Jody Wilson-Raybould says pressure in SNC-Lavalin affair was ‘inappropriate’

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.

According to Wilson-Raybould, Wernick told her that Trudeau wanted to know why SNC-Lavalin was not being offered a remediation agreement, a kind of plea bargain that would allow the company to avoid the potentially crippling impact of a criminal conviction.

Wilson-Raybould's appearance before the committee marked her first public comments on the scandal, which has become the biggest crisis of Trudeau's administration. Michael Wernick, the top civil servant in the government, has also said that no inappropriate pressure was put on Wilson-Raybould and that Trudeau repeatedly assured Wilson-Raybould the decision on the SNC-Lavalin prosecution was hers alone.

Wilson-Raybould also told the committee that if she saw that her successor as attorney general, David Lametti, issue a directive to overrule the initial decision of the PPS, she would have "resigned immediately". The waiver he has granted her allows her to speak about conversations and communications she had during her time in her previous portfolio as justice minister and attorney general on this specific SNC-Lavalin case.

Wilson-Raybould was shuffled out of the justice portfolio in January and resigned from cabinet earlier this month, after a story broke that she had been pressured inappropriately to arrange a "remediation agreement" that would have headed off the prosecution.

Wilson-Raybould said she looked Trudeau in the eye and asked him if he was "politically interfering" in her role as attorney general and advised him against doing so.

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If convicted, it would receive a 10-year ban on bidding for government contracts. She also said senior Trudeau adviser Mathieu Bouchard asked her to consider an external legal opinion and once told her "we need to get re-elected" and couldn't afford to let SNC-Lavalin move out of the country.

"What is not appropriate is pressing the attorney general on matters that she or he can not take into account, such as partisan political considerations, continuing to urge the attorney general to (change) her or his mind four months after the decision has been made, or suggesting a collision with the prime minister on these matters should be avoided", she said.

"This is an indication of whose side Trudeau is on - not everyday Canadians who need help, but rich corporations who need favors", said Jagmeet Singh, leader of the opposition New Democrats.

Wilson-Raybould said pressure was exerted on her or her staff by 10 other people in the Prime Minister's Office and the finance minister's office through approximately 10 phone calls, 10 meetings and numerous emails and text messages.

For the former minister, she said the entire saga began in September when PPS director Kathleen Roussel told her that her office was proceeding with a trial for the company.

Wilson-Raybould is also likely to provide her version of a December 5 dinner with Butts, who resigned last week.

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