Former Justice minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould found herself at the centre of a political hurricane Thursday in Ottawa.
According to a report in the Globe and Mail, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) pressured her last October to intervene in a criminal case involving construction giant SNC Lavalin.
The report, based on sources, said Wilson-Raybould refused.
She was eventually shuffled from justice to Veterans Affairs in January.
The story consumed the House of Commons from the start of the day.
Thursday marked the second reading of Bill C-91, the Indigenous Languages Act.
But Conservative Indigenous Affairs critic Cathy McLeod had something else on her mind.
“Everyone was so proud when the attorney general, the Justice minister of Canada, was an Indigenous woman,” McLeod said during the debate. “And we congratulated her on her amazing success.
“We are now learning that this government threw her under the bus.”
The Liberals used deflection to try and change the subject.
“I would’ve thought that all members of the House would have more respect for our veterans than to consider transfer to the ministry of Veteran Affairs as being thrown under the bus,” replied Liberal Doug Eyolson.
But McLeod wouldn’t let go.
“But when you have someone, and clearly now we know why, and clearly the reason is because as she indicated she was speaking truth to power. The Prime Minister’s Office cared more about their friends than they did about listening to someone with integrity and compassion,” she said.
SNC Lavalin has been facing legal trouble over allegations it paid millions of dollars in bribes to get government business in Libya, which would be a crime under Canadian law.
As Justice minister, Wilson-Raybould could have gotten involved in the case against the company by directing federal prosecutors to negotiate a “remediation agreement,” a way of undoing damage without admitting the company itself was at fault for things particular employees did.
The Globe reports that SNC-Lavalin repeatedly lobbied Trudeau’s aides for a deal and Trudeau’s office leaned on Wilson-Raybould to make it happen.
No such agreement was ever reached and Wilson-Raybould was moved to be minister of Veterans Affairs in a January cabinet shuffle.
At a news conference in Vaughan, Ont. Thursday morning, Trudeau denied his office directed Wilson-Raybould.
“The allegations in the Globe story this morning are false,” Trudeau said. “Neither the current nor the previous attorney general was ever directed by me or by anyone in my office to take a decision in this matter.”
Conservative opposition Leader Andrew Scheer believes otherwise.
“Jody Wilson Raybould lost her job for refusing to bow to pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office,” Scheer said during Question Period. “Well, that’s what I’m saying, it’s up to the Prime Minister to come clean on this.”
The issue dominated Question Period with both the NDP and Conservatives asking questions.
“SNC Lavalin was rewarded Mr. Speaker when they faced corruption and fraud charges the Liberals leaned on their own Justice minister not to go to trial but to get a plea deal,” said NDP MP Nathan Cullen.
“Do Liberals seriously expect Canadians that all these illegal and troubling events implicating the Prime Minister’s Office itself and their former Justice Minister are all somehow just a coincidence.”
Conservatiive MP Michael Cooper followed.
“Did the Prime Minister fire the attorney general because she refused to do his dirty work? Yes or no!”
Trudeau wasn’t in the house on Thursday.
Instead, current Attorney General and Justice Minister David Lametti answered all questions related to Wilson-Raybould.
“Mr. Speaker the Prime Minister has said no such direction was given to my predecessor and no such direction has been given to me,” he repeated several times.
Opposition MPs started directing questions towards Wilson-Raybould in the hopes she would answer the question everyone was asking.
She did not.
In the Globe and Mail article, Wilson-Raybould also refused to comment on the allegations.