April 1, 2019 12:57 pm
Updated: April 1, 2019 3:14 pm

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre begins solo filibuster of Liberal budget motion

WATCH: Global's chief political correspondent David Akin and Globe and Mail Ottawa bureau chief Bob Fife join Mercedes Stephenson to unpack the politics of the latest in the SNC-Lavalin affair and the ongoing political riff between Canada and China.

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Conservatives are launching their fourth filibuster of the past year and their second over Liberal limits on the probe into the SNC-Lavalin scandal that has been engulfing the government for the past two months.

But this time, their filibustering member is flying solo.

READ MORE: ‘All of this screams’ of political interference: Wilson-Raybould to Wernick in SNC-Lavalin tape

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In a press release Monday, the Conservative Party announced that finance critic Pierre Poilievre would kick off a “marathon speech” during debate on a motion asking the House of Commons to approve the federal budget in general: the motion is in effect a precursor to the introduction of a budget bill.

In previous filibusters, the Conservatives have used the method of putting hundreds of motions opposing fiscal bills on notice and then forcing overnight votes on those bills. In Monday’s effort, Poilievre is using a procedural rule allowing the opening statement on budget bills made by the first Opposition member speaking to last an unlimited amount of time during the period set aside for debate on that matter: in this case, four days.

However, it does not override other scheduled House of Commons business. Rather, until Poilievre cedes the floor, his speech is considered essentially ongoing and he can continue speaking throughout the several periods per day when debate is supposed to take place on the policy.

The goal, the party explained, was “to demand the Liberals agree to reopen the justice committee’s investigation into Justin Trudeau’s SNC-Lavalin coverup.”

WATCH: Justice committee releases private phone call between Wilson-Raybould and Wernick on SNC-Lavalin case

Liberal members of the House of Commons justice committee shut down their limited probe of the scandal, which began with a report by the Globe and Mail on Feb. 7, 2019 outlining allegations that senior government members pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the criminal case of the Montreal engineering firm.

SNC-Lavalin faces corruption and fraud charges that could see it barred from bidding on government contracts for a decade if convicted.

Wilson-Raybould has outlined what she calls a “consistent and sustained effort” by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and 10 other senior officials to apply what she describes as inappropriate pressure to get her to step in and order the director of public prosecutions to offer the company a new, untested legal option to avoid trial.

That option, known as a remediation or deferred prosecution agreement, was only introduced by the Liberals last year after heavy lobbying from SNC-Lavalin.

WATCH: Will the Liberals kick Jody Wilson-Raybould out of caucus over recording?

Although Wilson-Raybould named 11 top government officials as those behind the inappropriate pressure, Liberals on the justice committee have refused to call the vast majority of those named and also refused to allow Wilson-Raybould to return to the committee after her testimony was challenged.

In response to that refusal, Wilson-Raybould tabled a submission with the committee that included a secretly recorded phone call with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick on Dec. 19, in which he told her Trudeau didn’t understand why she wouldn’t intervene and said the prime minister “was going to find a way to get it done, one way or another.”

Poilievre’s marathon speech comes as the Conservatives are now arguing that the recording, which corroborated Wilson-Raybould’s version of events, should warrant the justice committee reopening its limited probe of the scandal.

In particular, they want senior officials from the Prime Minister’s Office called to testify — among them, senior advisers Elder Marques and Mathieu Bouchard as well as chief of staff Katie Telford.

“I will stop speaking and cede the floor when Justin Trudeau ends the coverup and allows all the players to testify in his scandal,” Poilievre said.

Question period is scheduled to take place at 2:15 PM EDT.

More to come. 

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