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Justice committee to launch investigation into SNC-Lavalin allegations

Last Updated Feb 13, 2019 at 7:52 pm CDT

OTTAWA — The political drama around the SNC-Lavalin controversy continues, as the House of Commons justice committee held an emergency meeting Wednesday.

MPs decided to launch an investigation into allegations the Prime Minister’s Office tried to pressure the former justice minister into helping the engineering firm to avoid criminal prosecution. The Liberal motion passed 5 to 4.

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Ahead of the meeting, Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt was putting pressure on the Liberals to pass the Opposition motion as is, so the committee can launch an investigation and call nine witnesses to testify.

Those witnesses include top officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. Wilson Raybould, a Vancouver MP, resigned from cabinet on Tuesday in the middle of this political storm.

“If they defeat or they water it down in any way, it is nothing less than an admission of guilt,” said Raitt.

Raitt says all options are on the table to get answers, including a judicial inquiry.

The witness list put forward by the Liberals in their motion left off some key players, including Wilson-Raybould.

Speaking in Halifax, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer wouldn’t rule out contacting the RCMP. “All options are on the table. There’s an opportunity today for Liberal members of Parliament to do the right thing, support our efforts to shine the light of day.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denied Wilson-Raybould was pressured to instruct the director of public prosecutions to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin rather than pursue a criminal trial on charges of bribery and fraud related to the company’s efforts to secure government contracts in Libya.

Trudeau says Wilson-Raybould never once spoke up if she felt there was any wrongdoing.

He said the government followed all the rules. “If anyone felt differently, they had an obligation to raise that with me. No one, including Jody, did that.”

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh warns that if the Liberals shut the committee’s work down, it would send a dangerous signal to Canadians about the state of their democracy.

Due to solicitor-client privilege, Wilson-Raybould is seeking legal advice on what she can say in public.

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion has initiated his own investigation into the matter, specifically whether there’s been a violation of the Conflict of Interest Act.

 – With files from the Canadian Press