Liberals on justice committee say it’s time to end SNC-Lavalin probe

Liberal MPs on the Commons Justice committee say their work is done and any further examination of the SNC-Lavalin affair should be left to the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner. 

The five Liberals on the committee wrote to chair Anthony Housefather today, outlining their argument that the committee has completed its work and laying out what they think should happen next.

“As committee members, we have achieved our objectives with respect to these meetings,” the letter said. “Following the testimony of all witnesses, we believe that all the rules and laws were followed.

“Canadians now have the necessary information to arrive at a conclusion. As parliamentarians, we respect the work of the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner and believe the ongoing study by this independent officer of Parliament is the appropriate way forward.”

The justice committee was looking into allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office inappropriately pressured former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to allow Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin to avoid criminal prosecution on bribery charges providing it met certain conditions laid out in a remediation agreement. 

Wilson-Raybould told the committee last month that 11 members of the PMO and other government departments applied inappropriate pressure to her in her role as attorney general — and that she was shuffled out of her cabinet post when she refused to do their bidding.

Gerry Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former principal secretary, told the committee that no such pressure was applied, and Wilson-Raybould was only removed from her role as a part of a cabinet shuffle and nothing more. 

Opposition MPs have been pushing for Wilson-Raybould to return to the committee to talk about why she later resigned from cabinet, but Liberal MPs — who hold a majority on the committee — are now likely to introduce a motion to shut down further study when they meet on Tuesday.

‘Rushing to judgment’

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was quick with his condemnation of the move on social media, accusing Trudeau of trying to hide the facts from Canadians.

“Justin Trudeau has lawyered up. His Liberal MPs will shut down the Justice committee. The only possible conclusion Canadians can reach is that Trudeau is engaged in a massive coverup,” he said. 

That sentiment was echoed by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who said the Liberals have just reached a new low by deciding to shut down the committee. 

“That means no more testimony and no more answers that you deserve,” he said on Twitter. 

In the letter signed by Randy Boissonnault, Iqra Khalid, Ali Ehsassi, Ron McKinnon and Colin Fraser, the Liberal MPs said they set out to probe the allegations with an “open mind” but accuse opposition MPs on the committee of falling short of that standard. 

“We note that the opposition parties rushed to judgment even before hearing all the relevant information,” the letter said.

“Tomorrow will be the 11th meeting over five weeks where the committee has discussed this topic. We heard 13 hours of comprehensive testimony from 10 different witnesses. Canadians can judge for themselves the facts, perspectives and relevant legal principles.”

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