Jody Wilson-Raybould set to publicly address SNC-Lavalin scandal

OTTAWA – Jody Wilson-Raybould will speak publicly for the first time since the SNC-Lavalin scandal broke when she testifies before the House Justice Committee.

Starting at 3:15 p.m. ET she will present a 30-minute opening statement during which she has told the committee she will offer her recounting of all relevant communications and meetings she was involved in. These were with government officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his senior staff in the PMO in relation to their alleged pressuring of her, as then-attorney general, to instruct federal prosecutors to drop the criminal prosecution of the Quebec construction and engineering giant.

Instead, Wilson-Raybould was allegedly pushed to pursue a remediation agreement that would avoid charges and the prospect of the company being ineligible for government contracts for a decade. SNC-Lavalin lobbied to be the first company to be granted an agreement like this, otherwise known as a deferred prosecution agreement, since the Liberals changed the law to introduce the legal tool through an omnibus budget bill in 2018.

Central to her testimony will be questions of whether she felt pressured, how, and when.

These are all questions she should be poised to be able to answer under the terms of Trudeau’s waiving of solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidence. However, in a letter to the committee confirming her appearance, Wilson-Raybould cautioned that she might not be able to fully speak to everything they want to hear from her on.

The order-in-council that waives the privilege doesn’t allow her to discuss her resignation from cabinet, which happened after being shuffled into veterans affairs, the conversation she had with cabinet after her resignation. The Conservatives are accusing Trudeau of « hiding information he doesn’t want Canadians to know. »

Her appearance is also likely to focus on hearing more details about several related meetings or conversations, both before and after the Director of Public Prosecutions decided to pursue the criminal case. Top bureaucrat Michael Wernick alluded to these communications when he testified before the committee last week.

« How she interprets or perceives those conversations she can tell you… I can tell you, my view very firmly is they were entirely appropriate, lawful, legal, and I am prepared to submit to the judgment of the ethics commissioner on that, » Wernick said.

Today’s meeting is scheduled to last two hours with Wilson-Raybould as the sole witness. Following her opening statement she’ll face questions from all sides.

It has been 20 days since the story first broke and since then, Wilson-Raybould has resigned from cabinet, Trudeau’s top adviser has resigned while claiming no wrongdoing, and Trudeau continues to say that there was nothing improper about the interactions with Wilson-Raybould on this matter.

Over the last few weeks the opposition parties have focused in on this scandal, with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer calling it a « textbook case of government corruption with those at the very top of the prime minister’s office implicated in what could very well be the obstruction of justice. » The opposition Conservatives and New Democrats have sought testimony from Trudeau and several senior PMO staff believed to be central to the story, and called for a public inquiry, with no success.

Since the scandal hit Parliament Hill, federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion has launched an investigation, which Liberals continue to point to as the best avenue for examining the case, though such probes can often take months to complete.

CTV News will have live coverage of the entire committee hearing from inside the room.

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