Appropriate for PMO to talk about SNC-Lavalin intervention, says Lametti

By Canadian Press	
	 		‘A line... was crossed’ in SNC-Lavalin affair says New Democrat MP				Feb 24 2019

By Canadian Press ‘A line... was crossed’ in SNC-Lavalin affair says New Democrat MP Feb 24 2019

The motion, defeated by the Liberals, called for a public inquiry into the allegation Wilson-Raybould had been politically pressured while attorney general to intervene in a corruption prosecution against SNC-Lavalin.

Her comments add drama to the testimony she is set to give to the Commons justice committee, which has launched a study of the matter. Two Liberal MPs, Nate Erskine-Smith and Wayne Long, broke ranks with their party and voted with the Conservatives and NDP in favour of the motion.

Motions in the House of Commons are not binding and regardless of the outcome, the committee itself would still have to decide whether to invite Trudeau.

The 47-year-old son of Canada's early 1980s prime minister Pierre Trudeau is facing a tough election campaign in any case.

Liberal Party officials and Mr Trudeau also fear the SNC-Lavalin affair has put a stain on his honest image and the autumn vote could see him ousted from power or forced into a coalition government.

According to the latest schedule, the committee has blocked off two hours for a briefing session with current Justice Minister and attorney general David Lametti, his deputy minister Nathalie Drouin and Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick, who are expected to offer their perspectives - and field questions - on the broader issues of ministerial responsibility and cabinet practice, although it's not clear if they'll also be able to query the witnesses on the SNC-Lavalin case itself.

He said that Trudeau was anxious a prosecution might result in SNC-Lavalin's moving its operations overseas or closing up shop, hurting innocent employees, shareholders, pensioners, third-party suppliers and communities in which the company operates.

He said: "How Ms Wilson-Raybould interprets and perceives those conversations she can tell you next week".

"The clerk of the privy council, Michael Wernick, is an extraordinary public servant who has served this country and continues to serve this country under governments of different political stripes, with integrity and brilliance", said Trudeau. "He is someone we need to heed very carefully when he chooses to express himself publicly and I'm sure everyone is taking a careful look at his words yesterday".

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As noted in the iPolitics timeline of the scandal, Wernick is listed in a lobbying communication report submitted by SNC-Lavalin that, according to the date provided - September 18, 2018 - would have taken place after the director of public prosecutions had advised the Quebec-based engineering firm that she would not be inviting them to negotiate a remediation deal at that time. It's not the first time Wernick has dismissed critics.

"I have said that I am seeking counsel on this matter of what I can and cannot say", she went on.

"I hope that you as parliamentarians are going to condemn that", he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is trying to manage fallout from anonymous allegations made to the Globe and Mail newspaper that Wilson-Raybould was pressured to allow SNC-Lavalin to negotiate a remediation agreement and avoid criminal prosecution for fraud and bribery.

Among other things, he said she could have raised the matter with the ethics commissioner in early January, when Trudeau informed her he was moving her to the veterans affairs portfolio _ a move Wernick denied amounted to firing or demoting her.

"But frankly, it doesn't look like that today", he said. But based on his many years experience as a senior bureaucrat under multiple Liberal and Conservative governments, he said he doesn't believe solicitor-client privilege stops Wilson-Raybould from telling her side of the story.

Scheer accused Trudeau of "cherry picking" which parts of Wernick's testimony he wants to listen to.

The prime minister on Wednesday sought to calm restless parliamentarians at a meeting to discuss the resignations of Wilson-Raybould and Trudeau aide Gerald Butts, a major architect of the Liberals' surprise victory in October 2015, who quit on Monday while insisting he had done nothing wrong.

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