Opposition MPs are forcing the House of Commons justice committee to hold an emergency meeting next week to discuss inviting 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.
Conservative and NDP members of the justice committee wrote to the committee clerk Thursday to request the emergency meeting be held within five days. The letters come one day after Liberal members of the committee 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.
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.
In four identical letters, Conservative MPs Michael Cooper, Michael Barrett and Dave MacKenzie, and NDP MP Murray Rankin said Ms. Wilson-Raybould needs to be given an opportunity to respond to Wednesday’s testimony from Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former principal secretary, and Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick.
“Former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould provided clear and convincing testimony based on contemporaneous notes that there was sustained, inappropriate and unethical political pressure. Mr. Gerald Butts and Mr. Michael Wernick provided testimony that, while lacking the credibility of Ms. Wilson-Raybould, was in parts contradictory,” the letters read.
“Canadians deserve to hear the full truth so that they can decide the level of corruption in this government.”
The opposition MPs will ask the committee to invite Ms. Wilson-Raybould to testify no later than March 14.
In an e-mail to The Globe and Mail, justice committee chair Anthony Housefather, a Liberal MP, said the committee will return to Ottawa next week for the meeting. Mr. Housefather said the committee will post the date on its website once that is determined.
In a statement on Wednesday, 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 last week before committee, where she alleged “consistent and sustained” political pressure from Mr. Trudeau and other senior officials to defer the criminal prosecution of Montreal engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin.
“I would of course make myself available to the committee if requested to give additional testimony, to answer any further questions and to provide further clarity that may be required,” Ms. Wilson-Raybould said in the statement.
“I will note, as I indicated at the time, my statement to the committee was not a complete account but only a detailed summary.”
Instead of supporting an opposition attempt Wednesday to invite Ms. Wilson-Raybould back, Liberal members of the justice committee voted 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 Conservatives accused the Liberals of stalling.
Speaking publicly for the first time since resigning last month, 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 and attorney-general because of her refusal to negotiate with the company. Mr. Butts resigned shortly after Ms. Wilson-Raybould quit cabinet in February.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould has warned that a cabinet order permitting her to speak does not apply to conversations after she was shuffled out of the Justice portfolio or in relation to her resignation.
With a report from Steven Chase