Trudeau says he has not been contacted by RCMP on SNC-Lavalin

·4 min read
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is denying a report that his office pressured former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the case against construction giant SNC-Lavalin. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press - image credit)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is denying a report that his office pressured former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the case against construction giant SNC-Lavalin. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press - image credit)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says he has not been personally contacted by the RCMP concerning the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Trudeau was responding to statements made by former cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who in her new book says that, as recently as January 2021, the RCMP was still considering whether to investigate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government in the matter. She did not offer evidence to back up that assertion.

Trudeau said Sunday he had not been contacted by the federal police force over the issue, and skirted questions on whether cabinet confidences had gotten in the way of a complete airing of the matter.

"I have no information to share with you on that," Trudeau told reporters.

The RCMP said it did not have any updates on the matter when asked by CBC News if they were still considering an investigation.

The federal Conservatives said Sunday that the possibility the RCMP were still engaged on the issue was a "troubling detail." The Conservatives also pointed to pages in the book where Wilson-Raybould alleges that the decision not to waive all cabinet confidences was not related to protecting the "underlying importance" of those confidences, but instead was a political decision.

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

Trudeau said Sunday that parliamentary committees had heard substantial testimony and "dissected this in every possible way," including "thoroughly" before the last election.

The affair, revealed first in 2019 by reporting in the Globe and Mail, centred on whether Trudeau improperly put pressure on Wilson-Raybould to offer a deferred prosecution agreement to SNC-Lavalin in an ongoing bribery case related to contracts in Libya. A report by Canada's ethics commissioner concluded that he had done so.

The affair eventually led to the resignations of Wilson-Raybould, Jane Philpott, Trudeau's principal secretary, Gerald Butts and Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick.

Wilson-Raybould's full memoir, Indian in the Cabinet, Speaking Truth to Power, is set to be released Tuesday.

'I did not want her to lie': Trudeau

Trudeau had already responded Saturday to allegations by Wilson-Raybould that in February 2019 she had felt he wanted her to lie about the issue.

"In that moment I know he wanted me to lie – to attest that what had occurred had not occurred."

"I did not want her to lie. I would never ask her that. That is simply not true," Trudeau told reporters Saturday.

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole accused Trudeau of creating a system of "special access for friends and people close" to him that allowed people to lobby their way out of prosecution.

"This is a culture of coverup, a culture of insider access that we are going to tackle" with accountability measures proposed in the Conservative platform, he said.

At a campaign stop Sunday in Sudbury, Ont., NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh contended that the revelations in Wilson-Raybould's book fit a pattern for the Liberal leader.

WATCH | NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh discusses the SNC-Lavalin affair

"The trend that we've seen is Mr. Trudeau has really held himself out to be feminist, really dug deep and put that out there, again and again," Singh said. "And then we're seeing actions that are to the contrary, sadly."

The NDP leader drew a link to sexual misconduct allegations in the Canadian Armed Forces and Trudeau's lack of action in setting up an independent reporting process for women in uniform.

Trudeau says one thing and does another, Singh said, "and Ms. Jody Wilson-Raybould's powerful story really exposes another side of that."

Opposing parties scrutinize judicial appointments process

Both the NDP and Conservatives moved Sunday to put pressure on the government over judicial appointments. Two Conservative MPs wrote to the ethics commissioner to request an investigation into the appointment of a Superior Court judge, which allegedly came about because of pressure from Liberal candidate Diane Lebouthillier.

The Conservatives said the Lebouthillier had pressed Lametti to nominate someone who was the legal partner of one of her donors, an allegation first reported by Le Journal de Montréal.

In statements to The Canadian Press, Lebouthillier denied having acted improperly and said she was not particularly linked to the judge. The Liberals argued that the appropriate processes had been followed and no one had been pressured.

Meanwhile, the NDP drew from separate allegations made by Wilson-Raybould in her book that the Liberals would at times put on a "full-court press" to influence her on judicial appointments.

"As prime minister, Jagmeet [Singh] will clean this up and ensure that partisan nomination can no longer occur," NDP candidate Alexandre Boulerice said in a statement.

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