Saturday, 16 February, 2019

Canadians deserve answers on PMO legal interference

Trudeau denies report his office pressured attorney general to help SNC-Lavalin Globe: PMO pressured justice minister to help SNC-Lavalin avoid prosecution
Frank Williams | 12 February, 2019, 02:23

Trudeau told reporters that the allegations were "false", after Canadian national daily newspaper The Globe and Mail reported Thursday that officials in the prime minister's office tried to persuade former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould to settle fraud charges against SNC-Lavalin out of court.

The Quebec engineering and construction giant has faced legal trouble over allegations it paid millions of dollars in bribes to get government business in Libya, which would be a crime under Canadian law.

If passed, the committee would hear from Wilson-Raybould, new Attorney General David Lametti, Trudeau's chief of staff, Katie Telford, Trudeau's principal secretary Gerald Butts, Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick, director of public prosecutions Kathleen Roussel, senior PMO advisers Mathieu Bouchard and Elder Marques; and Wilson-Raybould's chief of staff Jessica Prince.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Veterans Affairs Minister Jodie Wilson-Raybould attend a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019.

Now, following a report by the Globe and Mail, we have learned what lies behind Wilson-Raybould's dispatch to what effectively appears to be the federal Liberals' ministerial gulag, Veterans Affairs (with no disrespect meant to military veterans).

During question period in the House of Commons, Lametti also denied engaging in discussions about SNC-Lavalin before his appointment. They are also owed more answers than the Prime Minister has so far offered.

Wilson-Raybould did not rise in the House to answer questions.

"All this cries out for some serious investigation, " he said in a telephone interview from Burnaby, where he is campaigning for a seat in the House of Commons in a February 25 byelection.

Conservative and NDP members pressed the government for details of any conversations that may have taken place on the file in government circles, including between the Prime Minister's Office and the attorney general's office.

Venezuela shifts oil ventures' accounts
The bottleneck has caused problems for PDVSA to continue producing and refining oil without imported diluents and components. Last year, when asked by Iran for support, OPEC did not issue any formal comments on the US sanctions on Iran either.

In response, Arif Virani, parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, repeated over and over the same line that has been the Liberals' only response on the matter: "At no point has the current minister of justice or the former minister of justice been directed or pressured by the prime minister or the prime minister's office to make any decision on this or any other matter".

As to whether Wilson-Raybould is truly bound to secrecy on this by solicitor-client privilege, as she insists she is, it is hard to say for certain without knowing exactly what she discussed with the Prime Minister's Office.

The agreement is a way of holding a company accountable for what it did, but the company itself would not be accountable for the actions of its employees.

The attorney general is thus allowed to direct prosecutors - but crucially, the direction must appear in a government publication called the Canada Gazette, which is viewable by the public.

Both Scheer and Singh argue the issue cuts to the heart of our democracy and independent system of justice.

She has refused to comment on the alleged pressure from PMO to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal trial, telling the Globe and Mail that the matter is "between me and the government as the government's previous lawyer".

"The allegations that we are hearing in the last 24 hours are unprecedented", Scheer said.

Singh accused the government of sacrificing justice in the interests of a multinational corporation. Lametti said neither he nor Wilson-Raybould were ever directed or pressured to intervene with the director of public prosecutions to drop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. He predicted "history will prove that she did the right thing".

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