OTTAWA — Former Canadian Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould told the House of Commons justice committee Wednesday that she was told to interfere in the prosecution of Quebec contractor, SNC-Lavalin. The Official Opposition says Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has no option but to resign.
The political interference from the Prime Minister’s Office was apparently all about getting corruption charges against the company deferred in order to shore up Liberal Party support in the province of Quebec.
“For a period of approximately four months between September and December 2018, I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the attorney general of Canada in an inappropriate effort to secure a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with SNC-Lavalin,” Wilson-Raybould told the committee. (RELATED: Trudeau Principal Secretary Gerald Butts Resigns In Wake Of Judicial Scandal)
Trudeau also participated in this “sustained effort,” according to Wilson-Raybould, and at one point he directly implied that Wilson-Raybould should consider the party’s political fortunes in Quebec. She described the incident when “the prime minister jumped in stressing that there is an election in Quebec and that ‘I am an MP in Quebec – the member for Papineau.'”
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.”
“I asked: ‘Are you politically interfering with my role, my decision as the attorney general? I would strongly advise against it.'”
Trudeau’s response appeared to be both a denial and an affirmation: “The prime minister said, ‘No, no, no – we just need to find a solution.'”
Official Opposition Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is demanding that Trudeau resign for political interference and says the Royal Canadian Mounted Police must investigate Wilson-Raybould’s enormous claims. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Scheer said Trudeau has no moral authority to govern Canada. (RELATED: Former Canadian AG Jody Wilson-Raybould Quits As Trudeau Embroiled In Growing Scandal)
“I was sickened and appalled by [Wilson-Raybould’s] story of inappropriate and, frankly, borderline illegal pressure brought to bear on her by the highest levels of Justin Trudeau’s government,” he said.
Trudeau said Wednesday he won’t resign and has essentially dismissed his former minister’s testimony as a fabrication.
“I strongly maintain, as I have from the beginning, that I and my staff always acted appropriately and professionally,” he said during an event in Montreal late Wednesday. “And therefore I completely disagree with the characterization of the former attorney general about these events.”
While media continued to demand answers throughout Wednesday afternoon, the Liberal government tried to avoid the story. Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced on Twitter that the federal government would be pardoning Canadians who had been charged with possession of marijuana before the drug was legalized.
Later today, I will give notice to introduce a bill to provide no-cost, expedited pardons for simple possession of cannabis.
— Ralph Goodale (@RalphGoodale) February 27, 2019
Wilson-Raybould’s revolt is unprecedented in a Liberal Party that has dominated the Canadian political landscape for over a century by keeping caucus malcontents silent and demanding its Members of Parliament (MP) speak in unison. Suspicions that something was amiss in the Trudeau government were aroused when Trudeau demoted Wilson-Raybould from attorney general to Veterans Affairs minister last month following a cabinet shuffle.
The former minister will continue to sit as a Liberal MP for the time being. Wilson-Raybould, who is aboriginal, was seen as an example of Trudeau’s efforts to reach “reconciliation” with Canada’s First Nations.