Friday, 22 March, 2019

SNC scandal fuels western alienation as Trudeau focuses on Quebec jobs

Justin Trudeau shares a new version of what happened at his September 2018 meeting with Jody Wilson-Raybould PM acknowledges 'erosion of trust' between office and Jody Wilson-Raybould
Andrew Cummings | 10 March, 2019, 02:31

"I was not aware of that erosion of trust, and as prime minister and leader of the ministry, I should have been", he said.

"I'm sure it's very disappointing for him to hear that the trust broke down to that degree and I think moving forward his commitment to examining the processes in his own office and examining that role in particular are very important takeaways", Hajdu said.

Everything that Mr. Trudeau described about the relationship between a minister and a prime minister, or a minister and others in government, is correct - except when the minister is the attorney-general.

She resigned from cabinet altogether a month after accepting the new post. "She did not come to me, and I wish she had", he said.

At the center of the SNC-Lavalin affair were claims that the Montreal-based construction giant paid around $35.75 million in bribes to Libyan officials in an effort to win contracts there when the country was under Muammar el-Qaddafi's leadership.

SNC-Lavalin openly lobbied the Canadian government for an out-of-court settlement that would mean paying a fine and agreeing to stricter compliance measures.

As for Trudeau, he said reminding Wilson-Raybould that his own riding is in Montreal-in the context of anxious talk about what would happen if a Montreal-headquartered company suffered as a result of a criminal trial-wasn't partisan either.

When they told Wilson-Raybould she would move to Indigenous services she shocked them by flatly turning it down, not because of SNC-Lavalin, but because as an Indigenous person who had fought the Indian Act all her life, she did not feel comfortable administering that same act.

In a ruling, Justice Catherine Kane said the company's application for a review of the prosecutors' decision "had no reasonable prospect of success".

"I will miss the input of the former attorney general and Dr. Philpott but I will also enjoy my continued relationships with them as members of Parliament". "As a result, I agreed to and undertook to the Prime Minister that I would have a conversation with my deputy and the clerk, but that these conversations would not change my mind".

Justin Trudeau shares a new version of what happened at his September 2018 meeting with Jody Wilson-Raybould

The scandal revolves around allegations from Trudeau's former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, claiming his inner circle tried to shield SNC-Lavalin from a bribery trial.

The crisis has prompted the resignation of two high- profile Liberal cabinet ministers and Trudeau's closest political aide, Gerald Butts.

Trudeau said his team and everyone in his government has been focused on protecting jobs, and he stressed that "the rule of law remains fully intact".

"We considered that she was still open to hearing different arguments and different approaches on what her decision could be", Mr Trudeau said.

But in testimony before the justice committee, Wilson-Raybould said members of Trudeau's inner circle continued to "hound" her from September to December a year ago, after she made known her decision not to offer SNC-Lavalin a deal.

Trudeau responded to the Globe report by telling the news media that his government did not "direct" her on the matter.

Where did it all go wrong for Justin Trudeau?

As for how Trudeau fared with his message, Sears says he's "stopped the bleeding for now".

On Wednesday, the Liberal MPs on the committee, who have a 5-4 majority, blocked an opposition call for her return.

The refusal of the PPS to extend a deferred prosecution agreement to SNC-Lavalin has been the key subject of the month-old controversy gripping the Liberal government.

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