Justice Committee Chair Anthony Housefather waits to start a committee meeting in Ottawa, Wednesday March 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Liberal MPs shut down SNC committee before vote on recalling Wilson-Raybould

Opposition MPs were incensed, leaping to their feet and shouting out epithets like ‘shame,’ ‘coverup’ and ‘despicable!’

Opposition MPs erupted in fury Wednesday after the Liberals used their majority on the House of Commons justice committee to delay an opposition attempt to call Jody Wilson-Raybould to testify again on the SNC-Lavalin affair.

The meeting was called as an emergency session by the three Conservatives and one New Democrat MP, after the Liberals used their majority last week to put off having the discussion on future witnesses until March 19. That is also the day the federal government will drop the 2019 budget.

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre kicked things off with a motion to summon the former attorney general back no later than tomorrow, saying she ”was not allowed to complete her testimony” the first time.

But after two Conservatives and NDP MP Tracey Ramsey laid out the reasons the committee should bring the former star cabinet minister back to speak a second time, Liberal Francis Drouin moved to suspend the sitting and reconvene on March 19 as originally planned.

Thus far no Liberals have said publicly whether they will agree to call her a second time. She testified the first time on Feb. 27, in a four-hour session where she laid out her case that the Prime Minister’s Office had put sustained pressure on her over four months last autumn to change her mind on diverting a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. The engineering and construction giant faces charges of bribing foreign officials in Libya.

Poilievre tried in vain to raise point of order demanding his motion be fully dealt with before Drouin’s but according to committee rules, a motion to adjourn takes precedence over anything else the committee might do.

The Liberals, with five MPs to the opposition’s four, prevailed. The discussion on future witnesses, including Wilson-Raybould, will now be next week, in private.

Opposition MPs were incensed, leaping to their feet and shouting out epithets like “shame,” “coverup” and “despicable!” Conservative Michael Barrett pointed across the committee room floor at Drouin and yelled that he hoped Drouin knows how to “translate ‘coverup’ ” into French when he spoke with reporters outside the room.

Drouin shrugged off the criticism.

“The committee has already expressed its wishes on March 6 to have this particular hearing on March 19 so it’s as simple as that,” he said as he left the room.

Poilievre told the committee he wanted Wilson-Raybould to appear again to answer claims made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former top aide Gerald Butts.

Wilson-Raybould quit the federal cabinet in mid-February, a few days after the allegations of improper pressure arose.

When he testified, Butts put the dispute down to a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings.

Poilievre said it wasn’t fair that Butts got to speak about things that happened between the time Wilson-Raybould was shuffled from the Justice Department to Veterans Affairs in January and the day she quit cabinet a month later, while the former minister herself felt bound by cabinet-secrecy obligations.

Trudeau could have let her speak openly, he said.

READ MORE: Liberals must let Wilson-Raybould come back to committee, opposition says

READ MORE: OECD concerned with allegations Trudeau interfered in SNC-Lavalin case

Both Butts and Wilson-Raybould were freed to speak about matters often protected by cabinet confidences, and in her case, solicitor-client privilege, by a waiver issued by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in late February.

The waiver does not, however, allow Wilson-Raybould to speak about the period after she was shuffled from Justice to Veterans Affairs, including her conversations with Trudeau about why she quit cabinet. Poilievre said Trudeau needs to extend the waiver because something clearly happened in that time that was so “egregious” it pushed Wilson-Raybould to quit.

But Poilievre said Trudeau doesn’t want Canadians to know what that is.

“He sent in his majority to shut down that discussion without a debate and ensure that Canadians will never know the truth,” Poilievre said after the abrupt end of the meeting. “If they were going to let her speak, they could have done it today … Justin Trudeau is transforming the justice committee into the Justin committee.”

New Democrat MP Tracey Ramsey said Trudeau himself has benefited from a double standard.

“We’ve heard the prime minister speak very freely about a period of time that Ms. Wilson-Raybould has not been able to speak about,” Ramsey said. “Today, (Liberals) signalled to Canadians that they aren’t interested in the truth.”

The opposition also points out the committee did hear a second time from Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick and deputy justice minister Nathalie Drouin, after Wilson-Raybould’s first appearance raised additional questions to pose to them.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Storm sweeps Saanich in semifinals

Despite starting well after the other semi-final series, the Storm now has to wait….

Penstocks coming out at old John Hart Generating Station

Work is part of decommissioning of old power station in Campbell River

Campbell River takes steps to plan for long-term sea level rise

Event at Maritim Heritage Centre was second of three public input events

Strathcona Regional District moves ahead on using standard email addresses

Some members have questions around privacy and freedom of information

Cougar on Island might have been shot with bow-and-arrow

Conservation officer service looking for animal near Port Alice

VIDEO: Can you believe it? This B.C. hill pulls cars backwards up a slope

Sir Isaac Newton had clearly never been to this Vernon anomaly when he discovered gravity

Canucks hang on for 7-4 win over Senators

Horvat nets 2 for Vancouver

European, Canadian regulators to do own review of Boeing jet

Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1

Prime minister defends Liberal budget measures as sales effort gets underway

Conservatives under Andrew Scheer say it’s a spree funded by borrowing against the future

Mayor meets with B.C. health minister on homeless taxi transfers

Two homeless people were discharged from Surrey Memorial and sent to a Chilliwack shelter

B.C. lottery winner being sued by co-workers

They claim he owes them $200,000 each, in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

Teacher reprimanded for conduct towards special needs student

Alan Stephen Berry told vice principal he did not have time to use positive strategies

‘Full worm super moon’ to illuminate B.C. skies on first day of spring

Spring has sprung, a moon named in honour of thawing soil marks final super moon until 2020

Having phone within sight while driving does not violate law: B.C. judge

The mere presence of a cell phone within sight of a driver is not enough for a conviction, judge says

Most Read