When SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. pleaded guilty last week to one charge of fraud related to its work for the Gadhafi regime in Libya a decade ago, some commentators declared it a vindication or a victory for Jody Wilson-Raybould. To the former attorney-general, however, it is neither.
“I appreciate that justice was served. I’m pleased the public engaged in conversations about what it means to live in a democracy and how important it is to continue to protect democratic institutions. But this isn’t about winning or losing,” Ms. Wilson-Raybould said Friday in an interview with The Globe and Mail.
The independent Vancouver MP resigned from the Liberal cabinet last February, after The Globe reported that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his staff inappropriately pressed her to stop the criminal prosecution of the Montreal-based engineering giant.
To avoid a trial, SNC had sought a settlement called a deferred prosecution agreement. In August, the federal Ethics Commissioner, Mario Dion, found Mr. Trudeau had violated the Conflict of Interest Act in trying to persuade Ms. Wilson-Raybould to overrule the decision by the director of Public Prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel, not to grant the company the agreement it wanted.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould says she was not expecting the company’s guilty plea, and on a personal level, it has given her some degree of “closure” over the affair.
For his part, Mr. Trudeau expressed regret last week for the Liberals’ handling of the events: “There are things we could have, should have, would have done differently had we known, had we known all sorts of different aspects of it,” he said.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould countered his statement. “We did know what should have been done. We should have let the process unfold without political interference,” she said. “Hopefully he is doing some reflecting – that’s a good thing,” she added.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould said she has accepted that anonymous Liberal attacks will continue to be a regular feature of her political life. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t continually “surprised” by them. The latest barb coincidentally landed just days before SNC-Lavalin’s guilty plea was announced.
On Dec. 13, the CBC, quoting a senior Liberal source, claimed that Ms. Wilson-Raybould was refusing to vacate her parliamentary office, which had been assigned to a member of Mr. Trudeau’s current cabinet.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould said there was never a “standoff,” and that she was “communicating back and forth with the House administration” over the assignment. When the story landed, she added, her assistant was scouting the seven offices she had been asked to choose from.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould said she is well-aware that she dropped way down the seniority rankings with her election as an independent MP. She said she wrote the Liberal Whip’s office and House administration after the October election to find out whether she would be moving.
“On more than one occasion” she said she was told she was staying put. That is what she initially told the House administration when it approached her on Dec. 5 about moving. By then, the office had been cleansed by an Algonquin elder in a smudging ceremony performed Dec. 3, the day of her swearing-in.
As an independent, Ms. Wilson-Raybould holds little power. In the Commons chamber, she sits in a corner near the exit, surrounded by Green Party MPs. She drew #78 in the lottery that determines the order of private member’s bills. Still, she holds some renown: The day the SNC-Lavalin verdict was announced, The Canadian Press named Ms. Wilson-Raybould its “newsmaker of the year.”
Ms. Wilson-Raybould said she is looking forward to 2020, and in the months ahead, will continue to focus on climate change, Indigenous issues and democratic reform.
Reflecting back on a tumultuous 2019, she said: “All I was ever doing was my job. As attorney-general, I had to protect the independence of the justice system. And that is what I was doing.”