Liberal MPs shut down SNC committee before vote on recalling Wilson-Raybould

Liberal MPs shut down SNC committee before vote on recalling Wilson-Raybould

Liberal MPs shut down SNC committee before vote on recalling Wilson-Raybould

Liberals on the House of Commons Justice committee voted to quickly end a meeting that opposition MPs had demanded in order to recall Jody Wilson-Raybould to fill in the holes of the story about what happened between her and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) during the highly publicized SNC-Lavalin affair.

Wilson-Raybould appeared February 27 for about four hours, but after Trudeau's former principal secretary Gerald Butts testified a week later, opposition MPs say they have new questions for the ex-justice minister. The company, SNC-Lavalin, has lobbied for a deferred prosecution agreement, meaning it would pay a fine in lieu of criminal prosecution.

Justice Committee Chair Anthony Housefather waits to start a committee meeting in Ottawa, Wednesday March 13, 2019.

Both Conservative and New Democratic members had called on her to return to the committee.

Butts' testimony to the Justice Committee on March 6th was followed the same day by Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick; his second appearance to speak on his involvement in the affair.

"What a shame", said Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre.

In her February 27 committee appearance, Wilson-Raybould claimed she was subjected to "consistent and sustained" efforts to pressure her into seeking a remediation agreement deal with SNC-Lavalin.

When he testified, Butts put the dispute down to a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings.

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"But after he removed her ... she witnessed events that were so egregious she considered it warranted her resignation from cabinet altogether", said Poilievre.

The committee will reconvene on March 19 for their meeting where they will not only decide whether Wilson-Raybould will be invited back before the committee, but will also determine other witnesses they may wish to speak.

Trudeau also needs to extend the confidentiality waiver he issued to allow Wilson-Raybould to talk about matters that normally would be protected by cabinet confidences or solicitor-client privilege, Ramsey added.

Last month, Wilson-Raybould told the committee that she had experienced sustained and inappropriate pressure from senior Trudeau aides to abandon the prosecution of engineering company accused of bribing Libyan officials.

Trudeau has already said the existing waiver allowed Wilson-Raybould "to address this matter expansively and in detail", which he said is what she did two weeks ago. "If they were going to let her speak, they could have done it today". "Canadians deserve to know what those events were ... so far the prime minister has kept in place a partial gag order preventing them from finding out".

Trudeau's chief of Staff Katie Telford, senior advisers Elder Marques and Mathieu Bouchard and Ben Chin, the chief of staff to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, all need to come to explain their role, said NDP MP Tracey Ramsey.

The justice committee is scheduled to meet next on March 19, the same day that the government will table its budget.

"This is a very extreme move at any committee to try to stop the conversation from continuing and it's very disappointing to Canadians to see the Liberals using this tool today to end the debate, to end the possibility of Ms. Wilson-Raybould coming back before the committee", Ramsey said.

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