OTTAWA- Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt says if the government uses its majority to quash a motion to have former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould testify on PMO interference in the SNC-Lavalin corruption charges, “that will be nothing more than an admission of guilt.”
Raitt appeared with Public Safety critic MP Pierre Paul-Hus at a press conference this morning in Ottawa, two hours before the Commons Justice committee convenes an emergency meeting to deliberate having “nine high-ranking government officials” testify about the Prime Minister’s Office’s dealings with Wilson-Raybould.
The former attorney general who was shuffled to Veterans Affairs before resigning from cabinet Tuesday is at the centre of a political scandal over allegations the Prime Minister’s Office pressured her to instruct the Public Prosecution Service to defer bribery and corruption charges against SNC-Lavalin for a remediation deal.
“The leader of justice committee said he won’t support motion, he thinks it’s too partisan,” said Raitt of Justice chair Liberal MP Anthony Housefather’s who earlier said he doubted Wilson-Raybould suffered any pressure and would prefer a study over an investigation.
“The truth is not partisan,” Raitt told reporters in the West Block foyer. “If the Liberals on the commons committee believe that the prime minister and that his office have done nothing wrong than they should pass this motion without hesitation,” Raitt said. “If they defeat or water it down in any way, it is nothing less than an admission of guilt.”
The opposition motion calls for the following nine people to appear before the Justice committee: Wilson-Raybould, current Attorney General David Lametti, Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick, Public Prosecution Service boss Kathleen Roussel, Wilson Raybould’s chief of staff Jessica Prince, as well as senior PMO aides Katie Telford, Gerald Butts, Mathieu Bouchard and Elder Marques.
“The allegation that the PMO pressured Judy Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin criminal prosecution to secure it a special deal that (SNC) has spent years lobbying the government for strikes at the heart of the rule of law,” said Raitt.
Buried in an omnibus bill passed last year was a measure for deferred prosecution agreements for corporations charged with committing white collar offenses.
As SNC-Lavalin is on record lobbying the government for these remediation measures makes the alleged PMO pressure on Wilson-Raybould even more troubling. SNC-Lavalin and two of its subsidiaries are accused of paying $48 million in bribes to Libyan officials to win contracts there between 2001 and 2011.
“Since these allegations surfaced, the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has changed his version of the story several times. At first he denied it, then he admitted conversations did take place. Then through anonymous sources in media reports, he smeared Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s reputation,” Raitt noted in reference to recent reports that the former attorney general was difficult to work with.
“And then (Trudeau) praised Ms. Wilson-Raybould saying her presence in cabinet speakss for itself. That all changed yesterday when she resigned from cabinet and Mr. Trudeau changed his story again, blaming her for not speaking up against misconduct from his own office.”