Opposition MPs call for Wilson-Raybould to testify again, citing new evidence
Amanda Coletta, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, March 30, 2019 7:09AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, March 30, 2019 11:41AM EDT
Opposition MPs are clamouring for the House Justice Committee to call Jody Wilson-Raybould to testify for a second time on the SNC-Lavalin scandal, but a Liberal member of that committee said it’s time to move on.
In an interview with CTV Question Period host Evan Solomon, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre said that a newly released audio recording of a 17-minute-long phone call between the former attorney-general and outgoing Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick makes it all the more necessary that Wilson-Raybould be invited to provide a second round of testimony.
“If (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) has nothing to hide, why won’t he let her complete her testimony?” Poilievre said.
In the audio recording of the Dec. 19 phone call that Wilson-Raybould provided to the Justice Committee on Friday, Wernick warns Wilson-Raybould of a potential “collision” with the prime minister over her decision not to offer SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement that would forestall its criminal prosecution on bribery and corruption charges in exchange for the payment of a hefty fine.
Wilson-Raybould, who resigned from cabinet last month, tells Wernick that “we are treading on dangerous ground here” and adds that “this is going to look like political interference by the prime minister.”
Wernick resigned from his role on Mar. 18.
Poilievre said that the recording stands in stark contrast with Trudeau’s assertions that Wilson-Raybould should have come forward if she felt any of the conversations on the SNC-Lavalin file were inappropriate.
“Using words like ‘a collision’ is clearly a veiled threat, which is exactly what she alleged at committee,” he said, “and now we know she was telling the truth.”
He is calling on Liberal MP Jane Philpott, who resigned from cabinet citing a lack of confidence in Trudeau’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin dispute, and all of the other people who have been linked to it, to testify before the committee, too.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said that the recording shows that no one in the Prime Minister’s Office “seemed to understand the concept of prosecutorial independence,” adding that their behaviour amounts to “a very serious abuse of their office.”
She, too, thinks that Justice Committee has more to learn from Wilson-Raybould. The directive issued by Trudeau waiving attorney-client privilege and cabinet confidence that allowed her to testify was too narrowly-defined, she said.
“I think they made a huge mistake in deciding to shut down her ability to finish her testimony and also to know what happened between the moment she was made Minister of Veterans Affairs and the time she decided to step down,” she told CTV Question Period.
But Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault, who sits on the Justice Committee, disagreed, noting that Wilson-Raybould gave four hours of testimony before the committee last month -- longer than anyone else -- and was permitted to read a 38-minute opening statement.
The written statement, copies of text messages, emails and the audio recording that she provided to the committee “confirms what we already knew,” Boissonnault said.
“Literally, it’s time to get on with what Canadians expect us to do, which is to improve their lives and get on to the business of governing,” he added.
The Liberal-dominated justice committee shut down further hearings in the SNC-Lavalin affair last week.
NDP finance critic Peter Julian said that the recording laid out “a very clear pattern” of “outrageous” behaviour and is calling for a public inquiry.
Wilson-Raybould’s claim during her testimony that she was subjected to “veiled threats” was an underestimation of what was actually happening, he said.
“It’s a very, very clear threat,” he said, noting that the SNC-Lavalin scandal has given Canada “a black eye internationally.”
Boissonnault repeated Trudeau’s oft-repeated defense that any conversations between his office and Wilson-Raybould on the SNC-Lavalin file were about “sticking up for jobs.”
The dispute is “a fundamental disagreement over the intensity of the kind of conversations that can take place between an attorney-general, and in this case, her colleague,” he said.
The real “ethical breach,” Boissonnault added, was Wilson-Raybould’s decision to secretly record her conversation with Wernick -- something she admitted was an “extraordinary and otherwise inappropriate step.”
Boissonnault would not say definitively whether Wilson-Raybould and Philpott should be booted from the Liberal caucus.
“We’re here to make lives better for Canadians and as long as people share our Liberal values, they’re welcome in the team,” he said. “If they decide they’re no longer able to do that, that’s their call.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denied inappropriately pressuring Wilson-Raybould on SNC-Lavalin and has not apologized. The scandal, which comes just months before a federal election in October, has led to the resignation of two cabinet ministers, Canada’s top civil servant and Trudeau’s former principal secretary.