Canadian PM Trudeau's former top aide testifies in his defence

Mar 07, 2019, 01:14

Saying he deeply regrets the erosion of the trust and faith Jody Wilson-Raybauld had in her colleagues, Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's former primary adviser testified before the House of Commons Justice Committee in Ottawa this morning.

Feminism has been a key element of the Liberal party's appeal to voters since the 2015 election campaign but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's handling of the fallout from the SNC-Lavalin affair shows that he's a hypocrite, opposition parties say. But here are four striking points when Butts pushed back, during MPs' questions, against Wilson-Raybould's account of sustained pressure from the Prime Minister's Office to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution, by saying individuals in question just wouldn't behave so improperly.

Wilson-Raybould was demoted from her role as attorney general and justice minister in January as part of a Cabinet shuffle by Trudeau.

Butts says he and others tried only to persuade Wilson-Raybould to seek independent legal advice on the matter, given the potential impact on the company's 9,000 employees and the fact that remediation agreements are a new feature in Canadian law.

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Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick and Deputy Minister for Justice Nathalie Drouin are testifying before the House Justice Committee on the SNC-Lavalin scandal, which centres on allegations from a former cabinet minister of political interference in a criminal case.

Citing the RCMP investigation now underway, Conservative MP Michael Cooper made a motion at the start of the meeting to compel Butts to testify under oath, saying if he lied he would not only be in contempt of parliament but contempt of court.

She said she was subjected to repeated pressure to "find a solution" for the firm. Wilson-Raybould argued that she felt her demotion was connected to her decision to continue pursuing an investigation of SNC-Lavalin despite "veiled threats" by senior Liberal officials.

Butts testified he only found out the Attorney General had reached a decision to not proceed with a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the Quebec engineering giant last week when she spoke before the committee. He said he attempted to talk Brison out of stepping down, telling him it would trigger a cabinet shuffle and the Prime Minister "was happy with the team he had". Speaking in Longueuil, Que., on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the prime minister has her confidence, adding she appreciates the prime minister sees her family - she has three children - as an advantage rather than an problem.

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A communications person with the office, Eleanore Catenaro, didn't say why.

"I think its quite plausible that Gerry Butts didn't register how distressed Jody Wilson-Raybould was particularly because their conversation was friendly", May said.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said after hearing Butts' testimony she still believes Wilson-Raybould's version of events, though noted that Butts may not have given certain interactions the same magnitude Wilson-Raybould had.

More news: UK Labour Party calls for another referendum

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