A major company, SNC Lavalin — some of whose executives have already been found guilty of bribery on projects from Libya to Montreal’s super hospital — is itself the target of a federal prosecution on charges of the same nature since last fall. If found guilty, it will be barred from government contracts for ten years. Last October the Trudeau government slipped in a Criminal Code sentencing change into a 368 page Omnibus Budget Bill. That change would allow the Minister of Justice to stop the prosecution and go into a “deferred prosecution agreement.” The Justice Minister at the time was Jody Wilson-Raybould. She refused to stop the prosecution. Earlier this year she was moved from Justice to Veterans Affairs and then suddenly quit the Cabinet several weeks ago. On Feb.7 the Globe and Mail alleged in a front page story that she had been the victim of PMO pressure in the Lavalin affair. Since then, the Prime Minister has offered conflicting explanations of what has been alleged to be a case of obstruction of justice. Two days ago, Mr. Trudeau’s Principal Secretary Gerald Butts suddenly resigned stating that he had done nothing wrong and simply didn’t want to be a distraction. The House of Commons Ethics Commissioner started an investigation within days of the Globe report. The Commons Justice committee began hearings last week but its Liberal majority voted to allow the new Justice Minister David Lametti and several PMO staffers to testify in camera. These are the facts. Here are the questions.
1. Why did Mr. Butts resign when no accusations on obstruction of justice in the SNC-Lavalin prosecution have been leveled at him directly and his resignation specifically claims no involvement? Are some accusations about to break or is he being expediently thrown under the bus as a diversion so the public asks no further questions and assumes the buck stopped with him?
2. Was Mr. Butts resignation related to the fact that Cameron Ahmad, a PMO spokesman, has confirmed to the Globe and Mail that Butts had spoken to then Justice Minister Wilson-Raybould about the case and directed her to take it up with the Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick? The role of Clerk of the Privy Council is to be the “Deputy Minister” to the Prime Minister.
3. Why did the Prime Minister first deny then admit to speaking to Wilson-Raybould on the SNC prosecution at all and then — several days after the Globe and Mail broke the story of pressure being allegedly brought by the PMO on the former Justice Minister to stop the SNC prosecution and go to a “remedial agreement” that would save SNC-Lavalin from the possibility of criminal conviction — insist on twice saying to the Globe’s Robert Fife that he never “directed” the actions of the Justice Minister when Fife never asked if he directed. He asked — twice- if she had been the victim of any PMO “pressure.” The Prime Minister pointedly refused to address that.
4. Why has the Prime Minister, on several occasions, first deny and then admit that he had recent conversations with the former Justice Minister where he reminded (his word) her that the final decisions on the prosecution and the remedial agreement were “all in her hands.” Why would she have thought any differently unless she had been previously pressured by the PMO?
5. Why did Mr. Trudeau’s government amend the Criminal Code by burying the “deferred prosecution agreement” last October in a 368 page Omnibus Budget Bill instead of openly coming out with a separate Criminal Code Amendment in the name of the “transparency and accountability” that he has always claimed would be the hallmarks of his administration? Was it fear of facing charges of favoritism for a company that accepted in 2016 a compliance agreement on charges it made $118,000 in illegal contributions to the Liberal Party by urging its employees to make contributions and then repaying them? Or was this to ensure a measure of protection if any further illegalities by SNC-Lavalin would arise?
6. Why did the House of Commons Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion immediately launch an investigation after the obstruction of justice allegations surfaced while it took a week for the Liberal controlled Commons Justice Committee to finally vote 5-4 to launch its own hearings?
7. Why did that same Justice Committee — by another 5-4 Liberal majority vote — agree to allow Justice Minister David Lametti and two other PMO functionaries to be heard “in camera” when all other witnesses will be heard publicly? This question is particularly important in light of the fact that the Commons own rules state that “in camera” hearings are only permitted on administrative matters, background briefings, considerations of draft reports and national security questions. The testimonies of Minister Lametti and the other Liberals do not fall under any of these categories.
8. If the Liberals on the Justice Committee truly want to get at the truth, why did they vote down a Conservative witness list request that included Wilson-Raynould, Gerald Butts and Director of Public Prosecutions Kathleen Roussel who refused to stop the SNC prosecution and told the then Justice Minister just that?
9. Why has the Prime Minister — who in a 2013 tweet demanding transparency from Prime Minister Harper during the Duffy Affair going so far as demanding he testify in front of a commons committee — not lifted client-solicitor privilege as Mr. Harper did which would allow Wilson-Raybould to speak as she so obviously wants to?
10. Why has the Prime Minister claimed that if Scott Brison had not resigned as Treasury Board President there would not have been a Cabinet shuffle and Ms. Wilson-Raybould would still be Justice Minister? Departures from economic cabinet posts never involve changes in Ministries like Justice if there is no major shuffle.
We believe that the best way to serve the public interest is to ask the questions which this government has not answered. Then it is your obligation to put those questions to your MPs. In the final analysis, they owe you the responsibility to answer, or to ask the questions themselves.