OTTAWA—Opposition MPs will try to launch a new inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin controversy today.
At a meeting of the Commons ethics committee this afternoon, Conservatives and New Democrats will attempt to have the committee start its own investigation, and to hear testimony from former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott.
The move comes a week after the Liberals used their majority to shut down hearings by the Commons justice committee and it’s not likely the government is any more willing to have the ethics committee do its own probe.
Conservative MP Peter Kent said the committee will be asked to approve a new study into the controversy and the committee chair will be asked to write the prime minister asking him to remove “all constraints” on witnesses.
He said the goal would be have to Wilson-Raybould and Philpott appear before the end of next week.
“I think the committee should extend the opportunity for her to appear … and it’s a decision for her to take,” Kent said as the committee prepared to meet. “The privilege she enjoys in the House is also enjoyed in committee.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said that the ethics committee must be permitted to investigate, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must co-operate with it. “His unilateral shutdown of the justice committee investigation was one of the most blatant abuses of power,” Scheer told reporters Monday.
He also called on Trudeau to “remove the gag order” and extend the waiver of cabinet privilege to Wilson-Raybould and Philpott.
Scheer that while MPs may speak in the Commons and be covered by “parliamentary privilege,” it does not “absolve” the two MPs of sworn oaths they took when they assumed their cabinet positions.
“If Justin Trudeau truly has nothing to hide, he will make it official. He will send a letter to Ms. Wilson-Raybould and now Ms. Philpott allowing them to complete their testimony,” Scheer said.
A growing number of Liberal MPs and cabinet ministers have suggested Wilson-Raybould and Philpott could take advantage of parliamentary privilege and disclose anything else they feel is relevant to the SNC-Lavalin controversy in the House of Commons.
Wilson-Raybould told the justice committee last month that she faced “inappropriate” and “sustained” political pressure from Trudeau and senior officials last fall to mediate criminal charges against the Quebec construction and engineering company.
Trudeau and his team deny they pressured her, and said they only urged her to consider a second outside legal opinion.
A mediated agreement would allow the company to avoid a criminal prosecution and with it, a 10-year ban on federal contracts, which had sparked fears within government of job losses.