The House of Commons justice committee will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday afternoon to discuss bringing former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould back to speak further about the government’s effort to put pressure on her to shelve the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.
The meeting will be held one week after Liberal MPs blocked an effort by the opposition to immediately invite Ms. Wilson-Raybould to testify about the SNC-Lavalin affair for a second time, despite her willingness to return.
Instead, the Liberals voted Wednesday to reconvene behind closed doors on March 19 – the day the federal government will table its budget – to consider whom they will call on next for testimony.
The opposition accused the Liberals of stalling the hearings and forced the committee Thursday to call an emergency meeting. The Liberals have a majority on the committee but an emergency meeting is automatically triggered when four MPs on the committee ask the clerk in writing to call one.
Conservative committee member Michael Cooper, one of the MPs who requested the emergency meeting, said he has no confidence in the Liberals to “do the right thing” and support an opposition attempt to call on Ms. Wilson-Raybould again.
“If the Liberals want to block Jody Wilson-Raybould from appearing before the committee, they’re going to have to do so in public, in front of Canadians, to make their case,” Mr. Cooper told The Globe and Mail in an interview.
“I believe that if they could get away with it, they would just like to shut down the hearings."
None of the Liberal MPs on the committee responded to The Globe’s request for comment Friday, except for Anthony Housefather, who as chair does not vote (except to break a tie). Mr. Housefather said the meeting will be called as a public session, but members can vote at any time to move in camera, or behind closed doors – something the NDP warned against.
“If there’s an attempt to bring this behind closed doors and in camera, I think that’s just going to speak volumes to Canadians about the lengths that they [the Liberals] will go to keep the truth from coming out," NDP MP Tracey Ramsey said.
The opposition says Ms. Wilson-Raybould needs to be given an opportunity to respond to testimony from Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former principal secretary.
In a statement, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said she would be willing to appear before the justice committee if asked to give additional testimony. The former justice minister and attorney-general, who resigned from cabinet last month after being shuffled to Veterans Affairs, appeared before committee on Feb. 27, when she alleged “consistent and sustained” political pressure from Mr. Trudeau and other senior officials to defer the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
Mr. Butts told the committee on Wednesday that he did not feel that Ms. Wilson-Raybould was subjected to pressure to overrule federal prosecutions and settle with SNC-Lavalin out of court. He also denied that she was removed as justice minister because of her refusal to negotiate with the engineering company. Mr. Butts resigned shortly after Ms. Wilson-Raybould quit cabinet in February.