The Current

Liberals will look to 'shed doubt' on Jody Wilson-Raybould's testimony: reporter

Jody Wilson-Raybould says she faced intense political pressure and veiled threats over the SNC-Lavalin affair. That's at odds with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's account — and led Opposition leader Andrew Scheer to call for his resignation. We assemble a political panel to discuss what the fallout might be for the Liberals.

Former AG's accusations will have put Liberals 'in crisis mode,' says Kady O'Malley

Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould appears at the House of Commons Justice Committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

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The Prime Minister's Office will be "in crisis mode" trying to formulate a response to former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould's testimony that she was pressured in the SNC-Lavalin affair, according to a veteran Parliament Hill reporter.

"They're still not willing to challenge her credibility in terms of suggesting that she may be not giving the whole truth — they want to kind of shed doubt on the way she's characterizing it," said Kady O'Malley, a freelance parliamentary correspondent for iPolitics.

"I suspect … they are now working overtime to try to come up with some sort of evidence that would corroborate an alternative narrative," she told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

Such a narrative would need to be a "compelling, competing argument that seems equally convincing," that "has some documentary evidence to back it up, as she did with her notes," said O'Malley.

Wilson-Raybould testified before the Commons justice committee Wednesday, saying she faced intense political pressure and veiled threats to intervene in the case of SNC-Lavalin.

Jody Wilson-Raybould says she experienced 'sustained pressure' on SNC Lavalin

3 years ago
Duration 1:09
"I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the gov't to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion..."

The Quebec engineering company is facing allegations of fraud and corruption in Libya, but was seeking a deferred prosecution agreement which would have allowed it to pay a fine and avoid a trial. A conviction would bar the company from applying for government contracts for 10 years, and could cost jobs.

Wilson-Raybould told the committee that Trudeau had directly warned her about the negative consequences if the company faced prosecution.

Trudeau refuted her testimony, saying "I completely disagree with the characterization of the former attorney general about these events."

He also dismissed a call for his resignation from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

Wilson-Raybould says PM said 'I am an MP in Quebec.'

3 years ago
Duration 1:16
"Are you politically interfering with my role as the attorney general," Wilson-Raybould says she asked Trudeau. "I would strongly advise against it."

'A magic argument to convince her'

O'Malley said that Wilson-Raybould's testimony made it look like the prime minister was trying to "slide around" the restrictions on interference "on a technicality."

"You almost get the sense that the prime minister, and the government in general, were of the approach that as long as we don't actually tell her what to do … we're staying within the rule of law," she said.

By doing so, "they could always turn back and say: 'Oh no, no, look, we always said it was her decision,' while keeping up this constant campaign."

Trudeau on Wilson-Raybould's testimony

3 years ago
Duration 0:58
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters in Montreal after Wilson-Raybould's testimony

There is a grey area, she said, because "they didn't actually force her to make the decision or force her to resign, they just came that close."

"It's like they thought that they would come up with a magic argument to convince her, and she'd see it their way," she said.

To discuss what the political fallout for the prime minister and the Liberal government, Tremonti was joined by:

  • Chris Hall, the CBC's National Affairs Editor and host of CBC Radio's The House, based in the parliamentary bureau in Ottawa.
  • Kady O'Malley, freelance parliamentary correspondent for iPolitics.
  • Martin Patriquin, columnist for iPolitics and the Montreal Gazette.

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

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Samira Mohyeddin, Imogen Birchard and Anne Penman.


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