Trudeau not the prime minister of Quebec: Saskatchewan premier

Erika Holt
March 8, 2019

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has addressed an ongoing judicial scandal that seems to have cost his government two cabinet ministers by refusing to apologize or acknowledge he did anything wrong.

Trudeau's government has been reeling for the past month since allegations first surfaced that Wilson-Raybould was improperly pressured to stop a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin and was punished for her refusal to give in by being moved out of the justice portfolio to veterans affairs in an early January cabinet shuffle.

Getting SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement continues to drive all aspects of the prime minister's office's handling the issue, said May. "Twice. Remember your reactions?"

Both come in the wake of bombshell testimony from Wilson-Raybould last week, in which she alleged a "consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government" to persuade her to order the director of public prosecutions to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin, which would have allowed the firm to avoid a criminal prosecution that might threaten the company's 9,000 Canadian jobs.

"There was no inappropriate pressure", he said, adding "that the decision was hers alone".

Following days of testimony by Wilson-Raybould and others before the House of Commons justice committee, Trudeau said he now understands how badly relations between his office and Wilson-Raybould had soured over the affair, and took some responsibility.

"Indeed, I expect them to do so", he said. Nearly every day as prime minister, I learn new things. "These are the types of situations that make governing a challenge".

Wilson-Raybould testified that she felt political motivations - namely, the Liberal Party's electoral fortunes in Quebec - were behind the push to secure a DPA for the large Quebec corporation.

"As we look over the past weeks, there are many lessons to be learned and many things we would have liked to have done differently".

For example, if Wilson-Raybould had pursued a DPA with SNC-Lavalin over the initial objections of the PPSC, she would have had to draft a document stating that for publication in the Canada Gazette, the official newspaper of the government of Canada where new acts, regulations and proclamations are published.

Justin Trudeau shares a new version of what happened at his September 2018 meeting with Jody Wilson-Raybould
Justin Trudeau Chalks Recent Political Turmoil Up To 'Erosion Of Trust'

"The PPSC twitter account launched this week; a number of pre-written tweets explaining a little about the PPSC and its work are scheduled over the coming weeks", Nathalie Houle, a spokesperson for the PPSC, said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

Referring to Trudeau's comments on an "erosion of trust", Scheer said the real erosion of trust is between Trudeau and Canadians.

Trudeau responded to the Globe story by telling the news media his government did not "direct" the former attorney general - language that struck many as a non-denial.

Last week Wilson-Raybould outlined for the justice committee 11 meetings and phone calls with 11 different political staff in the Prime Minister's Office, the finance minister's office and the Privy Council Office, which she said were not illegal but overstepped what was appropriate.

Rankin and May, both lawyers, say the discussion on whether to separate the roles of attorney general and justice minister are valid but that's a discussion for another time.

Absent testimony from Wilson-Raybould, the scandal grew.

He said: "Even though I heard that she had made a decision, she indicated to me that she had made a decision - I asked her if she could revisit that decision, if she was open to considering to looking at it once again, and she said that she would".

Heather Bear, vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which includes 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, said she wonders if it would have been a positive step for the former justice minister to fill the role. It was for that reason, he said, that he believed Wilson-Raybould "was still open to hearing different arguments and different approaches on what her decision could be".

But he also added, Wilson-Raybould also should have been more forthcoming with her concerns.

"What we see now is that she wasn't prepared to change her mind". Eastern time on March 7, 2019 to include additional information and quotes from Trudeau's press conference.

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