After nearly 30 hours of voting, Canadian parliamentarians concluded a record-setting marathon session in the House of Commons in the wee hours of Friday, but a cloud still hangs over the Liberal government after an explosive interview by a former cabinet member raised new questions about the SNC-Lavalin affair.
The Conservative Opposition triggered the voting marathon in Ottawa after the Liberal-dominated justice committee shut down further investigation into the SNC-Lavalin scandal, which has led to high profile resignations by two cabinet ministers and an outspoken Liberal MP over the government’s handling of the controversy.
The Conservatives got a further boost when former cabinet minister and current Liberal MP Jane Philpott said in an interview with Maclean’s magazine there’s “much more to the story” of the SNC-Lavalin controversy.
In the story, the Liberal MP said she had concerns about the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin case before the controversy became public in January. She alleged Canadians have been prevented from hearing more about what went on in government circles due to efforts by the Prime Minister’s Office to “shut down the story.”
“My sense is that Canadians would like to know the whole story,” Philpott said.
“I believe we actually owe it to Canadians as politicians to ensure that they have the truth. They need to have confidence in the very basic constitutional principle of the independence of the justice system.”
The Conservatives wants the Liberal government to fully waive cabinet confidence restrictions and allow former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to return to committee to answer questions about her decision to resign from cabinet in February.
The left-of-centre New Democratic Party is calling for a public inquiry into the matter.
Wilson-Raybould has alleged that officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and elsewhere in government inappropriately pressured her to override a decision by the public prosecutor to go forward with a criminal trial against SNC-Lavalin on corruption charges and instead offer the Montreal-based engineering giant a court-supervised remediation process.
In January, Wilson-Raybould, the first Indigenous Canadian to hold the justice portfolio, was demoted to the less prestigious veterans affairs cabinet post, a move she alleged was payback for not following the PMO’s marching orders. Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet altogether in February, setting off a political storm that shows no signs of abating.
With files from Catharine Tunney of CBC News