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Canada Evening Update: Justice committee to investigate interference allegations but choose not to call on Wilson-Raybould

Good evening,

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Parliament’s justice committee defeated an opposition amendment to question Jody Wilson-Raybould as well as two top Prime Minister’s Office officials today. The emergency meeting was called to debate whether to probe allegations of political interference on the part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government into the SNC-Lavalin Group criminal case. All this comes in the wake of Ms. Wilson-Raybould, the former veterans affairs minister, unexpectedly quitting Tuesday amid allegations she had been pressed by Trudeau officials to go easy on SNC-Lavalin when she was justice minister.

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The committee ultimately voted along party lines on the original motion, which calls for studying the SNC-Lavalin affair. The Liberal majority voted in favour of studying the case but under a more limited focus than what the four opposition Conservatives and NDP members wanted. They wanted the committee to question Ms. Wilson-Raybould and members of the PMO. The Liberal committee members agreed to call three witnesses: Justice Minister David Lametti, Deputy Minister of Justice Nathalie Drouin and Michael Wernick, the clerk of the Privy Council of Canada.

Aside from the committee hearing, here are today’s developments on the story:

  • Mr. Trudeau reiterated comments he made yesterday that Ms. Wilson-Raybould had never complained to him about political pressure from his office and said again it was Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s responsibility to come forward and speak with him if that had been the case. “She did not. Nobody did and that is why I continue to be puzzled,” he said yesterday.
  • Ms. Wilson-Raybould has taken the extraordinary step of announcing she has retained counsel to advise her on what she can say about the political firestorm that has engulfed her and her government.
  • Politicians, supporters and family have taken to Twitter to discuss her resignation from cabinet.
  • Lawyers for a former SNC-Lavalin vice-president accused of fraud and bribery are trying to have the case thrown out due to what they claim are unreasonable delays.   

We also have several analysis and opinion pieces the weigh in on various aspects of the story:

  • Konrad Yakabuski: Since Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister, a consistent pattern has emerged of a leader who is strangely detached from what goes on in his own government. 
  • Lori Turnbull: The Liberal Party campaigned on a message of open and accountable government, a feminist approach to policy and governance, a robust reconciliation agenda, and justice and fairness for everyone. Against this backdrop, the allegation that PMO staff pressed Ms. Wilson-Raybould ... does not compute.
  • Barrie McKenna: The political storm in Ottawa over the handling of a corruption case against SNC-Lavalin marks a low point in the government’s troubled effort to shore up its anti-corruption regime.
  • John Ibbitson: Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation is a calamity for the Liberals. For one thing, she has made Mr. Trudeau look like a fool. Less than 24 hours earlier, he had expressed full confidence in the minister, saying “her presence in cabinet should actually speak for itself.” Her resignation hours later spoke louder.
  • Globe editorial: The Prime Minister has to tell Canadians what role, if any, he and his office played or attempted to play in this case. It may be that the government has answers that can satisfy the law and the public. But the questions cannot be waited out or wished away.

This story continues to develop. For all of the background and context you’ll need to understand the myriad threads, read our explainer: SNC-Lavalin, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Trudeau’s PMO: The story so far. It lays out why SNC-Lavalin is facing prosecution, what happened to Ms. Wilson-Raybould and what the reaction has been so far.

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RCMP charges second official over alleged leak in Davie shipyard case

The RCMP has charged another official with breach of trust over an alleged leak of confidential information related to the government’s 2015 acquisition of a supply vessel from the Davie shipyard in Quebec. The charge is against Matthew Matchett, who has worked at Public Services and Procurement Canada, reports The Globe’s Daniel Leblanc. The other charge of breach of trust in the case is levelled against the former second-in-command of the Canadian Armed Forces, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.

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Alberta Auditor-General probing links between energy regulator and consultancy firm

Auditor-General Doug Wylie is examining the relationship between the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and an international not-for-profit called the International Centre of Regulatory Excellence (ICORE). As The Globe’s Jeff Lewis reports, the audit follows a complaint from a whistle-blower that launched a separate probe by Public Interest Commissioner Marianne Ryan.

Trump signals disapproval of border wall deal but insiders say he’ll sign

U.S. President Donald Trump is sitting on the proverbial fence, neither committing to signing nor signalling he’ll veto a bipartisan agreement reached between Congressional Republicans and Democrats on funding physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Not signing the bill would trigger another government shutdown because besides committing US$1.37-billion for border fencing, its main purpose is to fund about a quarter of the U.S. government for the remainder of the 2019 fiscal year. Mr. Trump has said he’s not happy with it but he’s getting a lot of pressure from Republicans to sign it.

Press freedom in Philippines takes a hit as head of news site known for criticizing Duterte arrested

Maria Ressa, the award-winning chief executive of a Rappler, a news website known for its scrutiny of President Rodrigo Duterte, was arrested today on libel charges. Reuters reports she is accused of cyber libel over a 2012 article that linked a businessman to murder and trafficking of humans and drugs, citing information contained in an intelligence report from an unspecified agency. Ms. Ressa and Rappler have become a frequent target of the Duterte regime; reporters are regularly threatened by Mr. Duterte’s supporters and the company faces two major cases, one that rescinded its operating license and another alleging tax evasion.

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MARKET WATCH

Canada’s main stock finished in the red Wednesday, led lower by technology, materials and consumer stocks offsetting gains by the health care and energy sectors. The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX Composite Index closed down 15.37 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 15,626.73.

Wall Street closed higher on Wednesday as investors were hopeful that the United States and China could iron out a trade deal and as benign inflation data suggested the Federal Reserve would hold interest rates steady in the near term. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 110.73 points, or 0.44 per cent, to 25,536.49, the S&P 500 gained 7.53 points, or 0.27 per cent, to 2,752.26 and the Nasdaq Composite added 5.76 points, or 0.08 per cent, to 7,420.38.

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WHAT’S POPULAR WITH READERS

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Teens who use cannabis at a higher risk of developing depression, suicidal behaviour: study

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A new study led by researchers in Montreal and published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry suggests we need to learn a lot more about the mental-health risks associated with cannabis. As The Globe’s Wency Leung reports, researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 11 studies, involving a total of 23,317 participants and found that while the risk for anxiety was not statistically significant, they found daily-to-weekly cannabis use was related to a high risk for suicidal attempts, and a low to medium risk for developing depression.

WHAT ELSE IS ON OUR RADAR

  • Dave Brubaker, a former high-ranking gymnastics coach, was acquitted of sexual assault and sexual exploitation after a judge found the testimony of the complainant sincere but said the police investigation into the case was severely flawed. (The Canadian Press)
  • A 19-year-old woman turned herself into Toronto police today to face charges of allegedly throwing two chairs off a 45th story balcony along a busy downtown street, an incident captured in a video that spread widely on social media sites. (The Canadian Press)
  • NASA’s Opportunity, the Mars rover that was built to operate for just three months but kept going and going, rolling across the rocky red soil, was pronounced dead today, 15 years after it landed on the planet. (The Associated Press)
  • Ford Motor Co. announced it was recalling about 1.48 million F-150 pickup trucks in North America, including 221,000 in Canada, due to a potential transmission downshift issue that could increase the risk of a crash. (Reuters)
  • A new $200-million scholarship fund set up by John and Marcy McCall MacBain who made a fortune reinventing classified ads will allow students from coast to coast to pursue higher learning at McGill University that otherwise may have been out of reach. (The Globe and Mail)
  • This Valentine’s season, some recreational cannabis companies have been trying to draw a link between their products and the romantic holiday that has been a boon for florists, greeting card publishers and chocolate makers for years. (The Globe and Mail)

TALKING POINTS

Europe, please wake up

Europe is sleepwalking into oblivion, and the people of Europe need to wake up before it is too late. If they don’t, the European Union will go the way of the Soviet Union in 1991. Neither our leaders nor ordinary citizens seem to understand that we are experiencing a revolutionary moment, that the range of possibilities is very broad, and that the eventual outcome is thus highly uncertain. ― George Soros, Chairman of Soros Fund Management and the Open Society Foundations

The NDP’s fumbles on the Venezuela file expose the party’s real problems

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There is no doubt that the NDP botched this issue from a political and humanitarian perspective. But the party’s response to the situation in Venezuela has also shed light on a different problem altogether: a moral identity crisis in the NDP. ― Maria Fleming, a Venezuelan-Canadian and a former NDP staffer

Don’t listen to the market cheerleaders: Today’s dour outlook is poised to get worse

“The key for successful investing is to stay ahead of the curve and not to live in the moment. And avoid the temptation of following the herd at all times.” ― David Rosenberg

LIVING BETTER

iStock

Match: Our favourite love stories to warm the heart on Valentine’s

Each week, couples share their origin stories and secrets to relationship success with Courtney Shea. Here are some of our favourites, just in time for Valentine’s

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Elvetica/istock

Cooking dinner on Valentine’s Day is high stakes

Cooking a special meal for someone shows that you care, and on a special occasion such as Valentines, doing dinner can be high stakes. Writer Corey Mintz says the key to success is to remember the goal is to feed the other person – and not your own ego.

LONG READS FOR A LONG COMMUTE

Saadi Gadhafi, apparently during a shopping trip for fighter jets produced by French defence company Dassault Aviation. The photos are undated. Libya reportedly considered buying Rafale jets, of a type that later played a key role in the downfall of the Gadhafi regime.

From the archives: The inside story of SNC-Lavalin’s Gadhafi disaster

The Jody Wilson-Raybould resignation has brought the engineering company SNC-Lavalin back under the spotlight. The Globe investigated SNC and its connection to the Libyan regime of Moammar Gadhafi several years ago. Here’s the inside story of SNC-Lavalin’s Gadhafi disaster.

Evening Update is written by Michael Snider. If you’d like to receive this newsletter by e-mail every weekday evening, go here to sign up. If you have any feedback, send us a note.

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