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Politics Politics Briefing: Trudeau denies his office directed Wilson-Raybould on SNC-Lavalin case

Good morning,

At an announcement on transit funding in Vaughan, Ont., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that senior officials in the PMO had not “directed” Jody Wilson-Raybould - who was previously the Liberals’ justice minister and was demoted to veteran affairs - to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin case, but he also would not say whether they tried to induce her to abandon a prosecution and trial of the Montreal-based corporation. “The allegations reported in the story are false. At no time did I or my office direct the current or previous attorney-general to make any particular decision in this matter,” Mr. Trudeau said.

The important note here is the language Mr. Trudeau used in his responses. The Globe and Mail’s exclusive never reported that officials in Mr. Trudeau’s office “directed” Ms. Wilson-Raybould to take action - instead, only that she was pressed to do so and declined. Asked if the PMO exerted any influence whatsoever, Mr. Trudeau again said: “As I’ve said, at no time did we direct the attorney-general, current or previous, to make any decision whatsoever in this manner.” As The Globe’s Campbell Clark writes, the Prime Minister’s “non-denial denial” furthers the need for transparency.

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called the story “disturbing” and Mr. Trudeau’s response “carefully legalistic.”

Meanwhile, The Globe’s Paul Waldie spoke with the chief executive of SNC, Neil Bruce, who said he was unaware of any political pressure and didn’t comment on how the new Justice Minister, Montreal MP David Lametti, would handle the file, but he did say he’s worried about the company’s immediate future because of the legal uncertainty hanging over the business.

For more perspective on this, read this opinion piece from Jennifer Quaid, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, and Emilie Taman, a former Crown counsel with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter. Today’s edition is written by Shelby Blackley (Chris Hannay is off). This newsletter 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

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told a top aide in a conversation in 2017 that he would use “a bullet” on Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in October 2018, if he did not return to the kingdom and end his criticism of the Saudi government, according to current and former U.S. and foreign officials with knowledge of the intelligence reports.

B.C.’s suspended Clerk of the House and Sergeant-at-Arms have filed responses to allegations of misspending, once again denying any wrongdoing. Craig James and Gary Lenz said they hope their responses to Speaker Darryl Plecas’s report will be made public.

Two major cases will come to rest today, as 67-year-old serial killer Bruce McArthur and 29-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette will be sentenced in what are considered primal tests of the justice system’s values in the postcapital-punishment era, and what some label “Canada’s new death penalty.

Parliamentary Protective Services and the Speaker are investigating allegations that a group of black Canadians who were on Parliament Hill on Feb. 4 to provide sensitivity training were racially profiled on Parliament grounds.

British Prime Minister Theresa May meets with European Union leaders this week to try to salvage her Brexit deal bid, banking on a few proposals inspired by Canada’s border with the United States, particularly between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit.

Canada’s chief statistician said Statistics Canada could fill some of the country’s key data gaps if the federal government gave it more money to do so, as prominent Canadians call for urgent improvements to the public data regime.

The Quebec government has proposed a bill that will reset the province’s immigration system, cancelling a backlog of 18,000 applications and matching more immigrants to job demands. It will also follow through on election campaign promises to impose language and values tests on those applying to live in Quebec. The bill also proposes linking permanent residency status to a commitment to live in regions outside Montreal. This could set up a battle with Ottawa, as the federal government controls residency status for immigrants under the shared federal-provincial arrangement.

And former leader of Canada’s Liberal Party Michael Ignatieff, among others, was awarded Israel’s prestigious Dan David Prize for promoting democracy amid an authoritarian crackdown on academic and journalistic freedom.

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Rob Carrick (The Globe and Mail) on affordable housing: “Here’s how the government should help millennials buy a home: Leave the stress tests for mortgage applicants in place, but increase the maximum amortization period for people with small down payments to 30 years from 25. Finance Minister Bill Morneau is reportedly considering the 30-year option.”

Marcus Kolga (The Globe and Mail) on foreign interference: “Encouraging Canadians to diversify their media consumption and to do so through a critical lens will help build a healthy media environment that is resistant to the threat of foreign disinformation. It’s an uphill battle, but we need to start somewhere.”

Elizabeth Beale, Don Drummond and Glen Hodgson (The Globe and Mail) on carbon pricing: “Everyone listening to this debate should keep an important idea in mind. A well-designed carbon tax isn’t about raising revenue: it’s about altering prices to drive behavioural change in a way that reduces emissions. It’s not about bigger government; it’s about smarter government.”

Licia Corbella (Calgary Herald) on the Made-in-Alberta ads: “If a government is rolling out a new program that citizens might not hear about otherwise, advertising makes sense. If there are health-and-safety concerns, like informing citizens where special vaccination clinics for a dangerous strain of the flu, for instance, can be accessed, that too is legitimate. But, this made-in-Alberta television advertisement is none of the above.”

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