Butts says no inappropriate PMO interference in SNC-Lavalin case

Butts says no inappropriate PMO interference in SNC-Lavalin case

Butts says no inappropriate PMO interference in SNC-Lavalin case

It's easy to picture Jody Wilson-Raybould's testimony before the House of Commons justice committee last week as a series of calendar squares-days on which she painstakingly laid out, like the prosecutor she is, a series of phone calls and in-person meetings she perceived as a "barrage" of attempted political interference in the SNC-Lavalin case over the course of four months last fall.

On Wednesday, Wilson-Raybould issued a statement saying she is willing to offer further testimony on the matter to the House of Commons justice committee, following on from her February 27 hearing. Jane Philpott, a close friend of Wilson-Raybould's and a star Cabinet minister, resigned this week, saying she was concerned the ex-attorney general was pressured and because she lost confidence in how the government has handled the scandal.

Butts says it was made clear to Wilson-Raybould that she was free to ignore their advice and, if she agreed to seek an external opinion, was equally free to ignore that as well.

Butts also said the December 18 meeting was not urgent and that all Prince was told was that he couldn't see how seeking advice from someone like former Supreme Court chief justice Beverley McLachlin constituted political interference.

A scheduled visit by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Regina has been cancelled.

"It is a huge privilege for me to serve in this government, to serve as foreign minister for Canada", she said.

"When you boil it all down, all we ever asked the Attorney General to do was to consider a second opinion", said Butts. Which is to say that he returned the whole scandal to exactly the place the Liberals want it - a political soap opera of "he said, she said", where only subjective perspectives are known and the facts remain forever hidden. She says they threatened her with political repercussions if she didn't comply.

Allegations that Gerald Butts, who resigned last month as Trudeau's principal private secretary, and other officials tried to help construction company SNC-Lavalin Group Inc avoid a corruption trial are fueling the crisis that has cost the Liberal government two senior Cabinet ministers.

He denied making any veiled threats against Wilson-Raybould, as she had testified.

"Imagine for a moment that on September 16th, the day the former attorney general told this committee the decision was made, firmly and finally, that she made a public announcement to inform Canadians of that decision".

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, delivering remarks to supporters at a Liberal Climate Action Rally in Toronto, ON, on March 4, 2019.

As a result, Butts said Trudeau and the PMO determined that only Jane Philpott had the capacity and institutional knowledge to take over the complicated role, but anxious what signal it would send by shuffling one of its most capable ministers from the Indigenous Services portfolio.

Wilson-Raybould said no because she had spent her entire life opposing the Indian Act and she would not become the minister applying it.

She then quit cabinet and gave her version of events in explosive testimony last week.

Philpott said she would continue as a Parliament member for Trudeau's Liberal Party.

With opposition leaders clamouring for Trudeau to resign - supported by half of Canadians, according to one recent survey - the justice committee and the independent ethics commissioner have both opened investigations.

"I take my fair share of responsibility for that tragic state of affairs".

Asked to comment on Wernick's involvement in this matter, Butts said on Wednesday morning that he finds the accusations levelled against Canada's top civil servant "completely inconsistent with his character". Conservatives seem poised to take over the government if he doesn't, and there are few procedures for forcing a Prime Minister to step down.

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