The Current

Trudeau's denial of SNC-Lavalin allegations like 'a hand grenade with the pin pulled out,' says commentator

Our political panel takes stock of the latest twists and turns in Canada's corridors of power. Today, we look at accusations that the prime minister pressed former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the prosecution of construction giant SNC-Lavalin — and the challenges facing the NDP.

Prime Minister's language invites more questions, says Tim Powers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould in the House of Commons in February last year. Wilson-Raybould was moved to Veterans Affairs in a cabinet shuffle last month. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

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The government is "trying to play an aggressive, firm, consistent defence" against allegations surrounding the former justice minister, but the prime minister's language isn't helping its case, according to a guest on The Current's political panel.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denied his office had pressured former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the the case of corruption charges against Quebec company SNC-Lavalin.

"Neither the current nor the previous attorney general was ever directed by me, or by anyone in my office, to take a decision in this matter," he said.

Tim Powers, a former Conservative Party advisor and commentator, said that the word "'direct' is like a hand grenade with the pin pulled out."

"Using that word and using that very legalistic-type language has now opened the door to a never-ending cascade of questions," he told The Current's guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.

"And that's going to be a problem for him."

Trudeau denies SNC Lavallin allegations

5 years ago
Duration 1:19
Featured VideoPrime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to questions about the Globe and Mail story on SNC Lavallin

On Thursday, The Globe and Mail alleged Wilson-Raybould was demoted in a cabinet shuffle last month because of her refusal to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin case. The Quebec engineering and construction giant has been charged with bribery and corruption in a bid to secure government business in Libya.

Wilson-Raybould has refused to comment. On Friday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called for an ethics investigation into the allegations.

The Current's political panel dissects the story, and also looks at the challenges facing the NDP, and where the parties stand ahead of the federal election this fall. Chattopadhyay was joined by:

  • Susan Delacourt, national columnist and Ottawa bureau chief for the Toronto Star.
  • Tim Powers, a former Conservative Party advisor and commentator, and vice-chairman of Summa Strategies.
  • Martin Patriquin, a columnist for iPolitics and the Montreal Gazette

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

Written by Padraig Moran, with files from The Canadian Press. Produced by John Chipman, Alison Masemann and Ines Colabrese.