Canadians should be outraged that Liberal politicians made any attempt to influence the outcome of a criminal case, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says.
Scheer introduced a House of Commons motion Monday afternoon that would demand Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appear at the Commons justice committee to explain his role in allegations former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was pressured not to proceed with a criminal prosecution of Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.
“Quite simply what we’ve seen unfold over the last two weeks is a textbook case of government corruption with those at the very top of the Prime Minister’s Office implicated in what could very well be the obstruction of justice,” Scheer said in a news conference before introducing the motion.
Scheer said Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick’s testimony to the justice committee last week made it clear that SNC-Lavalin successfully lobbied the government for the Criminal Code to be changed to allow for remediation agreements. Those allow companies to avoid a criminal prosecution in exchange for accepting responsibility for wrongdoing, paying fines and reparation to any victims, relinquishing any financial benefit from the actions and showing changes to prevent misdeeds from being repeated.
Striking such an agreement would mean SNC-Lavalin could avoid a criminal prosecution in Canada for allegations it bribed officials in Libya to win contracts there.
But the director of public prosecutions decided in September that SNC-Lavalin wasn’t eligible for a remediation agreement. Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould could have overruled her.
Scheer said the Liberals launched “an unsolicited, co-ordinated and sustained effort by the PM himself to get the former attorney general to change her decision.
“Canadians need to be outraged at the suggestion that politicians were putting pressure on independent agents of the Crown, independent legal officers, to try to get a better deal for well connected friends of the Liberal party,” Scheer said. “That is unacceptable and we need to be outraged about this because of the implications it has on the entire justice system across the country.”
The Liberals don’t appear ready to support the Conservative motion to call Trudeau to testify. The motion would not be binding in any event, and a Commons committee can’t summon a sitting MP to appear before it.
Arif Virani, the Liberal parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, said in the House of Commons there isn’t a need for the Commons to inject itself into the proceedings of the justice committee. If the committee wants to call certain witnesses the committee members can decide who they want to hear from, he said.
“Committees of this house do exemplary work,” said Virani. “We’re confident that the committee hearings will continue to be thoroughly and fairly conducted and will provide Canadians with the answers and information that they seek.”
Thus far the committee has heard from Wernick, deputy justice minister Nathalie Drouin and current Justice Minister David Lametti.
Lametti replaced Wilson-Raybould in the job in January, when she was shuffled to veterans affairs. She resigned from cabinet altogether a few days after the allegations of improper pressure were first raised, but continues to sit as a Liberal MP.
She is expected to testify at the committee this week but no date or time has been confirmed.
Trudeau denies any improper conduct occurred and that any conversations on the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin were done with Wilson-Raybould knowing the final decision was hers alone.