The Current

Speak, or stay silent? How Jody Wilson-Raybould's choice could impact the Liberals

Former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet Tuesday, in the latest twist to allegations that the Prime Minister's Office pressured her to intervene in a criminal case against Quebec company SNC-Lavalin. We look at what her resignation means for the federal government.

Former justice minister retained lawyer to look at what she can legally say in wake of resignation

Jody Wilson-Raybould abruptly resigned from federal cabinet this week. So far, she has stayed quiet about what prompted the decision, but there are hints she could speak out. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

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If former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould breaks her silence on the SNC-Lavalin affair, her words could have "huge" ramifications for the Liberal government, says a CBC national affairs expert.

"Either she is going to support what the prime minister has said and has only refused to do so so far because of her concerns around solicitor-client privilege," said Chris Hall, who is based in the parliamentary bureau in Ottawa and hosts CBC Radio's The House.

"Or, conversely, she's going to say she was pressured, she's going to identify those people who did the pressuring."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been trying to deal with a snowballing crisis in the wake of a Globe and Mail report last week that alleged the Prime Minister's Office pressured Wilson-Raybould to intervene in fraud and corruption charges against Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

The situation took a major turn on Tuesday when Wilson-Raybould — who had been shuffled out of her role as justice minister last month, and into the Veterans Affairs portfolio — resigned from cabinet. She was the only Indigenous minister in the current Liberal cabinet, and Canada's first Indigenous justice minister.

In her resignation letter to the prime minister, she said she has retained the services of lawyer Thomas Cromwell, a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, to advise her on "topics that I am legally permitted to discuss on this matter."

The fact Wilson-Raybould has secured a lawyer could hint she does intend to speak out, Hall told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

Now, it's just a question of when.

"Clearly, if it is [found] that she was pressured, then everything the prime minister and David Lametti, her successor as justice minister, has said will be put under a different light," he said.

To learn more about the impact of the unfolding SNC-Lavalin scandal, Tremonti spoke to:

  • Chris Hall, the CBC's National Affairs Editor and host of CBC Radio's The House, based in the parliamentary bureau in Ottawa.
  • Errol Mendes, professor of constitutional and international law at the University of Ottawa.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

With files from CBC News. Produced by Idella Sturino, Howard Goldenthal and Imogen Birchard.