OTTAWA—The RCMP met with Justin Trudeau’s former justice minister and attorney general about the unfolding SNC-Lavalin scandal last spring, Jody Wilson-Raybould says.
In a brief statement to the Star, Wilson-Raybould confirmed late Friday afternoon that she was contacted by the RCMP in the spring, but would say little else, including when exactly she spoke to the Mounties.
The RCMP has refused to specify whether it has opened an investigation into the SNC-Lavalin affair, even after it was urged last spring to do so by Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer.
However, after federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion ruled this week that Trudeau broke the federal Conflict of Interest Act in his handling of the matter, the RCMP slightly hardened its language.
In a written statement, the RCMP said the force was “examining this matter carefully with all available information and will take appropriate actions as required.
“It would be inappropriate for us to provide any more comments on this matter at this time.”
Late Friday, the RCMP repeated that statement, and declined to answer any further questions about whether it has begun an investigation.
The federal ethics watchdog concluded Trudeau broke a federal ethics law when he and his senior officials pressured Wilson-Raybould to intervene to mediate corruption charges against SNC-Lavalin.
His finding that Trudeau was in a conflict of interest carries no penalty or sanction, other than a political black mark against the prime minister’s record.
However, a criminal investigation into whether Trudeau and his officials attempted to obstruct justice — which is what Scheer has asked the RCMP to pursue — is an entirely different and much more serious matter, one which potentially could carry a jail penalty.
Wilson-Raybould’s revelation that officers reached out to her amidst the unfolding controversy last spring indicates at the least that the Mounties may have laid the preliminary groundwork for a probe.
Wilson-Raybould said she was only revealing that the Mounties contacted her to clarify a denial she made when asked by media on Thursday if the RCMP had contacted her since the ethics report was released.
“The answer is no. However, and after clarifying with the RCMP, I can confirm that I was contacted by them this past spring regarding matters that first came to the public’s attention on February 7, 2019 in a Globe and Mail article,” she said.
“I will make no further statement regarding the content of my discussions and communications with the RCMP.”
Wilson-Raybould told the Star that she “clarified” with the RCMP that she could publicly reveal the contact.
Wilson-Raybould clashed with Trudeau last fall after she refused entreaties by him, the finance minister and senior government officials to order her delegate, the independent director of public prosecutions, to negotiate a deferred prosecution for SNC-Lavalin, which is facing criminal corruption charges that could see it barred from bidding on federal contracts.
But throughout the controversy, Wilson-Raybould has said she does not believe that the prime minister’s actions were unlawful.
Get The Lead newsletter
Start getting your whip-smart guide to Canada’s 2019 federal election in your inbox.
During an appearance before the Commons’ justice committee in late February, Wilson-Raybould was asked by Green Party Leader Elizabeth May whether she believe the pressure she faced contravened the Criminal Code.
“I don’t believe that,” she responded.
Wilson-Raybould was asked again about that response this week and whether, in the wake of the revelations in the ethics commissioner’s report, she believed a criminal offence had occurred.
“Based on the relevant information that I have during the time that I was the attorney general, I still stand by that answer that I gave at the committee,” she said during an appearance on CBC’s Power and Politics.
“Having said that — and I’m not inferring anything — there’s … information that came to light when I read the commissioner’s report and I leave it to the (RCMP) to determine if there is other relevant information that is pertinent,” Wilson-Raybould said.
Asked again whether she thought the pressure on her was illegal, she said, “No.
“But I do look at the commissioner’s report and the violation of the conflict of interest act incredibly seriously and I hope that Canadians and certainly the government looks at the report seriously and ensures that something like this never happens again,” she said.
Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, the other cabinet minister who resigned from cabinet because of Trudeau’s actions, said they believe Trudeau owes Canadians an apology.
The federal ethics commissioner concluded Trudeau was the only public office holder who had authority over Wilson-Raybould and the power to influence her. Dion concluded Trudeau’s interventions were to further the private interests of SNC-Lavalin. That is contrary to section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act.
Dion agreed with Wilson-Raybould that Trudeau and his officials crossed a line when they urged the attorney general to consider the partisan fallout if SNC-Lavalin were convicted, and massive job losses resulted.
With files from Bruce Campion-Smith