A former Liberal justice minister and attorney general whose resignation from cabinet and subsequent expulsion from the Liberal caucus sparked one the most damaging scandals to shake the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is returning to Ottawa as an Independent member of parliament.
Jody Wilson-Raybould will be the only Independent in the House of Commons after winning her Vancouver Granville riding despite fierce opposition from the Liberals and the Conservative Party.
Wilson-Raybould narrowly defeated her closest challengers – Liberal Taleeb Noormohamed and Conservative Zach Segal – with around 32 per cent of the vote.
“I am so happy to be standing here as the newly elected Independent candidate for Vancouver Granville,” Wilson-Raybould announced to a roaring crowd after her win Monday.
Wilson-Raybould, the first Indigenous Canadian to hold the position of justice minister and attorney general, resigned from cabinet in February following an explosive report by The Globe and Mail newspaper.
It alleged that she was moved to the less prestigious veterans affairs portfolio in January because she refused to bend to pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to override the director of public prosecutions and offer SNC-Lavalin a remediation agreement instead of a criminal trial on corruption charges tied to Libya contracts.
In her testimony to the House of Commons Justice Committee, Wilson-Raybould said she felt inappropriate pressure from the PMO and other officials to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin case.
She also reiterated her belief that her demotion to veterans affairs minister was retribution for her principled stance in protecting the independence of the office of the public prosecutor.
Trudeau expelled Wilson-Raybould and former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott, who had also resigned from cabinet over the prime minister’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, from the Liberal caucus, saying that trust with the two former cabinet ministers had been irreparably broken.
Philpott also ran as an Independent but came in third behind Liberal Helena Jaczek, who won the riding of Markham—Stouffville, and Conservative Theodore Antony.
In August, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion found Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by trying to pressure Wilson-Raybould to overrule a decision by the director of public prosecutions to deny a deferred prosecution agreement to the Montreal-based company, which faces corruption charges over its dealings in Libya.
SNC-Lavalin is accused of paying $47.7 million in bribes to public officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011. SNC-Lavalin, its construction division and a subsidiary also face one charge each of fraud and corruption for allegedly defrauding various Libyan organizations of $129.8 million.
The company says it intends to vigorously challenge the charges and plead not guilty.
With files from CBC News