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Politics Wilson-Raybould will table more evidence of political meddling in SNC-Lavalin affair

MP Jody Wilson-Raybould speaks to constituents in her riding of Vancouver Granville in Vancouver on March 14, 2019.

BEN NELMS/The Globe and Mail

Former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould says she plans to provide further evidence to a parliamentary committee about high-level political interference in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.

The move comes after the Liberal majority on the House of Commons justice committee closed down an inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin affair on Tuesday, preventing Ms. Wilson-Raybould from testifying again in response to other witnesses.

Opposition MPs protested the shutdown of the hearings by forcing 31 hours of marathon voting on spending estimates that ended early Friday morning. They vow to keep the spotlight on the controversy until Ms. Wilson-Raybould is able to testify again.

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On Friday, Ms. Wilson-Raybould wrote to the chair of the justice committee, Montreal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, saying she has "relevant facts and evidence” that back up her previous testimony about attempts by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and top aides to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal trial on fraud and bribery charges relating to its business dealings in Libya.

In testimony last month, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said she faced "consistent and sustained” pressure to override federal prosecutors and negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin. Such an agreement would allow the company to accept responsibility for wrongdoing and pay a fine without having to go to trial.

In her letter, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said she intends to submit evidence that had been asked of her by justice committee members when she testified on Feb. 27 and to respond to witnesses who appeared after her. Her evidence will be made public, Mr. Housefather told members of the committee on Friday.

Mr. Trudeau’s former principal secretary, Gerald Butts, and Michael Wernick, the clerk of the privy council, testified on March 6 that Ms. Wilson-Raybould was not subjected to “inappropriate pressure” and said she had mischaracterized some of the conversations.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould indicated she has documented evidence that will support her version of what transpired between September and December, 2018, when she was attorney-general and justice minister.

“A request was made for ‘copies of text messages and e-mails’ that I referred to in my testimony on Feb. 27, 2019 … I will provide copies,” she wrote. “Related to these requests, I also have relevant facts and evidence in my possession that further clarify statements I made and elucidate the accuracy and nature of statements by witnesses in testimony that came after my committee appearance.”

However, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said she is still prevented from talking about the period of time from when she was shuffled out of justice in early January to her resignation from cabinet in mid-February.

The B.C. Liberal MP has asked the Prime Minister to give her another waiver from solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality to talk about conversations with Mr. Trudeau that led to her resignation from cabinet.

But Mr. Trudeau told reporters in Thunder Bay on Friday that Ms. Wilson-Raybould has already had an opportunity to tell her story during four hours of testimony before the justice committee last month.

Her testimony, however, covered only her time as attorney-general and not the period after she was shuffled to veterans affairs. She believes the demotion was related to the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.

“There has been an airing of that for five weeks in front of the justice committee and the ethics commissioner continues to proceed with his investigation on this,” Mr. Trudeau said, in dismissing requests to waive cabinet confidentiality and solicitor-client privilege for that period. “There has been a full airing of involving the former justice minister and attorney general and the SNC-Lavalin file.”

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Opposition MPs accused Mr. Trudeau of a cover-up to prevent Canadians from knowing about what led Ms. Wilson-Raybould and former Treasury Board President Jane Philpott to resign from cabinet.

“It’s clear from her letter that she still feels limited in what she can release and what she can speak about,” Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen told reporters. “Every single day there is more and more proof that the Prime Minister is doing everything he can to continue the cover-up and not allow her to speak.”

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On Thursday, Ms. Philpott complained about “an attempt to shut down the story” and said “there is still a substantial amount of her [Wilson-Raybould] story that’s not out there.”

“If nothing wrong took place, then why don’t we waive privilege on the whole issue and let those who have something to say on it speak their minds and share their stories,” she told Maclean’s magazine.

The issue has dominated Parliament since The Globe and Mail reported on Feb. 7 that the Prime Minister’s Office pressured the former attorney-general to negotiate an settlement without trial for SNC-Lavalin.

In the fallout from The Globe report, Ms. Wilson-Raybould, Ms. Philpott and Mr. Butts stepped down. On Monday, Mr. Wernick retired because he had lost the “trust and respect" of the opposition parties over his role in the SNC-Lavalin case.

Liberal MPs are also expected to use their majority on the House ethics committee on Tuesday to block an attempt by Conservative and NDP members to mount an inquiry and have Ms. Wilson-Raybould testify again.

One option open to Ms. Wilson-Raybould is to raise a question of personal privilege to ask the Commons Speaker to allow her to speak freely about what happened after she was demoted to Veterans Affairs and her resignation from cabinet. The move would give her immunity to speak without facing consequences of violating cabinet confidentiality and solicitor-client privilege. However, the Speaker could limit the time to 20 minutes.

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