Former attorney general and justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould recorded at least one of the contentious conversations at the heart of the SNC-Lavalin scandal that has bedevilled the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, CBC News reported Friday.
Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet in February following media reports that her demotion from the justice portfolio to veterans affairs in a January cabinet shuffle was caused by her refusal to intervene in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin over corruption charges related to the company’s dealings in Libya.
Former Treasury Board President Jane Philpott also resigned from cabinet, saying she lost confidence in the government’s handling of the affair.
The scandal has also resulted in the resignation of outspoken Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who has quit the Liberal caucus and will sit as an independent, as well as the resignation of Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerald Butts and the early retirement of Michael Wernick, the former clerk of the Privy Council.
In her testimony to the House of Commons Justice Committee on Feb. 27, Wilson-Raybould alleged she came under inappropriate pressure from officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council to override a decision by the public prosecutor to deny the Montreal-based engineering and construction giant a remediation agreement as an alternative to the criminal prosecution.
During her four-hour testimony Wilson-Raybould surprised many observers with the level of detail in her recollections of her conversations with the various officials involved in the affair, raising speculation that the former attorney general may have recorded some of the more contentious phone calls.
She recounted a phone call with Wernick on Dec. 19, in which she said he made it clear to her that the prime minister was “quite determined, quite firm” on the SNC-Lavalin matter. She said Wernick asked why the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) route “isn’t being used.”
She said Wernick told her that Trudeau was “a bit worried,” and that the prime minister is “gonna find a way to get it done one way or another. So, he is in that kinda mood and I wanted you to be aware of that.”
When Wernick testified before the same committee for the second time, on March 6, he said he did not have “independent recollection” of what he said during the Dec. 19 conversation mentioned by Wilson-Raybould.
“I did not record the conversation. I did not wear a wire. I did not take notes and that is not my recollection of how the conversation flowed,” he testified.
A reference to such a recording was among a batch of materials – a letter, emails and texts – submitted to the House of Commons Justice Committee this week by Wilson-Raybould, according to CBC News.
The documents are expected to be released to the public Friday afternoon after their translation into French, Canada’s second official language, is completed, committee chairman Liberal MP Anthony Housefather said.
However, it’s not clear at this point whether the reported recording was part of the batch submitted to the justice committee.
With files from CBC News