Tuesday, 21 May, 2019


Former Trudeau aide at centre of scandal denies he pressured ex-minister

Image Credit Mel Rothenburger  CTV News Channel Image Credit Mel Rothenburger CTV News Channel
Conrad Doyle | 08 March, 2019, 23:35

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau did not inappropriately pressure a former justice minister to grant a legal favour to a firm facing a criminal trial, a former senior aide has said.

Wilson-Raybould later alleged in testimony to the House Justice Committee that she faced "veiled threats" and "sustained" pressure to help Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin, a major employer in Canada.

Gerry Butts, an architect of Trudeau's 2015 victory and a longtime friend, quit as his principal secretary last month, saying he did not want to become a distraction as the government braces for a tough general election in eight months.

"I do not see how our brief discussion on that file constitutes pressure of any kind", Butts told the House of Commons justice committee.

"I should have realized that", Mr. Butts said in his testimony. "We just need to find a solution".

Philpott, a physician, is a former minister of health and minister of indigenous services and was widely viewed as of one of Trudeau's most competent Cabinet ministers.

A second member of Trudeau's Cabinet resigned on Monday, saying she had lost confidence in how the government had dealt with the matter.

This comes a month to the day after The Globe and Mail first reported that senior members of his government tried to pressure Wilson-Raybould into dropping a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

While Wilson-Raybould did tell him she had decided not to intervene in the case, he says he asked to reconsider and she agreed to do so.

Butts, who has also been Trudeau's best friend since their university years, suggested on Wednesday that Wilson-Raybould's allegations came only after her demotion from attorney general to veteran affairs minister, a position from which she resigned last month.

That directly contradicts Wilson-Raybould's testimony, in which she recounted a mid-September meeting with the clerk of the Privy Council and the Prime Minister: "I told him that I had done my due diligence and had made up my mind on SNC and that I was not going to interfere with the decision of the director", she said.

She was later stripped of her post as attorney general and eventually resigned from Trudeau's Cabinet.

Butts also cited a breakdown in trust between Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould, which he took responsibility for.

He thoroughly explained the government's rationale for moving Wilson-Raybould, reiterating Trudeau's assertion that the shuffle only happened because Scott Brison announced he would resign as Treasury Board president.

Ms Wilson-Raybould said he replied with "No, no, no".

Gerald Butts told the justice committee he wouldn't "say a single negative word" about former justice minister and attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould.

While carefully avoiding any verbal attacks on Wilson-Raybould, he denied the tone and substance of numerous conversations she had related.

"It does seem remarkably tone deaf on the part of the government if they really were harping (on Wilson-Raybould) to this extent, knowing full well what the law says", said Jennifer Quaid, an expert on corporate criminal liability at the University of Ottawa. However, should they persist in saying they have no confidence in Trudeau's government, the source said Liberal MPs would likely demand they be kicked out of caucus and Trudeau would refuse to allow them to run for the party again.

The committee moved into questioning with a warning from the chair to not wander too much away from the focus of the day's meeting.

Canada's ethics commissioner is investigating the affair but that will take months.

"The system (is) working the way it was created to work, it's transparent; I don't think anyone can make the argument (that) it's not". SNC-Lavalin is an economic force in Canada, with 9,000 employees in the country and about 50,000 worldwide.

Jody Wilson-Raybould should be recalled to the witness stand.

"I was not aware of that erosion of trust, but as prime minister and leader of the federal ministry, I should have been", Trudeau said early Thursday morning.

Bothwell said Trudeau is not like his father, the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who swept to office in 1968 on a wave of support dubbed "Trudeaumania" and governed for most of the next two decades.

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