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Politics Politics Briefing: Liberals struggle to move the spotlight off SNC-Lavalin

Good morning,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals tried to turn the page from SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. to the budget on Wednesday. It didn’t work.

First, Liberal MPs had to defeat a Conservative motion in the House of Commons to let Jody Wilson-Raybould testify more fully about the political repercussions from her refusal to drop a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin when she was the attorney-general.

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Then, Mr. Trudeau announced that Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes has “decided to sit as an independent” for the final months of Parliament.

Finally, they had to call for the cots when Conservative MPs began to force 257 votes on the 2018-19 supplementary estimates and 2019-20 interim estimates. They were still going at it early Thursday.

It’s not just the Conservatives keeping the SNC-Lavalin scandal at the fore.

In a candid interview with The Globe, SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce said the company never cited job losses as a reason to be granted a settlement and angrily noted that Canadians seem to have given up on the company: “Nobody appears to give a crap about whether we fail or not in Canada,” Mr. Bruce said. “We want to put this behind us. I mean we’ve been under this cloud for seven years. No other place in the world would you be under this cloud for seven years. … When is this going to end?”

In an interview with Paul Wells at Maclean’s, former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott spoke out on why she believes Ms. Wilson-Raybould should get another chance to testify: “My sense is that Canadians would like to know the whole story. I believe we actually owe it to Canadians as politicians to ensure that they have the truth. They need to have confidence in the very basic constitutional principle of the independence of the justice system.”

And, speaking of independence in the justice system, no one has been thrust into the spotlight over the issue quit like Kathleen Roussel, Canada’s top public prosecutor. In the case of SNC-Lavalin, Ms. Roussel made the decision not to grant the company a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA).

As The Globe’s Janice Dickson reports, those who know Ms. Roussel say that Ms. Wilson-Raybould would have understood that the top prosecutor considered the SNC-Lavalin criminal prosecution with great care.

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This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Aron Yeomanson. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a ban of “military-style” semi-automatic firearms and high-capacity magazines like those used in the shootings at Christchurch mosques last week.

Federal ministers insist the government is still actively reviewing Via Rail’s multibillion-dollar plan for dedicated passenger-rail tracks from Quebec City to Windsor, even though Tuesday’s federal budget made no mention of the issue.

The federal budget is channelling tens of millions of dollars toward filling key data gaps in housing, gender equality, the labour force and Indigenous communities, areas where researchers say Canadians are often in the dark thanks to spotty or inaccessible numbers.

Bob Chamberlin, a high-profile Indigenous leader in British Columbia, intends to seek the 2019 NDP candidacy in the federal riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

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The Canadian government says British Columbia is trying to obstruct the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion with “Trojan Horse” legislation.

Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner says the process to recruit the leader of the Ontario Provincial Police was flawed and “troubling,” but found Premier Doug Ford did not break any rules.

British Prime Minister Theresa May asked the EU to extend the Brexit deadline to June 30.

Boeing faced growing pressure in Washington as U.S. lawmakers called for executives to testify about two crashed 737 MAX jets.

The Pentagon’s inspector-general has formally opened an investigation into a watchdog group’s allegations that acting U.S. Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan has used his office to promote his former employer, Boeing Co.

European Union leaders will sound the alarm this week over the threat of EU elections in May being undermined by a co-ordinated campaign of fake news and disinformation by foreign powers.

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Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on criticisms of the Prime Minister in Question Period: “Before, Mr. Trudeau would have easily rebuffed such attacks. Now, there’s the presence of Ms. Wilson-Raybould and Ms. Philpott on the Liberal benches, looking down at their phones as Conservative MPs point to them as living proof that the PM is a sexist bully. Both said nothing about it.”

Christie Blatchford (National Post) on the SNC-Lavalin affair: “SNC is not at fault for the dizzying effects of its lobbying efforts; that lies solely with the PM, the PMO and senior government officials.”

Paul Kershaw (The Globe and Mail) on budget measures on housing: “We need federal parties to search for other policy options to reduce rent-sized costs in young people’s lives. Child care and parental leave are prime options.”

Éric Grenier (CBC News) on the Alberta election: “As the Alberta provincial election campaign kicks off, Rachel Notley’s New Democrats are in a tough spot.”

Chris Varcoe (Calgary Herald) on the issue of the budget in Alberta’s election: “The question is, how can the government tame a structural deficit and put Alberta on a sustainable financial path that extends well into the next decade — without waiting for high oil prices to come and save the day.”

Timothy Garton Ash (The Globe and Mail) on Brexit: “Even a soft Brexit would be better than the half-baked, blindfold Brexit currently on offer, let alone a no-deal disaster.”

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