Trudeau names former Liberal justice minister as special adviser amid SNC-Lavalin affair
Speaking in question period on Monday, Trudeau announced Anne McLellan has been named to the role and will be tasked with examining questions raised by the controversy and providing recommendations to him by June 30, 2019.
In particular, she will be looking at whether the roles of attorney general and minister of justice should be split in light of the accusations by former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould of a “consistent and sustained effort” by senior government officials including Trudeau to pressure her into helping SNC-Lavalin escape a criminal trial.
“Canadians expect and deserve to have faith in their institutions and the people who serve within them. The events of the last few weeks have raised important questions about the relationship between the federal government and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada,” according to a press release from the government.
“She will also analyze the operating policies and practices across the Cabinet, and the role of public servants and political staff in their interactions with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.”
McLellan had been scheduled to participate in a Liberal Party fundraiser on March 31 to support getting more women candidates for the party.
A spokesperson for the Liberal Party says she will not longer do so given her appointment.
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Her appointment quickly prompted jeers and laughter from the opposition benches, with Conservatives questioning her ability to provide impartial examinations and recommendations given she served with Liberal members who still sit in caucus and in cabinet, including Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
“She’s a former Liberal minister that was there during the sponsorship scandal,” said Mark Strahl, Conservative whip.
“This is like a five-alarm dumpster fire,” said NDP MP Charlie Angus.
McLellan is a senior adviser in the Edmonton office of national law firm Bennett Jones LLP.
She became an MP for the riding of Edmonton Northwest in 1993 and was soon after named as minister of natural resources.
She served under former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien as minister of justice and attorney general from 1997 until 2002, then as minister of health from 2002 to 2003, then lost her seat in 2006 when former prime minister Paul Martin was defeated.
Her appointment came just minutes after Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick announced he will retire early amid questions over his role in the SNC-Lavalin affair and two days after a report by the Globe and Mail that Trudeau and senior officials in his office have retained legal counsel in the controversy.
Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said last month he was opening an investigation but his office has refused to confirm whether that remains ongoing.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has asked the RCMP to investigate and if it does, any investigation underway by the ethics commissioner stops.
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