Wilson-Raybould says she was pushed, got veiled threats on SNC-Lavalin

Privy Council Clerk Michael WernickCHRIS WATTIE  REUTERS

"We took the unprecedented step as a government of waiving cabinet confidentiality and solicitor-client privilege so that the former attorney general could share her perspective on the Lavalin matter in a free manner because we know that people need to understand her perspective on this", Trudeau said on his way into a Liberal caucus meeting.

Wernick said that he had engaged in conversations with Wilson-Raybould and was present for others, including with the PM, where she was pressured into changing her mind and giving a sweetheart deal to SNC-Lavalin to help them avoid conviction on bribery and corruption charges.

Scheer introduced a House of Commons motion Monday afternoon that would demand Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appear at the Commons justice committee to explain his role in allegations former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was pressured not to proceed with a criminal prosecution of Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

She also sought permission to deliver a 30-minute opening statement instead of the usual five to 10 minutes, a request which has been granted.

Today's meeting is scheduled to last two hours with Wilson-Raybould as the sole witness.

She was referring to events on Saturday, Oct. 20, 1973, when U.S. President Richard Nixon ordered his attorney general to fire the special prosecutor assigned to the Watergate scandal.

The meeting is public and is expected to be televised.

Wilson-Raybould said those exchanges prompted her to think of the so-called Saturday Night Massacre of 1973, when the US attorney general and his top deputy quit rather than obey an order from President Richard Nixon to fire an investigator probing the Watergate scandal.

It also made clear that the solicitor-client privilege had been waived.

Liberal MP Marco Mendicino said Wernick, who has been a public servant for decades under both Liberal and Conservative governments, had a responsibility to bring new information to the attention of the attorney general that may impact innocent third parties, such as the employees of large corporations. Trudeau and other officials insist there was no wrongdoing.

For his part, Singh said Wilson-Raybould's testimony painted a picture of a prime minister and other members of government who were willing to disregard the rule of law and were more interested in helping powerful friends than average Canadians.

The former minister told the committee she was "hounded" to end the prosecution for months after the director of public prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel, had rejected the idea of negotiating a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin and long after she had unequivocally declared that she would not direct Roussel to reverse her decision. Wernick said he was informing the minister of "context" surrounding her decision on the company but insisted it was not inappropriate pressure.

Ms Wilson-Raybould was unexpectedly demoted in January, but resigned in February.

Until hearing about the testimony Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council, gave before the Commons Justice Committee last Thursday, I was unaware that omnipresence (being everywhere at the same time, like God) was one of his attributes.

Some of her former cabinet colleagues seemed relieved Tuesday that whatever complaint Wilson-Raybould may have about the way the SNC-Lavalin matter was handled, it will finally be out in the open after weeks of shadow boxing with anonymous sources.

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. That would allow Butts and other Trudeau staffers to testify freely if called upon.



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