Public Prosecution Service lashes back after Trudeau’s non-statement on SNC-Lavalin

Public Prosecution Service lashes back after Trudeau’s non-statement on SNC-Lavalin

Public Prosecution Service lashes back after Trudeau’s non-statement on SNC-Lavalin

Mr Trudeau has been on the defensive for a month over allegations by former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould that officials inappropriately pressured her past year to help construction firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc avoid a criminal trial.

Trudeau's former adviser Gerry Butts defended the prime minister yesterday in the House of Commons, telling the justice committee that "nothing happened here beyond the normal operations of government".

"I can repeat and reassure Canadians that there was no breakdown of our systems, of our rule of law, of the integrity of our institutions", Trudeau told a news conference.

The Tory leader, who a week ago charged that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had "lost the moral authority to govern" and must resign, reiterated those demands in Toronto Thursday.

The PM's insistence, in the face of this simple proposition, that what really mattered were the jobs of SNC workers, pensioners and suppliers shows his failure to grasp the meaning of prosecutorial independence and the proper separation of powers.

"The prime minister, according to Wilson-Raybould, replied, 'No, no, no, we just need to find a solution'".

"As we look back at the past weeks, there are many lessons to be learned, and many things that we would have liked to do differently", he said.

"The former minister agreed that entering into a deferred prosecution agreement was entirely lawful".

At the heart of the crisis are claims that Trudeau and his team pressured Canada's first indigenous attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to cut a deal with an engineering firm from Trudeau's home province, and the implication that he demoted her when she refused.

"I was not aware of that erosion of trust, and as prime minister and leader of the federal ministry, I should have been", he said. And when there an erosion of trust within the people involved, it further complicates what is already a hard decision for the Attorney General.

Moe also criticized Trudeau for involving Canada's ambassador to the United States, David MacNaughton, in the SNC-Lavalin issue when he should be working to get rid of USA tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminium.

A second minister of Trudeau's cabinet also resigned on Monday. Another Cabinet member, Jane Philpott, resigned this week, saying she'd lost confidence in the government's inquiry into the allegations of pressure.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, Canada's former attorney general, center, arrives to testify before the House of Commons justice committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. On Thursday, Trudeau said Wilson-Raybould did not go to him with her concerns about inappropriate pressure, and he wishes she had.

Justin Trudeau shares a new version of what happened at his September 2018 meeting with Jody Wilson-Raybould

Whether Justin Trudeau's government will be strengthened - or whether it can recover - from the scandal is very much an open question. He said there was an erosion of trust between Ms. Wilson-Raybould and his former principal secretary, Mr. Butts, that he wasn't aware of - and he should have been aware.

Trudeau acknowledged that during a face-to-face meeting with Wilson-Raybould on September 17, she told him she'd made up her mind not to intervene with the public prosecutor's decision.

"I was preoccupied by the number of jobs on this in Quebec and across the country", he said. "This was something I was clear on".

His direction to his staff to provide her with information about the file was in the context of understanding that she was open to receiving more information.

She added that she continues to fully support him.

"One of the things central to my leadership is fostering an environment where my ministers, caucus and staff feel comfortable coming to me when they have concerns".

"If it's a real relationship and we truly are a team we can always acknowledge when we need to make adjustments", he added.

NDP Justice Critic Murray Rankin, who represents Victoria, questions how Trudeau couldn't have known.

"I knew from those exchanges that trust had broken down between our office and the minister", Butts said.

"The way they treated her, if one believes her, and I believe her, demonstrates there was inappropriate interference", Rankin said. "He had blissful ignorance it seems from numerous meetings senior staff took with her". He said he reaffirmed "that the decision was hers alone". She was the attorney general.

Both have said they intend to stay in the Liberal caucus and have been nominated to seek re-election, despite their public criticisms of their leader.

Thursday's remarks, made at an early-morning news conference in Ottawa, seem unlikely to tamp down a controversy that has cost Trudeau two cabinet members - both women - and his closest aide and could very well shape his election prospects. "They are not to have done it and it's a disturbing course of action".

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