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Former attorney general says she can’t publicly discuss SNC Lavalin allegations

12 February 2019

Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was involved in extensive, internal government discussions last fall about whether SNC-Lavalin should be allowed to avoid criminal prosecution - and government officials maintain there's nothing wrong with that.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has said the prime minister should have nothing to fear from an independent investigation by the federal ethics commissioner if, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insists, the allegations are not true.

The agreement is a way of holding a company accountable for what it did, but the company itself would not be accountable for the actions of its employees.

The federal Conservatives are calling for several senior Trudeau staffers and cabinet ministers to appear before the House justice committee to respond to allegations that the Prime Minister's Office pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in criminal proceedings against SNC-Lavalin.

When asked about any conversations with Ms. Wilson-Raybould about the SNC-Lavalin prosecution, Mr. Trudeau would only say "we have a tremendous, positive working relationship with all members of our cabinet".

"All we've heard are allegations in a newspaper", said Lametti about the SNC-Lavalin affair. The charges the company is facing were the result of an RCMP probe into business done in Libya.

In a January 8 response filed with the court, the director of prosecutions said SNC-Lavalin's argument is "bereft of any possibility of success and should be struck".

"The legislation only contemplates that a prosecutor may decide to extend an invitation to negotiate to an accused organization - but only after the prosecutor has been satisfied that it would be in the public interest and appropriate and that various other conditions have been met".

"When the lobbyists meet with someone, they have to register and register what it was about", she said.

Wilson-Raybould, now minister of Veterans Affairs, said Friday she would not comment on claims that the Prime Minister's Office tried to pressure her to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution in pending legal action against the construction company.

The former federal attorney general is refusing to either sink or protect her prime minister - but it's clear the days of hugs and mutual admiration tweets are history.

The fact that such directives must be done publicly would seem to constrain a justice minister from doing anything overtly political. The type of deal is called a "deferred prosecution agreement", or a "remediation agreement", which was only legalized in Canada previous year.

"On one hand, it was meant to enhance integrity in government by statutorily ensuring independence of the prosecution decision-making function from inappropriate political control, direction and influence", the book says.

"If the Prime Minister has nothing to hide as he has suggested, then he should have no reason to fear these individuals appearing before the justice committee", Scheer said on Friday.

In light of the accusations reported by the Globe, Singh also wants the ethics commissioner to investigate if Trudeau received any portion of the more than $100,000 in illegal donations that the Liberal Party was forced to return to SNC-Lavalin in 2016.

"Then there is a risk of undermining public confidence in the criminal justice system", the paper said. In its 2018 budget, it had noted its intention to introduce legislation for a DPA in the near future - but it offered few details.

Former attorney general says she can’t publicly discuss SNC Lavalin allegations