MED­DLING AL­LE­GA­TIONS

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Did you or any­one in your of­fice pres­sure the for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral to aban­don the pros­e­cu­tion of 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.But the ques­tion is whether there was any sort of in­flu­ence. Are you say­ing cat­e­gor­i­cally there was ab­so­lutely no in­flu­ence or any push­ing what­so­ever?At no time did I or my of­fice di­rect the cur­rent or pre­vi­ous at­tor­ney gen­eral to make any par­tic­u­lar de­ci­sion in this mat­ter.But not nec­es­sar­ily di­rect ... Was there any sort of in­flu­ence what­so­ever?As I’ve said, at no time did we di­rect the at­tor­ney gen­eral cur­rent or pre­vi­ous to take any de­ci­sion what­so­ever in this mat­ter.Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is un­der siege over an al­le­ga­tion his of­fice at­tempted to po­lit­i­cally in­ter­fere in a crim­i­nal cor­rup­tion case against SNC-Lavalin, a mas­sive Que­bec-based en­gi­neer­ing firm with a hand in many Cana­dian in­fra­struc­ture projects.Trudeau called the al­le­ga­tion “false” on Thurs­day and in a care­fully worded re­sponse said he never is­sued di­rec­tions on the case.“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,” Trudeau told re­porters.But the op­po­si­tion ac­cused him of pars­ing words to avoid an­swer­ing whether any at­tempt at in­flu­ence was made.“The prime min­is­ter must im­me­di­ately come clean to Cana­di­ans about what he knew about this case and when he knew it,” said Con­ser­va­tive Leader Andrew Scheer. “Noth­ing less than full dis­clo­sure is ac­cept­able.”The firestorm was kicked off by a re­port in The Globe and Mail Thurs­day that, cit­ing con­fi­den­tial sources, al­leged the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice leaned on then At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould to ne­go­ti­ate what’s known as a re­me­di­a­tion agree­ment with SNC-Lavalin.The com­pany was crim­i­nally charged in 2015 with al­legedly pay­ing bribes to Libyan pub­lic of­fi­cials be­tween 2001 and 2011 in ex­change for con­struc­tion con­tracts in that coun­try. The Na­tional Post has not in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied the al­le­ga­tion of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence.A re­me­di­a­tion agree­ment, also called de­ferred pros­e­cu­tion, would mean the pros­e­cu­tion is halted and the charges stayed in ex­change for an ad­mis­sion of wrong­do­ing, full co-oper­a­tion in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of spe­cific in­di­vid­u­als and a fine. Pro­po­nents of re­me­di­a­tion agree­ments say they bring faster resti­tu­tion, avoid costly tri­als and treat com­pany share­hold­ers more fairly. The abil­ity for Canada to pur­sue such agree­ments is new; the pro­vi­sion was in a bud­get bill passed in the spring of 2018.A con­vic­tion on fraud or cor­rup­tion would be enor­mously dam­ag­ing for SN­CLavalin, bar­ring it from bid­ding on fed­eral govern­ment con­tracts for 10 years. SNC-Lavalin has long been push­ing for Canada to adopt re­me­di­a­tion agree­ments.Wil­son-Ray­bould, ac­cord­ing to the Globe re­port, re­buffed the pres­sure from the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice. In Jan­uary, she was shuf­fled out of the port­fo­lio and moved to Vet­er­ans Affairs. David Lametti, a for­mer McGill Univer­sity law pro­fes­sor, has taken over as Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and At­tor­ney Gen­eral.Af­ter Wil­son-Ray­bould was shuf­fled, she pub­lished an un­usual state­ment on her web­site that hinted at dis­agree­ments with the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice.“It is a pil­lar of our democ­racy that our sys­tem of jus­tice be free from even the per­cep­tion of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence and up­hold the high­est lev­els of pub­lic con­fi­dence,” her state­ment said. “As such, it has al­ways been my view that the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of Canada must be non-par­ti­san, more trans­par­ent in the prin­ci­ples that are the ba­sis of de­ci­sions, and, in this re­spect, al­ways will­ing to speak truth to power.”Speak­ing in Vaughan, Ont., on Thurs­day morn­ing, Trudeau de­nied the sub­stance of the Globe’s story. “The al­le­ga­tions in the Globe story this morn­ing are false,” he said.But pushed twice on whether any­one in his of­fice at­tempted any type of in­flu­ence be­yond “di­rect­ing” the at­tor­ney gen­eral, Trudeau stuck by those par­tic­u­lar words.“At no time did I or my of­fice di­rect the cur­rent or pre­vi­ous at­tor­ney gen­eral to make any par­tic­u­lar de­ci­sion in this mat­ter,” he said.Later, dur­ing ques­tion pe­riod in the House of Com­mons, Lametti said that nei­ther he nor Wil­son-Ray­bould was “un­der pres­sure” by the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice. But Lametti re­peat­edly at­trib­uted that phrase to Trudeau, de­spite Trudeau hav­ing never said that.“As the prime min­is­ter said ear­lier to­day, nei­ther the prime min­is­ter nor his of­fice put my pre­de­ces­sor or my­self un­der pres­sure nor gave any di­rec­tives,” Lametti said.Lib­eral MP Marco Men­di­cino — a for­mer fed­eral prose­cu­tor, and un­til Au­gust 2018 the par­lia­men­tary sec­re­tary to the at­tor­ney gen­eral — went on CBC later in the day to fur­ther re­but the al­le­ga­tion of PMO in­ter­fer­ence.“Nei­ther di­rected, nor pres­sured, nor in­flu­enced,” he said. “Insert what­ever ad­jec­tive you want. The at­tor­ney gen­eral is an of­fice that the prime min­is­ter re­spects, along with the in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­ciary, as well as the Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice.”Trudeau was not in at­ten­dance in the House of Com­mons on Thurs­day, in­stead at­tend­ing sched­uled events in Toronto. Wil­son-Ray­bould was present but did not an­swer any ques­tions — de­spite nu­mer­ous ques­tions di­rected at her by op­po­si­tion MPs. “The min­is­ter will not be com­ment­ing on this story to­day,” her of­fice told the Na­tional Post. She had ear­lier de­clined to com­ment to the Globe, say­ing the mat­ter “is be­tween me and the govern­ment as the govern­ment’s pre­vi­ous lawyer.”SNC-Lavalin also de­clined to com­ment in a state­ment to the Post.The de­ci­sion of whether or not to pur­sue a re­me­di­a­tion agree­ment is made by the Di­rec­tor of the Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions, Kath­leen Rous­sel. SNC-Lavalin was in­formed on Oct. 9, 2018, that it would not be in­vited to ne­go­ti­ate an agree­ment, mean­ing the crim­i­nal charges would pro­ceed.Later that month, SN­CLavalin applied for ju­di­cial re­view of the de­ci­sion in Fed­eral Court, ar­gu­ing Rous­sel’s re­fusal to is­sue an in­vi­ta­tion was an “un­rea­son­able ex­er­cise of her dis­cre­tion” and an “in­co­her­ent ap­pli­ca­tion of the rel­e­vant cri­te­ria.”The Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions has filed a mo­tion to strike SNC-Lavalin’s ap­pli­ca­tion on the grounds the court does not have ju­ris­dic­tion to re­view the de­ci­sion. A hear­ing on the mo­tion to strike took place last week in Mon­treal; a de­ci­sion has yet to be an­nounced.Lob­by­ing records show SNC-Lavalin has re­peat­edly met with the govern­ment on the topic of “jus­tice” and “law en­force­ment” over the past two years, in­clud­ing more than a dozen meet­ings with Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice staff. The govern­ment held a two-month con­sul­ta­tion in the fall of 2017 on re­me­di­a­tion agree­ments, and mul­ti­ple de­part­ments were in­volved in shap­ing the pol­icy. The pol­icy was in­serted into Bill C-74, a sprawl­ing bud­get bill in­tro­duced on March 27, 2018, and passed into law three months later.Navdeep Bains, Min­is­ter of In­no­va­tion, Sci­ence and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, said in an in­ter­view on Thurs­day that the pol­icy dis­cus­sion on re­me­di­a­tion agree­ments was on a “broader scale,” not meant to ben­e­fit one spe­cific com­pany.“We en­gage with com­pa­nies of all sizes from dif­fer­ent re­gions and we want to hear their con­cerns, so I have no doubt that that (SN­CLavalin) prob­a­bly raised the is­sue with my team or my of­fi­cials,” he said. “But again, our poli­cies are de­signed to be ag­nos­tic to any one sec­tor or any one com­pany.”Last Novem­ber, for­mer SNC-Lavalin vice-pres­i­dent Nor­mand Morin pleaded guilty to vi­o­lat­ing Canada’s elec­tion fi­nance laws over a scan­dal that saw the com­pany re­im­burs­ing em­ploy­ees for do­na­tions to po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Of the more than $117,000 in do­na­tions, the vast ma­jor­ity was to Lib­er­als, in­clud­ing $83,534 to the Lib­eral Party of Canada, $13,552 to Lib­eral rid­ing as­so­ci­a­tions, and $12,529 to Lib­eral lead­er­ship can­di­dates. Less than $10,000 went to the Con­ser­va­tive party and its rid­ing as­so­ci­a­tions.The al­le­ga­tion of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence in a crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion is es­pe­cially ex­plo­sive be­cause of the Vice Ad­mi­ral Mark Nor­man case. Nor­man’s lawyers are al­ready pre­par­ing a mo­tion on abuse of process that will be heard in March, and have al­leged in court doc­u­ments that the pros­e­cu­tion of Nor­man may have been po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.Nor­man, the for­mer sec­ond-in-com­mand of the Cana­dian Forces, was charged last year with breach of trust for al­legedly leaking cabi­net se­crets about a $700-mil­lion navy sup­ply ship pro­cure­ment. He has de­nied wrong­do­ing, and his sup­port­ers ar­gue he was scape­goated af­ter the Lib­eral govern­ment was em­bar­rassed by the leaks.The trial is set for Au­gust 2019, but Nor­man’s lawyers are ex­pected to ask the judge to toss out the case due to po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence and govern­ment ob­struc­tion over doc­u­ments Nor­man needs to de­fend him­self.

Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould was shuf­fled from Jus­tice to Vet­er­ans Affairs, a move that sur­prised many.

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