Butts Sinks Trudeau Government Deeper into the Muck

Butts Sinks Trudeau Government Deeper into the Muck

A scheduled visit by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Regina has been cancelled. It could threaten the political future of the country's leader and the rule of the Liberal Party, seven months ahead of national elections.

Wilson-Raybould had not been hounded or pressured to change her mind about the decision to proceed to trial against SNC-Lavalin; he had not said that any solution to the SNC-Lavalin case would require some form of interference in the justice process; and 10 or 11 contacts with high-ranking public office holders, including the prime minister, Butts, the Clerk of the Privy Council and officials from the PMO, did not amount to hounding or pressure.

Senior Trudeau government figures lobbying Wilson-Raybould on the DPA were doing so because of concerns of how a guilty conviction against SNC-Lavalin on bribery charges would affect its 9,000 employees and countless others working as suppliers for the engineering and construction firm, according to Butts.

For instance, Butts mentioned that he anxious about the 9,000 jobs that would be lost if SNC-Lavalin were prosecuted (and presumably convicted).

"We'll be listening carefully to the voices, testimonies and opinions expressed", Cameron Ahmad, a spokesman for Trudeau, said Tuesday.

Strangely enough, Butts also spoke openly about details of Jody Wilson-Raybould's cabinet appointment to veterans affairs.

Butts resigned from his role as principal secretary in the Prime Minister's Office on February 18. Demoting Wilson-Raybould in the cabinet shuffle was just a coincidence.

In his testimony following Butts', top civil servant Michael Wernick said that it was made clear to Wilson-Raybould that she was the decider.

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Butts said all officials working on the file knew that the decision to direct Director of Public Prosecutions Kathleen Roussel to enter into negotiations on a DPA or remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin was exclusively at the discretion of the attorney general.

Wilson-Raybould said during testimony last week that she had experienced a "consistent and sustained effort" by Liberal officials attempting to persuade her to enact a DPA.

Both had been symbols of the Liberals' ability to recruit strong female candidates: Wilson-Raybould is a lawyer and former regional chief of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations; Philpott is a family doctor with extensive experience overseas. Wilson-Raybould had the power to scrap the decision to go to trial, but decided against it.

He resigned from Trudeau's office last month, insisting neither he nor anyone else in the Prime Minister's Office had done anything wrong, but said he didn't want to be a distraction from the government's work.

After weeks of mounting pressure and some high-profile resignations from his administration, Trudeau allowed Wilson-Raybould to testify in front of Parliament and she promptly delivered a bombshell testimony. Wilson-Raybould has herself said that she didn't think the pressure was illegal.

SNC-Lavalin, its global arm and another subsidiary are accused of having offered $36m in bribes to Libyan officials and of defrauding the Libyan government of $96m. Federal elections are being held in October, however, and at least one poll says the Liberals are now trailing the Conservatives by a small margin. So far, other Liberal Cabinet ministers are rallying around him.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said after hearing Butts' testimony she still believes Wilson-Raybould's version of events, though noted that Butts may not have given certain interactions the same magnitude Wilson-Raybould had.