What has changed in the year since Wilson-Raybould's SNC-Lavalin scandal testimony
Jody Wilson-Raybould appears at the House of Commons Justice Committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)
OTTAWA -- A year ago Thursday, former attorney general and justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould sat before the House Justice Committee for hours, testifying that she faced high-level “veiled threats” and political interference in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. This left Prime Minister Justin Trudeau facing calls to resign.
Now, 365 days later: How did that chapter change Canadian politics? And what's stayed the same?
CTVNews.ca looks back at the updates to this story since her blockbuster testimony.
But first, a brief recap.
By her Feb. 27, 2019 appearance in which she alleged nearly a dozen senior government officials had embarked on a months-long "sustained effort" of interference, the initial Globe and Mail report citing unnamed sources had already sparked a series of events.
Wilson-Raybould, who had recently been shuffled out of her position as justice minister and attorney general, resigned from cabinet altogether; federal ethics czar Mario Dion begun investigating the matter, as did the House Justice Committee; Trudeau's then-principal secretary Gerald Butts resigned; and the prime minister had issued a partial but long-called-for waiver of solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality, setting the stage for her testimony.
After her testimony Trudeau faced calls to resign; the committee heard more testimony from other players including from Butts, but not all that the opposition wanted; there was another cabinet shuffle and Jane Philpott also resigned from her ministerial post; Trudeau did a press conference in which he cited an "erosion of trust" as the catalyst for the entire affair; and eventually she and Philpott were removed from the Liberal caucus after Wilson-Raybould made public additional evidence including texts, emails, and an audio recording of a conversation she had with then-Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick.
By late spring the steady stream of breaking news had slowed to more of a trickle, but in the months that followed there were still moments where the affair made waves, including Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion finding Trudeau broke the federal Conflict of Interest Act by both directly and indirectly seeking to influence Wilson-Raybould.
Here's what's shifted, and what hasn't, since.
Wilson-Raybould reelected as lone Independent MP
In May 2019, both Wilson-Raybould and Philpott announced they'd be running for reelection, but as independent candidates. The two former Liberals and close political allies donned white outfits and unveiled their next political moves in consecutive announcements, and spoke of wanting to see a political system with less partisanship.
Despite both campaigns receiving considerable support, just Wilson-Raybould managed to eke out a win, being reelected as the lone Independent MP in the minority Liberal Parliament. She secured her Vancouver-Granville seat with 32.6 per cent of the vote. Now, seated alongside the Green Party caucus, Wilson-Raybould has limited speaking opportunities in the House, no role at committees, and has often sided with the government on votes.
She's yet to advance any private members' legislation, and garnered headlines over some acrimony related to being assigned a new MP office.
Justice minister and AG role gets new oath
When Trudeau swore-in his new cabinet in November, he kept the justice minister and attorney general roles together. Though when reading the oath to maintain his role, David Lametti read a revised version that emphasized prosecutorial independence, vowing to: "uphold the Constitution, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary and of the prosecutorial function."
It was a nod to a recommendation made by former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan in her commissioned report on whether or not the two roles should be held by separate people. In her findings, released in August—on the same day that Dion found Trudeau breached federal ethics law—McLellan said that splitting the roles wouldn't make a difference, though suggested developing a "detailed protocol to govern ministerial consultations in specific prosecutions," and a new oath.
SNC-Lavalin pleads guilty to fraud, will pay $280-million fine
Then, in December the company pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud over $5,000 and agreed to pay a $280-million fine in relation to the charges the company was facing related to work the company did in Libya between 2001 and 2011.
The construction division of the company was given five years to pay the fine and will be on probation for three years. In return, prosecutors withdrew other corruption-related charges against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and its international marketing arm, SNC-Lavalin International Inc.
In a statement, SNC-Lavalin President and Chief Executive Officer, Ian L. Edwards, called the development in the case a “game-changer” and apologized for the past misconduct.
The company said that the settlement “mitigates uncertainty” and “does not anticipate that the guilty plea by a construction subsidiary... will affect the eligibility of SNC-Lavalin Group companies to bid on future projects." This was a direct reference to what Trudeau said was his central concern throughout the government's grappling over the potential to offer the construction giant a deferred prosecution agreement: jobs.
Reacting to the news, Lametti said the agreement was made "independently," and Wilson-Raybould said "accountability was achieved," adding that "it is time to move forward.”