Opposition Demands Trudeau Resign After Explosive Testimony From Former Attorney General

Former Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson Raybould walks to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 26 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS  Sean Kilpatrick

In dramatic testimony that lasted almost four hours, Jody Wilson-Raybould broke her silence with a detailed account of efforts by Trudeau and top aides to persuade her to step in and end prosecution of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. Such a deal would have allowed the company, facing fraud and bribery charges from its dealings in Libya, to avoid a trial that could damage the company and spur layoffs.

"Canadians need to know that we have an officer of Parliament who is tasked with a specific role to make sure that in questions where there are disagreements amongst politicians, amongst elected officials, there is an arbiter who is empowered to be like a judge, who is an officer of Parliament, who will make a determination in this issue", Trudeau said after an announcement at the Canadian Space Agency.

Despite the opposition party's calls for Trudeau to resign, the Canadian prime minister has refused, maintaining that any decision to avoid prosecuting SNC-Lavalin was Wilson-Raybould's alone.

This is a developing story. He said jobs and the economy are key issues for his government and it's his job as prime minister to defend Canadian workers.

Wilson-Raybould told the committee that she believed the pressure, which also included "veiled threats" from the country's top civil servant, Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick, was inappropriate. She described the incident when "the prime minister jumped in stressing that there is an election in Quebec and that 'I am an MP in Quebec - the member for Papineau'".

The testimony from Jody Wilson-Raybould threatens to badly damage the Liberals just months ahead of what polls suggest will be a hard-fought election.

Trudeau has denied wrongdoing and says any lobbying by him or his inner circle for engineering giant SNC-Lavalin was done to protect jobs.

She said she was warned directly by the prime minister about the possible negative consequences if the company faced any prosecution.

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Wilson-Raybould resigned from the Cabinet on February.

Butts has written the House of Commons justice committee, requesting to be called as a witness.

"At the time, I did not see it as my responsibility to resign". "So I am not in agreement with the characterization of events that the former attorney general gave in her testimony". The company, which reportedly employs 28,000 people in 100 companies, is accused of bribing Libyan officials with millions of dollars between 2001 and 2011 to secure government contracts there.

"I issued a stern warning because as the AG, I can not act in a manner and the prosecution can not act in a manner that is not objective, that isn't independent", she told the committee in her nearly four hours of testimony. The former justice minister said she had been subjected to at least 10 phone calls and 10 separate meetings with senior officials to discuss the case within a four-month period.

While the NDP leader said Trudeau and others may eventually have to step down, he said that determination should come after a public inquiry is held to get the bottom of what really happened.

"There will be a clear choice to be made between the Liberal Party, this government that. has consistently stood up for Canadian jobs, consistently defended Canadian jobs while defending our institutions and the independence of our judiciary", he said. A guilty verdict on corruption for SNC-Lavalin would mean the massive engineering-construction firm would be barred from bidding on federal procurement contracts for 10 years.

Trudeau disputed the nature of the discussions in a news conference, saying that "our government will always focus on jobs", and that his administration was merely debating the impact the case could have on the company's Montreal workforce.

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