Speaker grants opposition request for emergency debate on SNC-Lavalin scandal

OTTAWA – MPs will hold an emergency debate this evening in the aftermath of former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould’s testimony before the House Justice Committee yesterday.

Wilson-Raybould said she faced high-level « veiled threats » and political interference in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen raised the request for the “urgent” debate that she said is required as the result of what was heard yesterday.

« Mr. Speaker there were hours of very credible testimony given yesterday that begs this chamber discuss this issue. We are certainly at a crisis, » Bergen said.

In her more-than-30-minute opening statement before the House Justice Committee, Wilson-Raybould directly implicated the prime minister as she detailed chronologically a series of communications with her office from 11 people, including senior staffers from Trudeau’s office, the Privy Council Office and Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s office.

« This has caused a crisis of confidence in the prime minister, and in his cabinet, certainly in the clerk of the pricy council, in the minister of finance, and in the current attorney general, » Bergen said in making her case for the emergency debate.

Bergen was backed up by NDP MP Charlie Angus.

MPs leave town at the end of this week for a two-week break in their constituencies and Angus argued that it « falls upon parliament to address this… to be seized of this matter, particularly since we will be going back to our constituencies for two weeks, we have to reassure them that the rule of law in Canada will not be monkey-wrenched for partisan purposes. »

Following their calls for this debate, House of Commons Speaker Geoff Regan stated he was « prepared to grant the request. »

Speaking with reporters in Quebec on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that there are ongoing studies that will get to the bottom of the allegations, which currently have a Liberal MP and former cabinet minister appearing at stark odds with the version of events Trudeau and nearly a dozen senior officials in this country have so far offered.

« So while political parties and various people are making, or trying to draw a lot of attention to this issue, there is a process… that will make a determination on what actually happened here so Canadians can be reassured that out intuitions continue to function, so that our governments function in accordance with the rule of law, and that we continue to stay focused on the things that really matter to Canadians, » Trudeau said.

According to the House of Commons compendium of procedure, emergency debates must take place on the day the request is granted, and will begin when the ordinary day’s business concludes, which today is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Among the considerations the Speaker must take into account the importance of the issue.

Trudeau is not scheduled to be in question period on Thursday, and it’s rare for party leaders to attend question period on a Friday. That means the next time Trudeau could face a question directly on this scandal in the House of Commons may not be until March 18, when the House resumes, unless he decides to return to Ottawa for this emergency debate this evening.

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