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SNC-Lavalin is ‘entitled’ to remediation deal that would save it from trial, conviction: Liberal MP

Liberal MP Steve MacKinnon stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

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.

READ MORE: ‘I have lost confidence’ — Jane Philpott resigns from cabinet over Trudeau’s handling of SNC-Lavalin affair

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.

“Our belief is that this company [SNC-Lavalin] is one that is, like its competitors around the world, entitled to a deferred prosecution arrangement,” MacKinnon said in the interview, pointing to the tool as an available option in other jurisdictions like the U.S. and U.K.
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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

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Jane Philpott follows Jody Wilson-Raybould in quitting Trudeau cabinet – Mar 4, 2019

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.

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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.

WATCH: Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould’s competing narratives at the heart of SNC-Lavalin
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READ MORE: Jody Wilson-Raybould’s testimony — read the full transcript of her opening remarks

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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WATCH BELOW: Philpott’s resignation ‘clearly demonstrates a government in total chaos’ — Scheer 

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Philpott’s resignation ‘clearly demonstrates a government in total chaos’: Scheer – Mar 4, 2019

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.

READ MORE: ‘No decision is ever final’ — Attorney General David Lametti as SNC-Lavalin affair continues

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.

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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

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Jane Philpott resigns from Trudeau’s cabinet over SNC-Lavalin affair fallout – Mar 4, 2019

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.

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