Andrew Coyne: We are still waiting for a clear denial over SNC-Lavalin allegations

It has been four days now since it was reported that officials in the Prime Minister’s Office had pressured the former attorney-general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to have fraud and corruption charges dropped against SNC-Lavalin, the Quebec engineering and construction giant, and we have yet to hear a direct, on-the-record denial of the allegations by either side.

We’ve had Justin Trudeau’s initial, lawyerly statement to the effect that he did not “direct” Wilson-Raybould to do anything — which was not the allegation — and we’ve had Wilson-Raybould’s repeated claim that “solicitor-client privilege” prevented her from commenting — which legal scholars dispute — and now we have the prime minister’s assertion that Wilson-Raybould lately “confirmed” for him a conversation they had last fall “where I told her directly that any decisions on matters involving the director of public prosecutions were hers alone.”

That odd, selective, one-sided recounting of what she allegedly said about what he allegedly said that shouldn’t have needed saying in the first place is the closest we’ve got in four days to a straight answer. But while all this line-testing, story-straightening and general dodging about was going on in public, the prime minister’s people were speaking quite freely — off the record.

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Why yes, of course there had been “discussions” with Wilson-Raybould about whether to set aside the charges against SNC-Lavalin, senior government officials confided to reporters, in favour of a newly created process called a “remediation agreement.”

Indeed, they told Canadian Press the government “would have failed in its duty” if it had not had such discussions “given that a prosecution could bankrupt the company and put thousands of Canadians out of work.”

There might have been a “vigorous debate” or even a “robust discussion,” senior government officials acknowledged to the Globe and Mail, but that should not be confused with “an effort to put pressure on Ms. Wilson-Raybould.” How did she get that idea, then, as multiple sources told the paper four days earlier? Was she confused?

Well, unnamed “insiders” volunteered to CP, she was “difficult to get along with,” and had “always sort of been in it for herself.” But not to worry, a Toronto Star columnist reported: the prime minister “still has confidence” in her, notwithstanding the “damage” she was doing to the government “by allowing the speculation about alleged corruption to hang out there.”

Beautiful. The PM’s spin doctors have managed to turn a story about their own alleged attempts to interfere in the prosecution of a Liberal-friendly firm (from 1993 to 2003 SNC-Lavalin contributed over a half a million dollars to the party, Elections Canada records show, plus another hundred thousand and change in illegal donations, as the company has acknowledged, in 2004-2011) into a story about whether a “difficult” minister was harming the government with her silence.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Veterans Affairs Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould at a swearing in ceremony on …read more

Source:: Nationalpost – News


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