OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he spoke with former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould last week about a way forward after her allegations of political interference in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
Speaking in Maple Ridge, B.C., Trudeau said the two spoke last Monday.
That day, Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council, announced he would leave his post before the fall election, citing a loss of trust with the opposition parties after Wilson-Raybould accused him of being among a group of top officials that pushed her to help SNC-Lavalin land a kind of plea deal to avoid criminal prosecution.
And the government later announced that former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan would look into whether the job of justice minister and attorney general should be split.
Trudeau said he had a “cordial” conversation with Wilson-Raybould where they discussed “next steps,” but he did not elaborate on what that meant.
He also signalled that Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott will remain in the Liberal caucus despite their outspoken criticism of his government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair.
“I look forward to continuing to engage with both Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott as they make their way forward,” Trudeau said Monday.
“They have both indicated they look forward to running again as Liberals in the next election and I look forward to continuing to have their strong and thoughtful voices as part of our team.”
The opposition parties will push for a fresh investigation of Wilson-Raybould’s allegations when the ethics committee meets on Tuesday. On Monday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called on Trudeau to waive cabinet confidentiality for both Wilson-Raybould and Philpott so they can testify freely.
“If they really want us to believe that they want the truth to come out, if Justin Trudeau truly has nothing to hide, he will make it official — he will send a letter to Ms. Wilson-Raybould and now Ms. Philpott, allowing them to complete their testimony, to speak freely and openly,” Scheer told reporters in Ottawa on Monday.
It has been roughly one month since Wilson-Raybould detailed allegations that Trudeau and other top government officials repeatedly pressured her to intervene in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin over its business dealings in Libya. She testified she was shuffled to the veterans affairs portfolio because she didn’t agree.
Trudeau denies anything improper occurred.
Philpott breathed new life into the controversy last week in a published interview with Maclean’s magazine where she said there is “much more” to the story that has not been told.
Wilson-Raybould will add more details after promising the justice committee on Friday more evidence and details of her allegations as part of a forthcoming written submission.
Liberal MPs are challenging both former cabinet ministers to have their say publicly and be done with the issue. Speaking just ahead of Trudeau, Scheer called the challenge an effort by the Liberals to “distract Canadians from this scandal.” Not long after, Trudeau cited the waiver Wilson-Raybould received to testify at the justice committee about her time as attorney general, saying “it’s important to hear a broad range of perspectives.”
Wilson-Raybould and Philpott could speak under the shield of parliamentary privilege, which protects parliamentarians from legal ramifications for anything they say in the House of Commons, but Scheer said the privilege does not nullify an oath of cabinet confidentiality.
“When I take oaths, it is a matter of conscience for me, it’s not something I would break. There are clearly consequences to people’s reputations when they’ve taken oaths. So we’re saying don’t put them in that position,” said Scheer, a former Speaker of the House of Commons.
“If you’ve really got nothing to hide, why put Ms. Wilson-Raybould and Ms. Philpott in a position where you’re challenging them to break oaths that they’ve taken? Make it official, waive the privilege, waive the issues around cabinet confidences and allow them to testify.”
New Democrats Charlie Angus and Daniel Blaikie reached out Sunday to an international economic group that oversees a global anti-bribery convention.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said earlier this month it is “concerned” by the accusations and would determine if Canada was offside with the convention.
Angus said Monday that the party’s letter argued the Liberals are ignoring international obligations “in order to do damage control.”
“The Liberal government promised the OECD that there would be robust, independent investigation and the OECD said they were pleased to see the justice committee moving ahead,” he said.
“Well, the justice committee got shut down, that’s not robust.”