what she described as a “consistent and sustained effort” to pressure her into changing her mind, including “veiled threats,” Wilson-Raybould was informed in January 2019 that she was being removed from her post as attorney general.
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She was put into the portfolio of veterans affairs and resigned from cabinet the week after the story broke, on Feb. 12, 2019.
Montreal MP David Lametti replaced her as attorney general and told the West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson this past weekend that “no decision is ever final.”
He also said he was not aware when he took over the portfolio that Wilson-Raybould had made a decision not to intervene.
The issue of SNC-Lavalin was among the first matters on which Lametti was briefed upon coming into the portfolio — and one Trudeau was immediately keen to discuss, according to testimony last week by Wilson-Raybould before the House of Commons justice committee.
That committee is studying the allegations and is set to hear from three more witnesses on Wednesday.
WATCH: Jane Philpott resigns from Trudeau’s cabinet over SNC-Lavalin affair fallout
First up will be Trudeau’s former principal secretary, Gerald Butts, followed by second appearances by both Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick and deputy attorney general Nathalie Drouin.