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)