OTTAWA – Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was cautioned about a potential “collision” with the prime minister over the SNC-Lavalin file, by outgoing Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick, a newly-released audio recording reveals.
According to an audio recording of a conversation that the pair had, submitted to the House Justice Committee by Wilson-Raybould, Wernick said he was worried what might happen if Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould remained at “loggerheads” about whether or not to offer a deferred prosecution agreement to the Quebec engineering firm.
In the audio, Wilson-Raybould can be heard issuing repeated and stern warnings that senior officials’ pressuring of her in regards to the SNC-Lavalin case was “going to look like nothing but political interference,” if it had been successful and the Quebec engineering company was granted the deal that many had been lobbying for.
She said she was absolutely confident in her decision and in response, Wernick said he was “worried about a collision then because he is pretty firm about this. I just saw him a few hours ago and this is really important to him.”
The 17-minute audio file has been provided to all members of the House Justice Committee, as part of the new and supplementary evidence related to the SNC-Lavalin scandal that she handed over days ago.
The secret recording is of a Dec. 19 phone call with Wernick that both parties have previously testified to. In the recording Wilson-Raybould can be heard saying that she was trying to protect Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by issuing these cautions about prosecutorial independence.
She said the way the case was being handled “screams of” political interference and that while she agrees jobs are important, the issue is how it would look if federal prosecutors dropped the criminal charges of fraud and corruption, in exchange for a remediation agreement.
“I feel that I am giving him my best advice. And if he doesn’t accept that advice then it’s his prerogative to do what he wants. But I’m trying to protect the prime minister from political interference, perceived or otherwise,” she said.
Wernick in the conversation can also be heard saying that he “respects” where Wilson-Raybould was coming from, but that Trudeau’s view was that “he’s not asking you to do anything inappropriate or to interfere. He’s asking you to use all the tools that you lawfully have at your disposal, Wernick said.
“You’re not just being attorney general, you’re the minister of justice and a cabinet [minister] – and, you have context within which you exercise your roles and your responsibilities. Like, I’m not seeing anything inappropriate here,” Wernick can be heard saying.
The 43-pages of additional material also includes a written statement, as well as well as screen shots of text messages and copies of emails that she referenced during her initial testimony.
The evidence has been uploaded to the committee’s website. Chair of the committee, Anthony Housefather, has said that “no redactions have been made” to Wilson-Raybould’s submission by the committee, though there are portions of the submission that appear to have been redacted by Wilson-Raybould before it was submitted.
Wilson-Raybould, who is still a member of the Liberal caucus, provided this evidence to further bolster the testimony she gave to the committee on Feb. 27, and to respond to contradicting stories that others have offered since her appearance.
RECORDING OF CALL WITH WERNICK
During her initial testimony on this phone call, Wilson-Raybould said she was alone and took the call from home. She said that Wernick wanted to communicate where Trudeau was at regarding the file, and spoke about the company potentially moving its headquarters.
She quoted him saying “I think he is going to find a way to get it done, one way or another….So he is in that kind of mood, and I wanted you to be aware of it.”
When asked about this call during his follow up testimony, Wernick said that it was not his recollection of that call. “I did not wear a wire, record the conversation or take extemporaneous notes,” Wernick said.
“I never raised partisan considerations at any time. I reminded her repeatedly that she was the final decision-maker. I did not attempt to influence her decision. I was giving her relevant context about public interest considerations for a decision that was hers to take. I never suggested consequences for her,” Wernick testified.
“I said that I was having thoughts of the Saturday night massacre, but that I was confident that I had given the Prime Minister my best advice to protect him and to protect the constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence,” she testified, referencing the night when senior justice officials under then-U.S. President Richard Nixon resigned, amid the Watergate scandal. This statement was verified by the audio recording.
In the recording you can hear her taking a deep breath before the conversation begins.
“I actually feel really uncomfortable having this conversation because it’s wrong,” Wilson-Raybould says on the tape.
“Does he understand the gravity of what this potentially could mean? This is not just about saving jobs. This is about interfering with one of our fundamental institutions. This is like, breaching a constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence,” Wilson-Raybould asks Wernick about Trudeau.
“Well I don’t think he sees it as that,” Wernick said, offering that it was a case of people talking past eachother.
“Well then nobody’s explaining that to him, Michael,” she replied.
The conversation ended with Wilson-Raybould saying that she was “waiting for the other shoe to drop,” and that “I am not under any illusion how the prime minister has and gets things that he wants. I am just stuck doing the best job that I can.”
In her written submission Wilson-Raybould said she recorded the conversation because she “I had reason to believe that it was likely to be an inappropriate conversation.” She said she had never done this before, and has not done so since.
“I did this simply to ensure that my notes were accurate and given the ongoing pressure and attempts to interfere in this case, the nature of conversations that had occurred… and my strong suspicion that this matter would continue to escalate in even more inappropriate ways,” she wrote.
NEW EVIDENCE COMES AFTER EXTENSIVE TESTIMONY
In her testimony more than a month ago, Wilson-Raybould detailed what she considered to be months of high-level “veiled threats” and political interference from nearly a dozen senior government officials. She alleged that this was in an effort to have her instruct federal prosecutors to drop the criminal prosecution of the Quebec construction and engineering giant and pursue a remediation agreement instead.
In her initial hours-long committee appearance she offered an in-depth account of approximately 20 exchanges –10 phone calls and 10 meetings — specifically on the SNC-Lavalin case. She also worked through a chronology of communications, ranging from in-person meetings and phone calls, to text messages and emails, from 11 senior staffers from the Prime Minister’s Office, Privy Council Office and the finance minister’s office.
In the opening remarks of the new documents, Wilson-Raybould says her view is that the real issues at the heart of the SNC-Lavalin scandal are not about “how things are ‘experienced’” or considerations like caucus dynamics, political ambitions, or poll numbers. Rather she says it is about prosecutorial independence, the rule of law, and Canada’s democratic institutions.
The opposition wanted to invite Wilson-Raybould back to testify again — something she was open to — but Liberal MPs on the House Justice Committee shut down the study, saying that they’d heard all they needed to.
Throughout her testimony, she cautioned there were limitations in her ability to speak broadly about the case because of the specifics of the waiver of solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidence that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had issued.
What she has handed over to the committee stays within the lines of what is permitted in the waiver, which includes any relevant information related to the case against SNC-Lavalin over her years-long tenure as attorney general.
Since her testimony, Trudeau has faced calls to resign, the House of Commons agenda has been largely usurped by opposition-prompted procedural moves, and several other high-profile officials have resigned amid insistence that nothing improper occurred.
Pedestrian killed by car in Surrey
One person has died after being struck by a car on Saturday night in the Newton neighbourhood of Surrey, B.C.
RCMP say a pedestrian was hit by a vehicle around 10:34 p.m, near the busy intersection of 152 Street and Highway 10.
Police say the pedestrian was pronounced dead on scene.
Evidence markers dotted Highway 10 for several dozen metres west of the intersection where a white car sat with front end damage.
The intersection was closed to traffic overnight while collision analysts examined the scene.
Police have not announced any details on what caused the crash.
Anyone who witnessed the collision, saw the vehicle beforehand, or has dash camera footage of the incident is asked to contact Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.
Mississauga mayor statement after shooting in the city
The mayor of Mississauga, Ont., says she’s “shocked and saddened” after a teenage boy was killed and five other people were wounded when gunfire erupted in the city west of Toronto on Saturday evening.
Bonnie Crombie called the incident a “senseless act of gun violence” and says her thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families.
Peel Regional Police Chief Chris McCord said at a news conference late Saturday night that according to witnesses, multiple suspects unleashed a barrage of gunfire from semi-automatic weapons near a parkette behind an apartment building at around 6:20 p.m.He said a 17-year-old old boy died at the scene and that five others – a 13-year-old, a 16-year-old, two 17-year-olds and a woman in her 50s – were injured.
McCord said one of the wounded was in serious condition and that the other four suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
No suspect information has been released as officers continued to canvass the area for surveillance footage and police are asking anyone with information on the shooting to come forward.
Crombie thanked first responders who rushed to the scene and she says she hopes to take action in response to the shooting.
“As a member of the police board, I am committed to ensuring Mississauga remains one of the safest cities by working to get illegal guns off our streets,” said Crombie in a statement.
McCord has said that “a lot” of shell casings were found scattered over a wide area and that several vehicles were hit by the gunfire.
He said it’s early in the investigation and that many questions about the incident remained unanswered, including the motive, whether the victims were targeted and whether the shooting was gang related.
A music video was being filmed near the scene of the shooting, but McCord said he didn’t know if it was in any way linked to the case.
Police seeking 7 suspects in shooting in Mississauga
A 17-year-old boy who was killed in a shooting in Mississauga on Saturday night was an innocent victim, Peel Regional Police say.
Peel Police Chief Chris McCord told reporters on Sunday that investigators believe there were seven shooters involved in gunfire that injured four other teens and a woman in her 50s in a parkette behind an apartment complex.
The shooting occurred on Darcel Avenue near Dunrankin Drive, in the area of Morning Star and Goreway Drive. Police were called to the scene at 6:22 p.m.
Officers have recovered more than 100 shell casings at the crime scene.
McCord said police also believe the shooting was motivated by a rap music video that was filmed in the parkette and released last week.
The teen boy, whose name has not been released, was pronounced dead at the scene. The five injured people — a 13-year-old girl, a 16-year-old boy, and two 17-year-old boys — were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Police say one of the injured people has been released from hospital and the remaining four are in stable condition
McCord said some of the injured are also believed to be innocent victims.
He said the shooting occurred as people in the parkette were setting up to shoot a music video and an ice cream truck was nearby.
No one is in custody, no suspects have been identified and officers are reviewing security camera video.
Police believe the shooters used semi-automatic weapons, but none of those weapons have been recovered.
Mayor says she is ‘deeply shocked’ by shooting
On Sunday morning, police canvassed the neighbourhood, knocking on doors in the hopes of finding witnesses and security camera video.
Officers also sent out a drone to obtain an aerial view of the crime scene and brought in a metal detector to scan for stray bullets in the grass.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said in a statement Sunday that her thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.
“I am deeply shocked and saddened to hear of this senseless act of gun violence in our city, it’s simply unacceptable. I urge anyone with information to contact police immediately,” Crombie said.
“As a member of the police board, I am committed to ensuring Mississauga remains one of the safest cities by working to get illegal guns off our streets.”
Crombie also thanked Peel police and paramedics who “swiftly” went to the scene.
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