‘A trav­esty’: Wil­son-Ray­bould to tes­tify, but not Butts

PressReader - BRUCE_CAROL_ROWE Channel - ‘A trav­esty’: Wil­son-Ray­bould to tes­tify, but not Butts
OT­TAWA • Lib­eral MPs on the Com­mons jus­tice com­mit­tee have blocked an ef­fort to have Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice staff tes­tify on the scan­dal sur­round­ing for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould.The com­mit­tee will hear from Wil­son-Ray­bould her­self, but it voted down a mo­tion to call on Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau to waive solic­i­tor-client priv­i­lege. That means Wil­son-Ray­bould may de­cline to an­swer most ques­tions.“I’m deeply, deeply dis­ap­pointed in what hap­pened here to­day,” NDP MP Mur­ray Rankin said after the meet­ing.“The jus­tice com­mit­tee, I think, owes it to Cana­di­ans to study this. It’s fun­da­men­tal to our democ­racy, and frankly what hap­pened there was a trav­esty.”The de­ci­sions were made dur­ing an in-cam­era meet­ing on Tues­day af­ter­noon, meaning it was closed to the pub­lic and details about the de­lib­er­a­tions are se­cret.Lib­eral MPs said eight wit­nesses have been in­vited, in­clud­ing some law pro­fes­sors — Craig Forcese and Adam Dodek from the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa were men­tioned — to ex­plain the le­gal is­sues, such as the con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ple that at­tor­neys gen­eral are not sub­jected to po­lit­i­cal pres­sure when it comes to crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tions.The com­mit­tee had ear­lier adopted a Lib­eral mo­tion to in­vite three other wit­nesses: David Lametti, the cur­rent jus­tice min­is­ter and at­tor­ney gen­eral; Nathalie Drouin, the deputy jus­tice min­is­ter and deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral; and Michael Wer­nick, the clerk of the privy coun­cil.The Globe and Mail has al­leged, cit­ing con­fi­den­tial sources, that Wil­son-Ray­bould was pres­sured by Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice staff to drop the cor­rup­tion case against SNC-Lavalin in favour of a re­me­di­a­tion agree­ment — a com­pli­ance agree­ment that would see the com­pany pay a fine and ad­mit wrong­do­ing but avoid a po­ten­tial crim­i­nal con­vic­tion.Wil­son-Ray­bould re­signed from cabi­net last week and has re­tained le­gal coun­sel to de­ter­mine how much she’s al­lowed to say due to the fact that as at­tor­ney gen­eral, she was the govern­ment’s le­gal ad­viser and the dis­cus­sions may be cov­ered by solic­i­tor-client priv­i­lege.Trudeau’s top po­lit­i­cal aide, Ger­ald Butts, re­signed on Mon­day, say­ing he did not want the scan­dal to take away from “the vi­tal work” of the prime min­is­ter.He called the al­le­ga­tion false. “I cat­e­gor­i­cally deny the ac­cu­sa­tion that I or any­one else in (the PMO) pres­sured Ms. Wil­son-Ray­bould,” he said in a state­ment.The Com­mons com­mit­tee, how­ever, will not hear from Butts after the Lib­er­als blocked the op­po­si­tion’s mo­tion to in­vite him.“I’m very dis­ap­pointed that we’re not go­ing to be hear­ing from any­body within the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice what­so­ever,” said Con­ser­va­tive MP Lisa Raitt. “Es­pe­cially given that Mr. Butts yes­ter­day gave a blan­ket de­nial. Surely he must be tested on his de­nial that he gave so freely yes­ter­day.”The Se­nate, mean­while, is con­sid­er­ing its own in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Un­like the Com­mons, where the com­mit­tee ini­ti­ates its own study, the full cham­ber of 105 sen­a­tors must de­cide whether its le­gal and con­sti­tu­tional af­fairs com­mit­tee will take up a study of the is­sue.Larry Smith, the Con­ser­va­tive leader in the Se­nate, gave no­tice of mo­tion on Tues­day to have a vote on whether the com­mit­tee should start a study. The mo­tion names 10 po­ten­tial wit­nesses, in­clud­ing Trudeau, Wil­son-Ray­bould, Butts and other key play­ers.Serge Joyal, the Lib­eral in­de­pen­dent se­na­tor who chairs the com­mit­tee, told the Na­tional Post he plans to vote in favour of the mo­tion.“I think we are very well equipped to dis­cuss that, and the im­pli­ca­tions that are raised in the present sit­u­a­tion,” he said.“I will vote in favour of the mo­tion, per­son­ally. We are the com­mit­tee that did the study of that is­sue al­ready.”He said there is not yet enough in­for­ma­tion to know whether Wil­son-Ray­bould was un­duly pres­sured by any­one in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice, but said the over­all is­sue of keep­ing the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem in­su­lated from pol­i­tics is very im­por­tant to him.“Once the court has pro­nounced, the vast ma­jor­ity of Cana­di­ans ac­cept those de­ci­sions and they obey it,” he said. “But they obey it be­cause they trust the sys­tem.“So the trust of the sys­tem is fun­da­men­tal to our democ­racy. That’s es­sen­tially how I see this sit­u­a­tion,” said Joyal.

© PressReader. All rights reserved.