Politics

Wilson-Raybould denies trying to hamstring Lametti on SNC-Lavalin file

Jody Wilson-Raybould says she never tried to meddle in the SNC-Lavalin file after she was shuffled out of the attorney general's job. In an interview with CBC Radio Vancouver's The Early Edition, Wilson-Raybould denied reports she demanded her successor as attorney general be directed not to override an independent prosecutor's decision to make SNC-Lavalin face a criminal trial.

Vancouver Granville MP says she was fully aware of the role, authority of attorney general

Jody Wilson-Raybould denies she attempted to meddle in the SNC-Lavalin file after she was removed as attorney general. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Jody Wilson-Raybould says she never tried to meddle in the SNC-Lavalin file after she was shuffled out of the attorney general's job.

In an interview with CBC Radio Vancouver's The Early Edition, Wilson-Raybould denied reports that she demanded that her successor, David Lametti, be directed not to override an independent prosecutor's decision to make SNC-Lavalin face a criminal trial.

The Vancouver Granville MP insisted she has always been clear on the independent role and authority of the attorney general, and flatly denied trying to bind Lametti to her decision not to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.

 "I would absolutely never do that," she told host Stephen Quinn.

Sources have told CBC News that Wilson-Raybould made at least five demands in order to resolve the bitter SNC-Lavalin dispute, including that three top government officials be fired. Sources also said she wanted a formal apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and his assurance that his new attorney general would not overturn her decision not to offer SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA).

"There were a number of discussions. What I will say about those conditions that were reported, one of them was around whether or not the current attorney general would issue a DPA and I have to say unequivocally that I would never interfere with the independence of the attorney general," Wilson-Raybould said.

Wilson-Raybould has testified that she faced inappropriate, intense political pressure and veiled threats to persuade her to overrule the decision by Kathleen Roussel, director of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, and offer the Montreal-based engineering and construction firm a DPA.

CBC News reached out to Wilson-Raybould Wednesday night about the list of demands, but she declined to comment.

Contradictory version of events

In an email to CBC News Thursday night, she said, "I have never and would never seek to interfere with the exercise of prosecutorial discretion by the attorney general of Canada."

After Wilson-Raybould issued that statement, CBC news re-contacted the sources for this story. One said Wilson-Raybould raised the demand that the DPP's decision on SNC-Lavalin be respected directly with Trudeau during their conversations in Vancouver before she resigned from cabinet.

But, the source said, that condition was not part of the conversations in the recent days leading up to Tuesday's expulsion from caucus, as the demands Wilson-Raybould wanted met evolved and changed throughout the weeks of discussions.

Liberal MP Adam Vaughan said he was "confused" by that condition because it flies in the face of her claim that the attorney general should always be independent of political direction.

"I dont understand how you can say you should never interfere with an attorney general's decision, and yet she wanted to effectively handcuff the new attorney general," he said Thursday. "Either you believe in that principle, and I respect her for believing in it, or you don't."

Trudeau expelled Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus this week, explaining that trust had been irreparably broken with the former cabinet ministers.

Philpott told CBC Radio's The Current on Thursday the controversy that has dogged the government for months could have been contained much earlier with an apology from the prime minister for alleged political interference in a criminal trial — and a promise that it wouldn't happen again.

Apology would have 'gone a long way'

Wilson-Raybould echoed that today, saying an apology to Canadians would have gone a long way.

"I had hoped all along that the prime minister would have accepted some responsibility for wrongdoing in the case and essentially apologize to Canadians," she told The Early Edition.

In the interview, Wilson-Raybould said she had no regrets about anything she had done, including the secret taping of a Dec. 19 conversation she had with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick.

She also acknowledged that her actions have caused damage to the Liberal Party and how that could have helped lead to a Conservative government being elected in the fall, which may not be good for advancing Indigenous rights.

"I think that is a worry. I think that we need to have an approach to resolving and recognizing Indigenous rights that can't be confined to one political party, can't be confined to the government party, the Conservative Party, the NDP and other parties," she said. 

Wilson-Raybould said she still shares the Liberal values of equality and inclusion in policy-making. She's now reflecting on her political future and will speak with family, volunteers and constituents and said she remains "incredibly open" to a continued role in federal politics.

"I think I still have an important voice," she said.

Riding association offers thanks

A statement released today by the Vancouver Granville Federal Liberal Electoral District Association thanked Wilson-Raybould for her service.

"It has been a pleasure to work with her and be guided by her strong values and commitment to Canada," it reads. 

"We are proud of all we have accomplished over the past four years. We want to reiterate our support for the values of the Liberal Party of Canada."

The statement said the elected board of directors is staying in place for the time being and that, in coming days, it will be talking to the Liberal Party of Canada's B.C. wing and supporters "to discuss our path forward."

Wilson-Raybould had been nominated as the Liberal candidate for the election, but Trudeau said she would not be permitted to run under the party's banner.

Today, SNC-Lavalin made another legal bid to win a DPA to avoid criminal prosecution on bribery charges, filing an appeal of a Federal Court ruling that denied them a judicial review of the public prosecutor's decision.

Asked if the federal government would now offer the company a DPA, Trudeau insisted that the decision remains in the hands of the attorney general.

"The attorney general, as we've heard many times over the past weeks, has the responsibility to make the determination on whether and how to intervene in matters before the courts, and will exercise that in a way that is rigorous and keeping in the rule of law," he said during an event in Toronto to announce new funding for community housing.

Trudeau also was asked if he had any regrets about his handling of this protracted political saga, which has haunted his government for two months.

"The fundamental issue of a disagreement between the former attorney general and myself and my office was something that we accept existed. We tried very hard to make sure we were moving forward in the right way," he said. 

"Unfortunately, there was an erosion and a breakdown in trust that proved we were unable to move forward together."

Read more and listen to the full interview with the CBC's Stephen Quinn.

With files from the CBC's David Cochrane

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