Ex-Canada minister to discuss ethics issues, may not tell all

February 27, 2019

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Former Canadian justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, will publicly address ethics allegations fueling the biggest crisis of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s career on Wednesday, but may not be able to tell her full story.

Wilson-Raybould is due to testify to the House of Commons justice committee about a newspaper report which said she was pressured by senior officials last year to help SNC-Lavalin Group Inc avoid a corruption trial.

Polls show the allegation is starting to hurt the Liberals ahead of what looks set to be a tightly contested federal election against the official opposition Conservative Party in October.

Trudeau said on Tuesday the Liberal government would waive cabinet confidentiality to let Wilson-Raybould address most aspects of the case, but not all of them.

In a letter send to the justice committee late on Tuesday, Wilson-Raybould complained this “falls far short of what is required” for her to give a full account.

Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday the “justice committee is looking into the issue of whether or not (Wilson-Raybould) underwent pressure or inappropriate pressure and she will be able to speak fully.”

Opposition politicians accuse Trudeau of trying to cover up an attempt by officials to help SNC-Lavalin, which could be banned from bidding for federal contracts for a decade if found guilty on charges of bribing Libyan officials.

“Justin Trudeau can no longer hide the fact that he was at the center of an attempt to interfere in a criminal prosecution. He must come clean with Canadians,” Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said on Wednesday.

Wilson-Raybould’s testimony is due to start at about 4 p.m. ET (2100 GMT) and last for about two hours.

While officials say they spoke to Wilson-Raybould about the potential economic damage a trial could cause SNC-Lavalin, they insist they did not behave inappropriately.

Trudeau last week said he had been concerned about possible job losses at the firm. SNC-Lavalin is based in the province of Quebec, where the Liberals say they need to pick up more seats to stand a chance of retaining a majority government.

The Globe and Mail newspaper, which broke the story, said Wilson-Raybould had resisted pressure to let SNC-Lavalin off with a fine. She was unexpectedly demoted in January and resigned in February.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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