BFF-02 New docs, recording released in Canada PM meddling scandal

221

ZCZC

BFF-02

CANADA-POLITICS-CORRUPTION

New docs, recording released in Canada PM meddling scandal

OTTAWA, March 30, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – A political meddling scandal threatening
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s re-election bid was given fresh impetus
Friday with the release of messages and a secret recording supplied by his
former attorney general.

The House of Commons justice committee, looking into the explosive
allegations that Trudeau officials pressured attorney general Jody Wilson-
Raybould to shield engineering firm SNC-Lavalin from trial, released the
materials from the now former official.

The controversy comes just months ahead of a re-election bid that looks
increasingly uncertain for Trudeau, whose progressive, golden boy image had
previously been unblemished.

In the 43 pages of documents, Wilson-Raybould seeks to link her demotion
to another portfolio in January to her resistance to allegedly undue pressure
to settle the SNC-Lavalin case — which Trudeau and his staff have denied.

And she hints about why, a month later, she resigned from cabinet, saying
she had decided “that I would immediately resign if the new attorney general
decided to issue a directive in the SNC-Lavalin matter.”

Her replacement as attorney general, David Lametti, has so far only said
he is considering the issue.

Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin was charged in 2015 with corruption over
alleged bribes paid to secure contracts in Libya.

Wilson-Raybould, Canada’s first indigenous attorney general, refused to
ask prosecutors to settle, and the trial is set to proceed.

But she later testified to lawmakers that she had faced “consistent and
sustained” political pressure to intervene, including receiving “veiled
threats” over her stance.

Trudeau recently addressed the allegations, telling reporters in Ottawa
that he had learned “lessons” from the crisis — but denying any wrongdoing.

Another minister quit in protest, and two senior officials in Trudeau’s
office accused of bullying Wilson-Raybould also resigned since the scandal
erupted in February.

The secret recording made by Wilson-Raybould of a 17-minute call in
December with Canada’s top bureaucrat, Clerk of the Privy Council Michael
Wernick, supports her testimony to the justice committee last month.

On the tape, she says Trudeau’s inner circle was on “dangerous ground” by
attempting to interfere in the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.

Wernick says the prime minister is “in a pretty firm frame of mind about
this.”

“I am a bit worried,” he goes on to say. “It is not a good idea for the
prime minister and his attorney general to be at loggerheads.”

He also highlights Trudeau’s concerns about the possible loss of 9,000
jobs and “a signature Canadian firm” if SNC-Lavalin is found guilty at trial
and sanctioned, coming soon after a GM plant closure and Canadian oil sector
woes.

BSS/AFP/SSS/0844 hrs