Butts Sinks Trudeau Government Deeper into the Muck

Anna Jefferson
March 7, 2019

Saying he deeply regrets the erosion of the trust and faith Jody Wilson-Raybauld had in her colleagues, Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's former primary adviser testified before the House of Commons Justice Committee in Ottawa this morning.

Wilson-Raybould has claimed that past year she was put under pressure to order a deferred prosecution agreement for the Quebec-based engineering and construction firm's fraud and corruption charges, and that her refusal to do so led to her being shifted out of the attorney general post to the veterans' affairs portfolio.

"It seems grossly unfair, with all due respect, that we were allowing Mr. Butts to come and talk about what happened after she [left] cabinet but she can't do so", NDP justice critic Murray Rankin said.

His cancellation comes one day after Treasury Board president Jane Philpott resigned from cabinet amidst accusations of political interference in the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

Butts told the House of Commons justice committee he had one short conversation on December 5 with Wilson-Raybould about SNC-Lavalin. "I find that even less credible given the fact I am alleged to have done things I know I didn't do", Butts said.

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Speaking of good efforts, Butts put his heart into pushing the idea that the reason he (a non-lawyer) was so desperate for Wilson-Raybould (a lawyer) to have the benefit of outside legal advice that she didn't ask for and didn't want, was that the Remediation Agreement legislation was so new, they desperately needed help interpreting it and figuring out what was legal.

Really? SNC-Lavalin itself received word on September 4 from the Director of Public Prosecutions that the company would not be getting a deferred prosecution agreement and would be facing a trial.

She could ask the director of public prosecutions for more information about the decision to proceed with a criminal trial rather than a remediation agreement, appoint another prosecutor to reassess the matter, or take over the prosecution personally.

She accused Trudeau, Butts, other senior staff in the Prime Minister's Office, Wernick and Finance Minister Bill Morneau's office of inappropriately pressuring her to halt a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

He denied making any veiled threats against Wilson-Raybould, as she had testified. He also denied that she was removed as justice minister and attorney-general because of her refusal to negotiate with the company. Wilson-Raybould was moved to the veterans affairs post in a small cabinet shuffle in mid-January - a move she believes was punishment for not acquiescing to the pressure.

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A former key aide to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is at the centre of a major political crisis, on Wednesday denied he had pressured the then-justice minister to allow a major firm to avoid a corruption trial past year. Ms. Raitt accused the Liberals of stalling an invitation to Ms. Wilson-Raybould.

She then quit cabinet and gave her version of events in explosive testimony last week.

"I did not threaten the attorney general", an often combative Wernick told the committee later on Wednesday. He has "no memory" of her asking him to reprimand staff and says at no point did she suggest anyone had done anything wrong. The only explanation I can think of is that he believed if he repeated the statement about 9,000 lost jobs roughly 9,000 times, it would become true.

The Cabinet's 33 other Ministers found it necessary Tuesday to express their public support for Trudeau, but "nervous Liberal legislators say Trudeau needs to make changes to his inner circle and complain about a lack of communication from top aides".

Canada's ethics commissioner is investigating the affair but that will take months.

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Butts rejected all the key evidence Wilson-Raybould had presented to the justice committee last week.

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