The leader of Canada’s Official Opposition is challenging Justin Trudeau to follow through on a threat to sue him over his assertion that the prime minister politically interfered with the criminal prosecution of Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.
Speaking at a news conference on Sunday, Andrew Scheer announced that he received a letter on March 31 from the prime minister’s lawyer, Julian Porter, threatening a libel suit.
In the letter, Porter writes that a press release issued by Scheer on March 29 “in its entirety, is beyond the pale of fair debate and is libellous” by falsely suggesting Trudeau had actually interfered in the SNC-Lavalin criminal prosecution, inappropriately pressured the then attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould and lied to the Canadian public when the affair came to light.
Porter also informed Scheer that the letter should be “treated as notice” of possible action under the Libel and Slander Act of Ontario.
Scheer said he would welcome a court hearing.
“I stand by every single criticism I have made of Mr. Trudeau’s conduct in regards to this scandal, including those Mr. Trudeau’s lawyer cites in his letter,” Scheer told a news conference.
“If Mr. Trudeau intends to pursue this course of legal action, if he believes he has a case against me, I urge him to do so immediately. This is an urgent matter of public interest and it deserves to be heard in a legal setting where Liberals do not control the proceedings.”
Scheer said he looks forward to Trudeau testifying under oath in open court.
I stand by every single criticism I have made of Justin Trudeau’s behaviour in this scandal. If Trudeau intends to sue me, if he believes he has a case against me, he should get on with it.
This is the letter my lawyers sent to Justin Trudeau today. pic.twitter.com/UcHShl8EaK
— Andrew Scheer (@AndrewScheer) 7 April 2019
Former justice minister Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet in February amid allegations that she was demoted to the less prestigious veterans affairs portfolio in a January cabinet shuffle in retaliation for her refusal to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin criminal prosecution.
Wilson-Raybould testified at a parliamentary committee hearing last month that she faced pressure from Trudeau’s right-hand man and other high-ranking officials to override a decision by the director of public prosecutions to proceed with a criminal trial instead of offering the company a deferred prosecution agreement.
The Trudeau government has argued, however, that there was no improper pressure on Wilson-Raybould and the cabinet shuffle was prompted by the unexpected departure of a key Liberal minister, not her actions on the SNC-Lavalin file.
Wilson-Raybould and former president of Treasury Board Jane Philpott, who also resigned from cabinet in February in protest of the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin, were kicked out of the Liberal caucus last week.
With files from The Canadian Press