Gerald Butts, the former Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a two-time national debate champion, is testifying today to the Justice Committee about what occurred during the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
You can read Mr Butts’ full statement by clicking here.
Within the first moments of the testimony, Mr. Butts made a fairly problematic statement: “Clear direction was to ensure thousands of jobs at risk were at top of mind. PM was sure to direct that final direction was with DPP and Attorney General alone.”
This is problematic as the language around deferred prosecution is quite clear.
Jobs are not a factor to be considered. You can read more on that here.
Butts goes on record to again say that the cabinet shuffle had nothing to do with the decisions made by Jody Wilson-Raybould to not obstruct justice, but instead was directly related to the decision of MP Scott Brison to step down.
He parroted Prime Minister Trudeau’s argument that Trudeau wanted to move as few ministers as possible, and that Treasury Board was vital for the basic functions of government.
In the testimony, Butts attempts to clear the air on moving Wilson-Raybould to Indigenous Services. According to Butts, Jane Philpott, one of Trudeau’s most trusted cabinet members who has since stepped down from her position due to the fall out surrounding the SNC-Lavalin affair, believed that Wilson-Raybould was an excellent choice for the job due to the importance of handling the Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework.
Interestingly, Butts alleged that they worried JWR might see it as a demotion, and wondered if she would see it as an SNC-Lavalin related move.
This is quite hard to comprehend given the eventual assignment of Seamus O’Reagon to that same position and the actual management of the portfolio being under Carolyn Bennett position.
Butts also stated that he is “fully aware that two people can experience the same event differently,” going onto say that he “does not see” how the discussion between the parties involved could “constitute pressure of any kind.”
The former adviser also said that he believed the former AG had a duty to look at new evidence, while also stating that he could not think of any new evidence.
It should also be noted that amongst all of this, the Liberal majority on the Justice committee chose at the beginning of Mr Butts’ testimony to not waive his Parliamentary privilege, a legal immunity that he enjoys in which he is granted protection against civil or criminal liability for actions or statements made in the course of his duties. They also chose to keep the texts and messages between Butts and the PMO away from the opposition.
Both votes as come as no surprise, as parliamentary privilege has not been waived once since confederation, and handing over of texts would open up a lot of transparency. None the less opening both could have seriously helped their case. Waiving parliamentary privilege would lift Butts’ immunity.
This is a breaking news article and will be updated.