‘Do you have confidence in the prime minister today?’ What MPs asked Jody Wilson-Raybould

OTTAWA — Canadian federal politics was rocked Wednesday evening by well over three hours of testimony from the former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, at the House of Commons justice committee.

In an extended opening statement, Wilson-Raybould detailed the pressure she said she had received from the prime minister and his top officials to help a Quebec engineering firm, SNC-Lavalin, avoid criminal prosecution.

Here are the more illuminating exchanges afterward, during a question-and-answer period between Wilson-Raybould and MPs across party lines:

Conservative Deputy leader Lisa Raitt Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

On why she was shuffled out as minister of justice and attorney general: 

Lisa Raitt (Conservative Party): Do you believe, for the record, that you were removed as the attorney general because you spoke truth to power on the topic of the SNC ongoing prosecution?

Jody Wilson-Raybould: Thank you for your question and I am going to have to be very careful what I say.

Raitt: I understand.

Wilson-Raybould: I believe that I am able to speak to my thought processes from January the 7th up to the time that I was sworn in as the veterans affairs minister. I think it’s apparent from my remarks that I was concerned that the reason why I was being shuffled out of the minister of justice and the attorney general possibly was because of a decision I would not take on SNC on DPA. I raised my concerns with the prime minister and with Gerry Butts and as I said in my remarks, those were denied. I cannot speak to anything that I thought about after that.

Jody Wilson-Raybould appears at the House of Commons Justice Committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 27, 2019. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

On the integrity of the office of attorney general in the future:

Raitt: I’d like to know if you are concerned that it’s possible that the independence of the office of attorney general is being eroded now, given what you’ve told us in your testimony today, your understanding that the current attorney general was to be briefed on the SNC-Lavalin deferment decision.

Wilson-Raybould: … While I was the attorney general through these four months, leaving aside all of the very inappropriate political pressure, interference, I was confident in my role as the attorney general, that I was the final decision-maker on whether or not a directive would be introduced on the SNC matter. So I knew as long as I was the attorney general this would not occur. I had concerns that when I was removed as the attorney general that this potentially might not be the case…. I had concerns and I knew that in my new role, still sitting around the cabinet table, if there had been a directive that was placed into the gazette I would’ve resigned immediately from cabinet.

Murray Rankin, NDP THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

On the appearance of political interference in the decision on denying the deferred prosecution agreement: 

Murray Rankin (NDP): How can Canadians, if they believe you, as I do, draw any other conclusion but that there was an attempt to politically interfere with your role as our independent attorney general?

Wilson-Raybould: … I sought in my testimony today to state facts. And in my testimony I came to the conclusion and throughout the four months that there was a sustained effort, an attempt to politically interfere with my discretion as the attorney general of Canada. It was inappropriate.

Rankin: … It appears to a person, a reasonable person looking at that that you were removed from your role because you would not change your mind despite these persistent and consistent efforts to have you do so and that because you didn’t change your mind you were fired from your role as attorney general. … I’d like you to tell us a little bit more why you did not change your mind.

Wilson-Raybould: I did not change my mind to enter into, to issue a directive to the director of public prosecutions on the matter of putting out an invitation to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC because I had the benefit of reading the section 13 note (from the Director of Public Prosecutions), of conducting my own due diligence around the appropriateness of entering into a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC. I had the benefit of feedback and briefings from my departmental officials as well as my political staff. I made my mind up prior to the Sept. 17 meeting and, for those people that know me, my decision making process takes into account many views…. Having made up my mind taking into account all of the information, again for those who know me, I was not going to change my mind.

On whether it was appropriate to discuss job losses as a factor in making the decision on SNC-Lavalin:

Jennifer O’Connell File photo

Jennifer O’Connell (Liberal): You felt it was entirely appropriate to have the conversation about the jobs and those types of impacts, and I’m paraphrasing here, but and then you mentioned Minister (Bill) Morneau and the conversation you had you referred to on the 19th which was in the House, I believe you said in the testimony, and you said that he mentioned job losses so what made you feel then that that conversation was inappropriate?

Wilson-Raybould: So, to the first point about mentioning jobs and job losses, as I said in my evidence, including the conversation I had with the prime minister, I do not believe it is inappropriate to have conversations about job losses, about SNC in the early stages where ministers can raise these issues with the attorney general. What is inappropriate is the long, sustained discussions about the job losses after it is very clear that I had made my decision and was not going to pursue a DPA. But leaving aside job losses, the conversations that I had, where they became very clearly inappropriate was when political issues came up like the election in Quebec, like losing the election if SNC were to move their headquarters, conversations like that, conversations like the one I had with the clerk of the privy council who invoked the prime minister’s name throughout the entirety of the conversation, spoke to me about the prime minister being dug-in, spoke to me about his concerns as to what would happen. In my mind those were veiled threats and I took them as such.

On her direct question to the prime minister about political interference:

Ruby Sahota File photo

Ruby Sahota (Liberal): You had specifically asked the prime minister whether he was interfering and his answer was that the decision was always yours. Is that correct?

Wilson-Raybould: That’s not exactly what I said. I had raised the background about comments that were made by the prime minister and the clerk and I know that that is what has been reported in the media, but that is not what was said. I asked the prime minister a direct question after having comments around elections and being the member of Papineau, “are you interfering with my role as the attorney general, my decision?” And I advised him strongly not to do that, so it was my direct question to the prime minister.

Sahota: And he said the decision was always yours, correct?

Wilson-Raybould: He did not say that. He said, “no, no, no, that’s not what I’m doing.”

Sahota: But you did mention in the opening statement that throughout the time you were attorney general you did recognize that the decision was always yours.

Wilson-Raybould: I one hundred per cent understand my role as the attorney general and it is my decision and my decision alone whether or not to issue a directive.

Gerald Butts, senior political advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaks with Katie Telford, chief of staff to the prime minister, before a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

On ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’:

Raitt: When you speak to Gerry Butts or Katie Telford or the clerk of the privy council, do you believe that they are speaking with the full authority of the prime minister in their discussions with you?

Wilson-Raybould: Yes.

Raitt: … Do you believe that the prime minister or anyone in the prime minister’s office had any lawful authority to tell you to direct the director of public prosecution on what to do?

Wilson-Raybould: No. I was the final, and as the attorney general is the final decision maker, on whether or not as the top prosecutor to do anything with respect to a specific prosecution.

Raitt: … This all seems to me, if I may, that there was an intention from all of these comments and this continued pressure to make you fear for your job at the end of the day, that there would be a shuffle or that you would be removed from your position. Is that a fair assumption I am making?

Wilson-Raybould: I’m not going to speak to the intention of other individuals. I will speak to the very heightened level of anxiety that I had that increased and culminated in my discussion with the clerk on Dec. 19. And I remember distinctly ending that conversation with the clerk by saying, “I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Which, I believe that reflection, or my comments can speak for themselves.

On what she can and cannot say: 

Wilson-Raybould: I’m not at liberty due to confidences to discuss any matters beyond SNC and deferred prosecution agreements.

Raitt: And for clarity, can you tell us what you discussed with the prime minister at your meetings in Vancouver on Feb. 11?

Wilson-Raybould: I cannot.

Raitt: And can you tell us why you resigned from cabinet?

Wilson-Raybould: I cannot.

Raitt: And can you tell us what was discussed with the cabinet on Feb. 19.

Wilson-Raybould: I cannot.

Raitt: If the issues surrounding your ability to communicate these conversations to this committee were in fact resolved and you were able to be released from cabinet confidence or from privilege, would you be willing to return to this committee and give us testimony again?

Wilson-Raybould: I would be.

Jody Wilson-Raybould is sworn in as Veterans Affairs Minister at Rideau Hall on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

On confidence in the government upon accepting to be minister of veterans affairs: 

Randy Boissonneault (Liberal): After you reaffirmed on that day (of the cabinet shuffle), accepting that position, you reaffirmed your confidence in the government. Is that the case?

Wilson-Raybould: … I decided, a very conscious decision, to take on the role that the prime minister offered me and, yes, it is an incredible honour, I don’t want anybody to misconstrue that. I decided that I would take the prime minister at his word. I trusted him. I had confidence in him. And so I decided to continue on around the cabinet table with the concerns that I had around SNC because I took the prime minister at his word.

Boissonneault: So, that oath that you took Jan. 13 reaffirmed your confidence in the government. Do you have confidence in the prime minister today?

Wilson-Raybould: I’ll say this. And I’m not going to get into any conversations about why I resigned, other than to say this: I resigned from cabinet because I did not have confidence to sit around the table, the cabinet table. That’s why I resigned.

On why she didn’t seek external legal counsel and why she didn’t resign:

Mathieu Bouchard Twitter

O’Connell: Whether it was yourself, your office, the prime minister’s office, within the prosecution, there seemed to be disagreement or differences of opinions, let’s put it that way. Why would it have been unreasonable … what would the exception be to bringing in another opinion, an outside legal opinion?

Wilson-Raybould: I did not need external legal counsel, I did not need people in the prime minister’s office continuing to suggest that I needed external legal counsel. That’s inappropriate. But I will say with respect to the conversations you mentioned with Mathieu Bouchard and his remarks about an individual prosecutor as being different from that of the director of public prosecutions, I can’t help but wonder why he would bring that up, how he would know that, how he garnered that information. It is entirely inappropriate for any member of the prime minister’s office, and it would be entirely inappropriate for any member of my staff or within my department to reflect those conversations because I would have serious concerns and I did at the time and still do, concerns about about how that information was acquired and from whom.

O’Connell: If you felt that that information was so inappropriate Sept. 16, did you consider resigning? Like if it’s moving forward and they continued, did you not consider resigning then?

Wilson-Raybould: I did not consider resigning then. I was, in my opinion, doing my job as the attorney general. I was protecting a fundamental, constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence and the independence of our judiciary. That’s my job. That was my job, rather, as the attorney general. And as long as I was attorney general, I was going to ensure that the independence of the director of public prosecutions, and the exercise of their discretion, was not interfered with.

O’Connell: Do you still have confidence in the prime minister today?

Wilson-Raybould: I’m not sure how that question is relevant.

NDP MP Nathan Cullen greets Jody Wilson-Raybould as she arrives at the House of Commons Justice Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

On the historic precedence if she had followed the prime minister’s wishes:

Nathan Cullen (NDP): Was that your testimony here today, that an attorney general has never used a specific directive on a specific case, as in the case of SNC-Lavalin? Is that right?

Wilson-Raybould: That’s correct.

Cullen: So not only is this tool incredibly rare, it has never been applied in the way that was being suggested by the clerk of the privy council, all the other people that consistently lobbied you to use that tool. They were asking you to do something essentially historic.

Wilson-Raybould: An attorney general has never issued a specific direction in a specific prosecution, nor has an attorney general in this country ever issued a directive, or sorry, rather, taken over a prosecution. It would be historic. For the first time.

Cullen: So what you were being asked for in this case is to do something extraordinary in this case, you were being asked to do something unprecedented.

On the legality of deferred prosecution agreements:

Cullen: The ability to seek one of these special, I’m calling them plea deals, I’m not a lawyer. These deferrals. They can’t be made for political reasons, is that correct?

Wilson-Raybould: That’s correct.

Cullen: It’s illegal, in fact, for you to have made the decision based on political motivations, is that correct?

Wilson-Raybould: It would be unlawful for me to do that.

Cullen: … Is it illegal for someone just to pressure the attorney general to intervene on a case?

Wilson-Raybould: In my opinion it’s not illegal. It is very inappropriate depending on the context of the comments made, the nature of the pressure, the specific issues that are raised, it’s incredibly inappropriate and is an attempt to compromise or to impose upon an independent attorney general.

Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick waits to testify before the House of Commons justice committee in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada February 21, 2019. Chris Wattie / REUTERS

On the role of the clerk of the privy council, Michael Wernick:

Elizabeth May (Green Party): There’s a very prominent role being played by I think unusual actors in the civil service. … Going to Sept. 17, you described a meeting which you had requested of the prime minister on a different topic. It was supposed to be a one-on-one meeting, by which I infer you did not expect the clerk of the privy council to be present when you went to meet with the prime minister, is that correct?

Wilson-Raybould: I didn’t expect that but I will say that the fact he was there, I didn’t ask him to leave.

May: So in the context of the pressure that was being applied, and the political concerns that were being raised, I’m going to put forward a positive statement and see if you agree, but the appropriate role for the clerk of the privy council office is to support the attorney general, because it’s, you’re on dangerous ground here, back off, this is political interference. The job of the civil service is to remain nonpartisan and give good advice. Did you think the clerk of the privy council was behaving appropriately in applying political pressure to anyone in this case?

Wilson-Raybould: I do not believe that he was behaving appropriately, which is why I was very surprised when he raised issues of the Quebec election and a board meeting that was supposedly happening with SNC.

May: Do you believe that the clerk of the privy council appeared to be placing your deputy minister of justice under pressure that could’ve affected her confidence in her job security?

Wilson-Raybould: Honestly, I don’t believe I can answer the question.

• Email: [email protected] | Twitter:

Источник: Nationalpost.com

Источник: Corruptioner.life


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