Opposition pushes for inquiry in SNC-Lavalin affair

Jody Wilson-Raybould says she is still a member of the Liberal caucus

Former cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says she’s still talking to her lawyer about what she can and can’t say publicly about allegations she was pressured not to proceed with a criminal investigation of Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

Wilson-Raybould made the remarks Tuesday as she exited the suite of offices that hold both the cabinet room and the Prime Minister’s Office, just as a cabinet meeting was breaking for the day.

READ MORE: Ethics watchdog probes alleged PMO interference in SNC-Lavalin case

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on this way into the House of Commons that she had asked to speak to cabinet, but he would not provide details and stressed all cabinet conversations are confidential.

Wilson-Raybould wasn’t expected at the cabinet meeting because she resigned from her post as veterans affairs minister a week ago. Her resignation came several days after anonymous allegations were made to The Globe and Mail that the PMO had tried to convince her to allow SNC-Lavalin to negotiate a remediation agreement as a way to avoid the company’s criminal prosecution.

The implication was that her refusal to agree led to her January demotion from the more-senior justice portfolio to veterans affairs.

On Tuesday, however, she said she was still a member of the Liberal caucus.

“I am still consulting with my legal counsel, as I think people can appreciate, or should appreciate, the rules and laws around privilege, around confidentiality, around my responsibility as a member of Parliament,” she said.

“My ethical and professional responsibilities as a lawyer are layered and incredibly complicated so I am still working with my lawyer.”

Trudeau has acknowledged there were conversations with her about the case, but that he told her the decision was hers to make, and she was not being directed to do anything.

On Monday, the controversy led to the resignation of Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts. Butts denied he had done anything wrong but said he had become a distraction for the government so he was stepping aside.

READ MORE: Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigns amid SNC-Lavalin furor

Cabinet met Tuesday for the first time since the allegations broke.

The House of Commons justice committee agreed last week to study the affair, but the Liberal-dominated committee initially declined to invite Wilson-Raybould to appear.

However, shortly after Tuesday’s cabinet meeting committee member and Liberal MP Iqra Khalid tweeted that she will ask the committee to invite Wilson-Raybould to testify.

MPs spent the morning debating an NDP motion calling for Trudeau to wave solicitor-client privilege to allow Wilson-Raybould to speak freely about what happened, and to call a public inquiry to get to the bottom of the matter.

The Canadian Press

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