Ex-aide to Canada PM denies pressuring former minister over SNC-Lavalin

07 March, 2019, 05:39 | Author: Sally Reid
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancels visit to Regina

When Gerald Butts, until recently principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, appeared before the same committee on Wednesday, he sought to strike an X through some of those squares, disputing that certain things unfolded as she said they did, or at all, but treading ever so carefully around anything close to calling her untruthful.

It was jarring, because the Prime Minister's Office, which Butts' presided over until he resigned, is a partisan political institution, while the Privy Council Office, which Wernick heads, is the top rung of the presumably non-partisan civil service. He also wondered aloud why Wilson-Raybould - someone he said tended to communicate in writing on the most important topics - failed to so on this one.

Despite that, he said, he was confident he had never said anything inappropriate to Wilson-Raybould or improperly pressured her or threatened her in any way.

In the meeting, Wilson-Raybould told the committee that Butts said something to the effect of that there was no solution "that does not involve some interference" after being warned what was being proposed was political interference in a prosecution.

Butts' testimony planned to contradict Wilson-Raybould's version of events, in some detail, casting a different light on conversations Wilson-Raybould described as part a campaign of pressure tactics and veiled threats to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution.

The scandal centres on allegations that Trudeau's inner circle intervened to shield Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin from a bribery trial.

In her resignation letter, Philpott said she'd "lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter". Treasury Board President Jane Philpott was one of the most respected members of government, and political observers described her departure as a major blow.

They also voted down a motion to have Wilson-Raybould return to the committee to respond to evidence from Butts that contradicted her own.

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Opposition MPs know that this issue has caught the public's attention.

Others argue that the effect of Butts' appearance was more positive than negative. The only explanation I can think of is that he believed if he repeated the statement about 9,000 lost jobs roughly 9,000 times, it would become true.

"I am fully aware that two people can experience the same event differently", he said.

"One of the problems is that context for the government's position has been missing through too much of this discussion".

Trudeau has said that he and his staff always acted appropriately and the decision on whether to forgo prosecution and enter a plea agreement with the company was Wilson-Raybould's and hers alone. He might even show contrition over how he and his officials conducted themselves, as anonymous sources suggested Tuesday to various media outlets, including the CBC.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will issue a public statement on the SNC-Lavalin scandal in a Thursday morning press conference in Ottawa.

"This is a story of two people who hold high office-the Prime Minister and the former attorney general-both of whom did their jobs to the best of their abilities, as did their respective staff", Butts said early on in his remarks. Wilson-Raybould was moved to the veterans affairs post in a small cabinet shuffle in mid-January - a move she believes was punishment for not acquiescing to the pressure. That's because instead of showing contrition for a job well-botched, as some had predicted, Butts doubled down on the dubious proposition that neither the Prime Minister's Office nor any other high-ranking officials had done anything wrong.

"Imagine for a moment that on September 16th, the day the former attorney general told this committee the decision was made, firmly and finally, that she made a public announcement to inform Canadians of that decision".


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