Former cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould will be called before the House of Commons justice committee to address allegations she was pressured by the Prime Minister’s Office not to prosecute a Quebec engineering giant.
Opposition MPs are livid that no one from Justin Trudeau’s office has been called to answer for their alleged roles in the affair.
The committee hearings are to begin Wednesday but Wilson-Raybould likely won’t appear until Monday and it’s not clear she will be able to shed new light on the allegations that prompted her to resign her cabinet seat and Trudeau to lose his most trusted aide.
The Liberal-dominated committee rejected an opposition motion calling on the prime minister to waive solicitor-client privilege and allow Wilson-Raybould to finally speak freely on the allegations.
She stunned observers by attending a meeting Tuesday of the very cabinet from which she resigned a week ago. Trudeau said she had asked to speak there and was invited to do so but cabinet confidentiality meant nothing could be told about why or what was said. For her part, Wilson-Raybould continued to say nothing about the furor around her.
“I am still consulting with my legal counsel as I think people can appreciate, or should appreciate, the rules and laws around privilege, around confidentiality, around my responsibility as a member of Parliament,” she said as she exited the meeting.
“My ethical and professional responsibilities as a lawyer are layered and incredibly complicated so I am still working with my lawyer.”
Shortly after Wilson-Raybould met cabinet, one of the Liberal members of the justice committee, who had last week rejected calling the former minister to testify, announced that she would propose a motion at committee to hear from her after all.
New Democrat justice critic Murray Rankin said it appears that Wilson-Raybould and the government have reached some sort of internal resolution to the affair that will allow her to remain in the Liberal caucus and testify to the committee without saying anything damaging to the government.
The committee will also hear from Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick, current Justice Minister David Lametti, and deputy justice minister Nathalie Drouin, along with a number of academics who can discuss the legal principles underpinning the allegations.
Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s long-time friend who resigned his post as principal secretary on Monday despite saying he had done nothing wrong, will not be called, nor will anyone else from Trudeau’s office.
“The coverup continues,” said Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus after the closed-door committee meeting.
Wilson-Raybould has hired former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell to advise her on what she can say publicly about allegations made by an anonymous source to the Globe and Mail. The newspaper reported she was pressured to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution on bribery and corruption charges related to government contracts in Libya.
Wilson-Raybould was the justice minister for more than three years, until she was moved in January to veterans affairs. Opposition parties maintain she was demoted because she wouldn’t instruct the director of public prosecutions to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin, rather than pursue a criminal conviction that could see the company barred from bidding on public contracts for 10 years.
Trudeau has acknowledged there were conversations with her about the case, but that he told her the decision was hers to make, and she was not being directed to do anything.
Joan Bryden and Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press