Mike Smyth: Butts on hot seat in SNC-Lavalin scandal

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancels visit to Regina

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancels visit to Regina

Gerald Butts, Trudeau's former Principal Secretary, testified Wednesday morning before the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Human Rights, one week after explosive testimony from Canada's former Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould.

They also voted down a motion to have Wilson-Raybould return to the committee to respond to evidence from Butts that contradicted her own.

Since then, however, Trudeau has waived privilege and cabinet confidentiality for Wilson-Raybould and all those who dealt with her on SNC-Lavalin during her time as attorney general.

Just yesterday, the Trudeau administration was rocked by the resignation of another Cabinet official, Jane Philpott, who said it was "untenable" for her to remain on and defend the government amid the scandal.

"I did not and I do not see how our brief discussion on that file constituted pressure of any kind", Butts told the House of Commons justice committee.

The Prime Minister's Office has confirmed that all of Justin Trudeau's events scheduled in Regina today have been cancelled.

"I am firmly convinced that nothing happened here beyond the normal operations of government", he said in his opening statement.

Butts didn't attack Wilson-Raybould personally, saying he and his wife considered Wilson-Raybould and her husband friends, and that he regrets the miscommunications he believes led to what has happened, for which he holds himself partly responsible.

Senior Trudeau government figures lobbying Wilson-Raybould on the DPA were doing so because of concerns of how a guilty conviction against SNC-Lavalin on bribery charges would affect its 9,000 employees and countless others working as suppliers for the engineering and construction firm, according to Butts.

She could ask the director of public prosecutions for more information about the decision to proceed with a criminal trial rather than a remediation agreement, appoint another prosecutor to reassess the matter, or take over the prosecution personally.

I intend to end preferential trade status for India, Turkey
The US plans to end preferential trade status for India , under a scheme which allows certain products to enter the US duty-free. Mr Trump has vowed to cut USA trade deficits and repeatedly criticised India for its high tariffs since taking office in 2017.

Butts resigned from his role as principal secretary in the Prime Minister's Office on February 18.

Mr Conacher added: "Given it is an unprecedented situation - no one knows for sure whether the obstruction of justice line in the Criminal Code has been crossed, though five former attorney generals think it was and so based on the evidence on the record - there should be a prosecution as the courts should decide, not prosecutors, whether the line has been crossed".

Canadian leader Justin Trudeau's ex-right hand man defended him in parliament on Wednesday over accusations of meddling in the prosecution of a corporate giant that have plunged the prime minister into his worst crisis in office.

Wilson-Raybould declined to answer last week if she had confidence in Trudeau.

"In the end, it was the attorney general's alone to make, and it would be for all of us to explain".

At the time, Wilson-Raybould could have legally instructed the public prosecutor to negotiate a remediation agreement - a legal tool in corporate corruption cases, somewhat akin to a plea bargain. He has "no memory" of her asking him to reprimand staff and says at no point did she suggest anyone had done anything wrong.

What's not in dispute - and hasn't been for the past month - is that the SNC-Lavalin affair is taking a heavy toll on the government.

Butts also testified that he and Wilson-Raybould were getting up from their December dinner meeting at the Chateau Laurier previous year when she raised the subject of SNC-Lavalin.

"Can you imagine, if when we were kids, and the coal mines closed ... the best explanation someone could give us is that they thought about it for 12 days?" said Butts, whose father is a retired coal-miner. "However, a breakdown in the relationship between the former attorney general and the prime minister occurred".

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