‘Put that on the record’: Gould as Wilson-Raybould, Philpott push to share more on SNC-Lavalin scandal
Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould says if her former cabinet colleagues Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott have more to say about the SNC-Lavalin scandal, “then they should definitely put that on the record.”
Speaking in an interview with the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, Gould was asked about the decision by the Liberal members of the House of Commons justice committee examining the allegations of attempted political interference in SNC-Lavalin’s criminal case to shut down its probe and block attempts by opposition members to invite former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to appear for a second time.
Wilson-Raybould later wrote to the committee chair saying she would instead submit copies of texts and emails she referenced during her explosive testimony last month, and also address some of the challenges made to her testimony after the fact by subsequent witnesses.
That Friday letter came after the Conservatives forced a 30-hour filibuster over the Liberals defeating a motion by the opposition calling for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to extend the waiver of solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality so she could speak about the month-long period when she was no longer attorney general but remained a member of cabinet.
Jane Philpott, who resigned from her post as president of the Treasury Board after Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, said in an interview with Maclean’s magazine last week that Trudeau is trying to “shut down” the story.
Philpott added there is “much more” to the scandal that Canadians need to hear.
That prompted heated responses from some of her Liberal colleagues, with Don Valley East Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi calling both Philpott and Wilson-Raybould “neophytes.”
“What we were hearing from many people yesterday was, if you feel that you have more to say, then say it,” Gould said when asked about the matter.
“They both have mechanisms available to them if they chose to share this with Parliament and those are their decisions.”
WATCH: In this extended interview with Minister Gould, she tells Mercedes Stephenson her two former cabinet colleagues, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, support the Liberal party and support their agenda.
Wilson-Raybould testified last month that she was subject to a “consistent and sustained effort” between September and December 2018 to get her to change her decision not to intervene in the criminal case of SNC-Lavalin to save the company from a trial and potential conviction.
Facing fraud and corruption charges, the Montreal engineering giant would face a decade-long ban on bidding for government contracts if found guilty.
She says she was repeatedly subject to pressure from Trudeau and his senior staff, who worried about the impact criminal prosecution could have on SNC-Lavalin’s bottom line and jobs at the company — but have offered no evidence jobs were at risk, despite repeated requests.
WATCH BELOW: Jody Wilson-Raybould’s full statement to Commons justice committee
The CEO of SNC-Lavalin, Neil Bruce, has also said his company never suggested jobs were at stake if it did not get a way out of criminal prosecution.
Still, Trudeau last week rejected the push by Philpott that there is more to the story that needs to be told.
Gould said if either Philpott or Wilson-Raybould has more to say, they should use their privilege as parliamentarians to speak.
“If Jane has something to say, she’s a parliamentarian and she can absolutely exercise her privilege to say that,” she said.
“There is an opportunity for her to share and I think anyone feels there is something that needs to be said that Canadians need to know about, then they should definitely put that on the record. I think it’s what we expect of politicians no matter what.”
Parliamentary privilege, in this case, refers to the immunity offered to parliamentarians from criminal or civil prosecution for “words spoken or acts done in the context of a parliamentary proceeding,” according to the procedural rules of the House of Commons.
Some legal experts and parliamentarians have pointed to that privilege over the last two months and argued that if Wilson-Raybould or Philpott were to break cabinet confidentiality or solicitor-client privilege in a speech in the House of Commons shedding more light on the allegations at the heart of the scandal, they could not be prosecuted for doing so.
WATCH BELOW: Wilson-Raybould says Justin Trudeau asked her to ‘help out’ with SNC-Lavalin
However, both have indicated they are hesitant to test the limits of that privilege in this case and would prefer a more fullsome waiving of those privileges by the government.
Trudeau waived cabinet confidentiality and solicitor-client privilege in order for Wilson-Raybould to testify on the matter. But she has said the wording of the waivers means she can only speak to what happened while she was attorney general. She was removed from that post on Jan. 14, 2019, but remained a member of cabinet as minister of veterans affairs before resigning on Feb. 12, 2019.
If there was any further discussion at cabinet of whether to grant SNC-Lavalin a way out of criminal proceedings, both Wilson-Raybould and Philpott would theoretically have been privy to that, which is why opposition critics have pushed to have Wilson-Raybould invited back to committee with an extended waiver.
However, Trudeau has refused and suggested Wilson-Raybould only needs to be able to speak about what happened while she was attorney general.
Conservative and NDP MPs are set to push for the House of Commons ethics committee to examine the matter on Tuesday. But with Liberals in control of that committee, any such agreement is unlikely.
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