Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould leaves the Parliament buildings following Question Period in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 19, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

Liberals defeat opposition call for inquiry into SNC-Lavalin case

NDP motion did not pass after a vote of 160-134, despite two Liberals siding with the opposition

The Liberals used their majority Wednesday to defeat an opposition motion calling for a public inquiry into allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office pressured Jody Wilson-Raybould to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution.

The former attorney general herself abstained, telling the House of Commons she didn’t think it appropriate to vote on a matter in which she was personally involved. And in so doing she created yet more problems for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“I understand fully that Canadians want to know the truth and want transparency,” said Wilson-Raybould, who has cited solicitor-client privilege to refuse comment on the matter since the allegation from anonymous sources first surfaced two weeks ago.

“Privilege and confidentiality are not mine to waive and I hope that I have the opportunity to speak my truth.”

Her comments were greeted with applause from opposition benches and added fuel to their demands that Trudeau waive solicitor-client privilege to allow Wilson-Raybould to finally speak freely. And they prompted opposition accusations that Trudeau and his current justice minister, David Lametti, were in conflict of interest when they voted against the motion, since they too are personally involved in the controversy.

The vote came a couple of hours after Wilson-Raybould attended her first Liberal caucus meeting since the furor over SNC-Lavalin erupted, prompting her resignation from cabinet last week and the departure of Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, this week. For the most part, Liberal MPs maintained it was a good meeting.

“We had a fantastic meeting today,” caucus chair Francis Scarpaleggia said in an interview. “There’s complete solidarity and the mood was great.”

There was not, however, complete solidarity a short time later when it came to the vote on the NDP motion for a public inquiry. Two Liberal backbenchers — Toronto’s Nathaniel Erskine-Smith and New Brunswick’s Wayne Long — joined with opposition parties in supporting the motion. It was defeated on a vote of 160-134.

Trudeau said he took the opportunity of the caucus meeting to offer an apology to Wilson-Raybould for his failure last week to immediately denounce anonymous criticism and cartoons about her that many felt were racist and sexist.

“I want to highlight something I said at caucus this morning,” Trudeau said on his way into the Commons. ”I apologized to Jody Wilson-Raybould because I wasn’t quick enough to condemn in unequivocal terms the comments and commentary and cartoons made about her last week. They were absolutely unacceptable and I should have done it sooner.”

Earlier Wednesday, on his way into the caucus meeting, Trudeau insisted he wants a full airing of the accusation that his office pressured Wilson-Raybould to instruct the director of public prosecutions to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin — a kind of plea bargain in corporate corruption cases that forces a company to pay restitution but avoid a criminal conviction that could bankrupt it. But he said he has confidence that inquiries already begun by the federal ethics commissioner and the House of Commons justice committee can get to the bottom of the affair.

READ MORE: ‘Airing’ needed on SNC-Lavalin affair, Trudeau says

The justice committee was to have begun hearings Wednesday but that was put off until Thursday due to the unavailability of the witnesses.

The committee has agreed to eventually hear from Wilson-Raybould, likely early next week, but opposition MPs question how much she’ll be able to say so long as she is still bound by solicitor-client privilege. The committee has also invited Justice Minister Lametti but he appears unlikely to be able to shed much light on the affair for the same reason.

The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

WATCH: City of West Kelowna opens up for public hearings

City staff have made sure residents keep their distance to minimize COVID-19 transmission

Motorbike crash on Glenmore Road

Traffic is slow going on Glenmore Road headed north

North Westside residents shocked at fire chief’s suspension

Communities association president said they don’t know why the suspension happened

Trafficking investigation results in several firearms seized in Kelowna

Police seized both restricted and non-restricted firearms from a Kelowna residence

COVID-19 closes Okanagan College summer camps

Popular Camp OC put on shelf from Salmon Arm to Penticton, and Revelstoke, until 2021

B.C. records no new COVID-19 deaths for the first time in weeks

Good news comes despite 11 new test-positive cases in B.C. in the past 24 hours

Partial return to class for Central Okanagan students: COVID-19

School District 23 and the Board of Education have released a letter regarding returning to class

Peachland recovery task force proposes larger patios

Several initiatives proposed by the Peachland COVID-19 recovery task force will go to council tonight

Fatal motorcycle crash on Highway 97 near Summerland

The incident involving a motorcycle happened just before 4 p.m.

Tagging Suicide Hill in Vernon in lieu of grad party?

City councillor pitches idea to revive old tradition amid COVID-19 pandemic

BC Corrections to expand list of eligible offenders for early release during pandemic

Non-violent offenders are being considered for early release through risk assessment process

Fraser Valley driver featured on ‘Highway Thru Hell’ TV show dies

Monkhouse died Sunday night of a heartattack, Jamie Davis towing confirmed

B.C. visitor centres get help with COVID-19 prevention measures

Destination B.C. gearing up for local, in-province tourism

Most Read