Wilson-Raybould vs Trudeau: What political interference looks like

Former Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson Raybould walks to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday Feb. 26 2019

Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says she came under "consistent and sustained" pressure - including veiled threats - from the Prime Minister's Office, the Privy Council Office and the finance minister's office to halt a criminal prosecution of Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

The prime minister said the federal ethics commissioner, Mario Dion, will settle disagreements over what happened.

Host Dave Breakenridge is joined by National Post politics reporter Brian Platt. A conviction could bar the company from bidding on Canadian government business, potentially devastating it.

Justice Minister Sonia Lebel say it was crucial that politicians uphold the legal and legislative system, sometimes at the expense of corporations.

February 7 - Citing unnamed sources, the Globe and Mail newspaper reports that Trudeau's aides attempted to press Wilson-Raybould, while attorney general, to intervene in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, and that exasperation with her lack of co-operation was one reason for shuffling her out of the justice portfolio.

Trudeau initially dismissed the allegations as "false" but has since said that, while he did discuss the SNC-Lavalin prosecution with Wilson-Raybould, the decision on the prosecution of the company was "hers alone" to make.

"On Wednesday, former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould pushed his head down further". If a Clerk of the Privy Council can claim with a straight face that ten calls and meetings with the attorney general, during which massive job loss, an angry PM and a lost election are threatened, don't constitute interference, then what on earth would interference look like?

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In Saskatchewan, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, applauded Wilson-Raybould's "integrity and courage" in speaking out. But at the justice committee hearing on Wednesday, members of Trudeau's Liberal party appeared as unified; there have been no high-profile shows of public support for Wilson-Raybould within the party since Wednesday. "I stated I believed the reason was because of the SNC matter".

"I don't anticipate being kicked out of caucus", she said after the testimony.

But another senior member of the Liberal Party said there was growing unhappiness among legislators about how Trudeau's team had handled the matter and said the prime minister needed to replace some of his staff. She said Trudeau said, "No, no, no, we just need to find a solution". Wilson-Raybould said she resisted intervening because she wanted to uphold the principle of judicial independence and the rule of law, but officials ignored her repeated instructions to stop raising the issue.

She disputed that version of events, saying Trudeau only offered some vague assurance after she confronted him directly at the September 17 meeting, two weeks after Roussel had decided not to consider a remediation agreement.

"I think she's a hero", New Westminster-Burnaby NDP MP Peter Julian said. And on Thursday, Trudeau argued that Dion is best placed to decide who is telling the truth about the SNC-Lavalin affair - the prime minister or his former justice minister.

The former attorney general and justice minister says she was "taken aback" by the comment and posed "a direct question while looking him in the eye".

In her testimony, Wilson-Raybould did not specify details on why she resigned from Trudeau's cabinet last week, except to say that she received a call from the prime minister on January 7 advising her that she was being shuffled into the veteran affairs portfolio. He also repeated that both him and his office were appropriate in all their dealings with Wilson-Raybould and her office, and that he disagreed with her version of events.

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