The Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) was caught off guard by a flurry of questions after officials with the prosecuting authority issued a provocative tweet promoting judicial independence in the midst of the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
And while new documents obtained by Global News confirm the service’s claim that the tweet was a “total coincidence,” they also show that officials there quickly began reviewing whether any other pre-planned tweets could raise similar concerns from media and the public in the midst of the controversy.
“Our prosecutors must be objective, independent and dispassionate, as well as free from improper influence — including political influence,” the tweet posted on March 7, 2019 read.
The tweet came only hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a press conference in which he insisted that nothing inappropriate had happened in discussions between his office and then-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould about a possible deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin.
A spokesperson for the PPSC at the time told Global News that the tweet was not related to the growing SNC-Lavalin affair.
And 104 pages of internal government documents released under the federal access to information law show that it was nothing but, as one staff member put it, a “total coincidence.”
The documents, which date back to Feb. 11, sketch out a plan from the PPSC to “introduce” itself to Canadians through social media, launching an official Twitter account to help achieve that goal.
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Part of preparing for that meant creating a bank of tweets that would communicate the PPSC’s goals, responsibilities and role in the Canadian bureaucracy.
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All of the tweets, according to the emails, were approved by the director of the PPSC and deputy attorney general of Canada Kathleen Roussel.
With everything prepared, the PPSC’s official Twitter account, again coincidentally, was launched on March 6, the day before the controversial tweet.
But once the tweet was sent out, multiple media outlets reached out to try and get information, asking if it was a direct response to Trudeau’s remarks only hours before.
As spokespeople scrambled to prepare a response, the answer was simple.
“It was pre-scheduled. Total coincidence,” wrote Elizabeth Armitage, executive director of communications for the PPSC, in an email to colleagues.
But the response did make officials reconsider what they had already planned.
“Can we flip tomorrow’s tweet for something like March 12th’s? I’m not sure we want to raise rule of law tomorrow given today’s reaction,” Roussel wrote in an email to staff.
The deputy attorney general’s suggestion was quickly accepted.