The House

The House: SNC-Lavalin bombshell rocks Parliament

This week on The House, we sit down with Justice Minister David Lametti to talk about the controversial SNC-Lavalin fraud case. We get an update on the NDP's fortunes leading into October's election from one of the party's campaign directors. And we chat with New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and take a look at the impact of U.S. tariffs on Canadian businesses.

This week: Justice Minister David Lametti, NDP strategist Marie Della Mattia and the N.B. premier

Jody Wilson-Raybould, left, was moved from the justice portfolio to Veterans Affairs in a cabinet shuffle Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. Montreal MP David Lametti took over as justice minister and attorney general. (Canadian Press photos)
Listen to the full episode49:59

Canada's new attorney general maintains "nothing inappropriate" happened between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his predecessor in the A-G's office, despite shocking allegations that the PMO tried to pressure Jody Wilson-Raybould to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution through of the pending legal action against the construction company.

"[The] prime minister has done nothing inappropriate or wrong," Justice Minister David Lametti told The House.

His comments come after a Globe and Mail story Thursday said Wilson-Raybould was shuffled from the justice portfolio after she refused to ask federal prosecutors to make a plea bargain deal with Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin.

Wilson-Raybould said Friday she will not comment on the allegations.

"I can speak for myself that I've had certainly no pressure on me. No attempt to direct me on the matter," Lametti said.

"And the prime minister has been clear that the same is true of (my) predecessor."

When asked how he knows Wilson-Raybould wasn't pressured, Lametti said he's "relying on what the prime minister had said."

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is calling for an emergency meeting of the House of Commons justice committee to question high-ranking officials about the matter.

"If the committee decides they want to do this, I would appear before the committee. Of course I would," Lametti said.

This week on The House, Justice Minister David Lametti joins us to discuss a new report that suggests his predecessor was pressured by the Prime Minister's Office to intervene in the criminal case against SNC-Lavalin, as well as the extradition case of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. Also New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs discusses why he doesn't agree with Prime Minister JustinTrudeau's carbon plan, and why he wants the Energy East project to be resurrected. 49:59

What will 2019 bring for the NDP?

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is interviewed while door knocking for his byelection campaign in Burnaby, B.C., on January 12, 2019. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The NDP's fate will be decided on the basis of the issues, not its current leader, one of the party's campaign heads says.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh faces an upcoming pressure test as he vies for a seat in the House of Commons in Burnaby South.

Sources have told CBC News that he was warned by caucus members that his fate as party leader rests on the outcome of that byelection.

But while the pressure on Singh intensifies, one of the party's campaign co-chairs says the NDP's election campaign will be all about the issues.

"I think the key is the issues on the ground there in Burnaby. I mean, people have been concerned for a long time that Ottawa has been not making it easier on the family budget," Marie Della Mattia told The House.

She says housing and health care are what people in that riding are talking about, and they feel the current government in Ottawa is missing the mark.

In her mind, the key to winning in Burnaby — and in the rest of the country — will be showcasing Singh as the leader focused on the issues voters care about.

"He has a an ability to connect with people and he has a common shared experience with them that they can relate to," Della Mattia said.

Regardless of the outcome of the Burnaby byelection, Singh has said he will stay on as leader through the fall campaign.

The party has been struggling in the polls — particularly in Quebec, where a chunk of its incumbent seats are based. Many current MPs have announced they're not running again in October's election.

The party has also been plagued by bad fundraising numbers — something which Della Mattia admits has been a challenge in the face of strong showings by the Liberals and Conservatives.

"I think we have to be creative about it. We know how to stretch a dollar because we've been doing it for a long time and we know how to get the most out of it. And that's what we're going to do this time."

With the byelection in Burnaby South just a few weeks away, the NDP is facing questions about potential leadership troubles should Jagmeet Singh not win the seat, and what the strategy will be as the party heads into the federal election. NDP campaign co-chair Marie Della Mattia will look at that as we gaze into the political crystal ball. 7:29

N.B. premier keeping Energy East dream alive 

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says a meeting this week with the prime minister produced little or no progress on major issues facing his province. (Stephen MacGillivray/Canadian Press)

N.B. Premier Blaine Higgs says New Brunswick is still holding out hope to revive the $16 billion Energy East project.

The premier travelled to Ottawa this week to meet with Prime Minister Trudeau and raise the failed pipeline project behind closed doors.

Higgs said he doesn't buy the prime minister's argument that the pipeline is dead just because the company behind the project, TransCanada, opted to kill the project in 2017.

The pipeline would have transported oil from Alberta to refineries in Eastern Canada and an export terminal in Saint John, N.B.

Higgs has floated the idea of several provincial governments banding together to create a holding company that would re-submit the Energy East application to the National Energy Board, then hand it back to a private company once it's approved.

He'd also have to convince Quebec Premier Francois Legault, whose province has acted as a barrier to the project. 

"We have one country, but we have individual provinces and in the case of Quebec, I feel like a stranded asset," Higgs told The House host Chris Hall.

Higgs, whose government opposes Ottawa's carbon pricing plan, said he discussed the carbon tax with Trudeau but couldn't move the needle forward.

​Next week, the Saskatchewan government will start arguing its case against Ottawa's carbon pricing framework.

The Prairie province has long been vocal in its opposition to the carbon tax. The federal government insists the plan would benefit Saskatchewan residents while fighting climate change.

New Brunswick is an intervener in that legal challenge and has launched its own legal challenge of the carbon tax.

New Brunswick won't sign onto the federal carbon plan, and has also filed notice that it will intervene in Saskatchewan's court challenge, which begins next week. Premier Blaine Higgs discusses that, and why he wants the Energy East project to be resurrected. 10:37