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Conservative leader Andrew Scheer speaks during a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on April 7, 2019.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

The Liberal government is leaving the door open to suing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer for saying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau interfered in the criminal prosecution of Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

Mr. Trudeau skipped Question Period on Monday as Mr. Scheer used his time in the House of Commons to challenge the government to follow through on its threat to take legal action against him.

Government House Leader Bardish Chagger would not say whether the threatened lawsuit will proceed, but she warned the Official Opposition Leader that he was at legal risk if he continued to say that Mr. Trudeau actually interfered in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.

She alleged that Mr. Scheer has previously deleted tweets that were defamatory, suggesting he had done so again with the accusations against Mr. Trudeau.

“We put him on notice again because there are consequences for making false statements. At his press conference, he has already repeated some of his false statements. He should not be misleading Canadians,” Ms. Chagger told the House.

Mr. Trudeau’s office schedule said he had personal business on Monday.

Ms. Chagger ignored repeated requests from Mr. Scheer and other Conservative MPs to inform the House when Mr. Trudeau plans to begin legal proceedings.

The accusations follow two months of political turmoil over SNC-Lavalin. Former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould told a Commons committee last month that she had come under inappropriate pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to defer fraud and bribery charges against the company.

“The Prime Minister said that the former attorney-general never came to him with her concerns. That turned out to be false. The Prime Minister said he never put pressure on the former attorney-general to change her decision. That turned out to be false,” Mr. Scheer said. “If the Government House Leader is so sure they have such a firm case, when will they start court proceedings?” Mr. Scheer denied he had ever made any false statement and said he welcomed having the case disposed in a lawsuit.

However, Ms. Chagger said Mr. Scheer deleted a tweet on Feb. 11 that alleged “potential criminality” in the SNC-Lavalin affair. She said it appears on March 31, the day he would have received legal threats from Mr. Trudeau’s lawyer, that Mr. Scheer deleted another tweet and reposted it with softer language. In December, she added, Mr. Scheer deleted another tweet on a different matter after he was served with a libel notice by Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains.

“We will not sit idly by while the Conservatives continue to intentionally mislead Canadians,” she said.

Members of Parliament are protected by parliamentary immunity from legal action for defamation regarding statements they make in the House of Commons, but this protection does not apply once they leave the chamber.

On Sunday, Mr. Scheer released a March 31 letter from Mr. Trudeau’s libel lawyer, Julian Porter, warning him that he could be taken to court for falsely saying that the Prime Minister had actually interfered in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

Mr. Scheer said Mr. Trudeau is merely trying to muzzle criticism.

“The Prime Minister has done everything he can to try to shut down criticism. He has shut down two parliamentary investigations, he used his majority in the House to block calls for a public inquiry, and he kicked two members out of his caucus for the sole crime of telling the truth, all to cover up his corruption,” he said.

He said he welcomes a lawsuit because he believes it would oblige Mr. Trudeau to testify in court.

“I won’t back down to Justin Trudeau’s threats to sue me for doing my job and asking questions about his corruption scandal,” Mr. Scheer said Monday on Twitter. “I look forward to Justin Trudeau following through on his threat and presenting his evidence to Canadians under oath."

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