Canada's Justin Trudeau denies impropriety, offers no apology

Saul Bowman
March 11, 2019

"I can repeat and reassure Canadians that there was no breakdown of our systems, of our rule of law, of the integrity of our institutions", Mr Trudeau told a news conference. "There was never any inappropriate pressure".

"I am obviously reflecting on lessons learned", he said. Yet two-high powered female ministers have quit over the case and he now finds himself accused of trying to arrange a backroom deal with a major company.

The official, Jody Wilson-Raybould, later alleged in testimony before the House Justice Committee that she faced "veiled threats" and "sustained" pressure to help Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin.

Wilson-Raybould had the power to scrap the decision to go to trial but decided against it.

The request from the opposition members comes just a day after Wilson-Raybould stated publicly that she would be willing to return to the committee if the obligations of confidentiality which prevent her from speaking about her past experience when she was attorney general were waived. A Jan 8 Nanos poll put the Liberals at 39 per cent and the Conservatives at 33 per cent.

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he will not be introducing a motion of non-confidence against Justin Trudeau despite saying the prime minister has lost the moral authority to govern because of the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Other Liberal lawmakers have rallied around Mr Trudeau in an election year.

Mr Trudeau said he and senior aides were concerned about economic ramifications of a trial. If the company was criminally convicted they could be banned from securing Canadian government contracts for a decade, potentially putting jobs on the line.

On Wednesday, Gerald Butts, the former principal secretary to the prime minister, testified in front of the parliamentary justice committee and rejected the idea that anyone within Trudeau's office pressured the attorney general - suggesting he and Wilson-Raybould had divergent interpretations of the same events.

The firm, which employs 9,000 people in Canada, is based in the province of Quebec, where Trudeau's Liberals need to pick up seats to win a federal election set for October The scandal has cast a shadow over Trudeau's domestic image of commitment to transparent government, potentially harming his electoral prospects. Kevin Lynch, the company's chair, was once head of the federal civil service. "What we see now is that she was not open to changing her mind with respect to these decisions".

"Yes, the proposal on the table right now given the broadening of the scope of the things that will be covered is to do a sliding scale of 0-10 years, or up to 10 years for criminal convictions in some cases", Qualtrough said.

Trudeau on Thursday described an apparent disconnect between his office and Wilson-Raybould, though he said he was unaware of any problem at the time.

"Perhaps if I had a larger Twitter feed, I should have said, perhaps a noun will apply, but not that one", she said.

Wilson-Raybould has said she believes she was shuffled from Justice to Veterans Affairs in January as punishment for refusing to intervene in the case.

Again, Kane quoted from some of the well-settled law, among the cases a Supreme Court decision that says the "quasi-judicial function of the attorney general can not be subjected to interference from parties who are not as competent to consider the various factors in making a decision to prosecute..." and an Ontario Court of Appeal decision that says, "if the attorney general must give a hearing to anyone who might be affected every time he proposes to exercise the discretion conferred upon him by virtue of his office the administration of criminal justice would come to a standstill".

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