He reiterated in Saint-Hubert that he disagrees with the ex-attorney-general’s “characterization of events” surrounding SNC-Lavalin.
SAINT-HUBERT — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated that he did not agree with “the characterization of events” that Canada’s former attorney-general presented in damning testimony Wednesday, adding that the government is still in reflection on whether former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould will remain within the Liberal caucus.
“I and my team always acted in an appropriate and professional manner,” Trudeau said Thursday morning at a press conference that was supposed to be about interstellar exploration at the Canadian Space Agency in St-Hubert but was overshadowed by the SNC-Lavalin scandal. “So I am not in agreement with the characterization of events that the former attorney general gave in her testimony. We have always defend and looked to protect jobs in Cana and we will always do so.”
Trudeau said the RCMP has not contacted him or other government officials about the affair. He said the ethics committee and justice committee is investigating the case.
In testimony before the House of Commons Justice Committee, former justice minister Wilson-Raybould said senior levels of the federal government and the prime minister himself pressured her for months and interfered politically in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
Senior staff wanted her to direct federal prosecutors to defer the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin on corruption and fraud charges and move instead to negotiate a remediation agreement, she said. A guilty verdict on corruption for SNC-Lavalin would mean the massive engineering-construction firm would be barred from bidding on federal procurement contracts for 10 years.
Wilson-Raybould said as well that Trudeau noted that he was a Quebec MP and said that the political implications of prosecuting SNC-Lavalin could hurt him, and the Liberal Party in general in Quebec.
Trudeau stressed on Thursday that his main concern was to protect jobs, not his political future or that of his party.
“There were many and broad conversations about the importance of saving jobs, not just in Quebec but across the country,” Trudeau said.
“These are good jobs, and pensioners and people who rely on the kind of work that is being done in Canada and around the world. And my job as prime minister is always to stand up for good jobs, to invest in good jobs.”
Trudeau said Wilson-Raybould was moved from her post as justice minister to veterans affairs in January, two weeks after she last rejected pressure from Trudeau’s staff to defer prosecution, because senior cabinet minister Scott Brison announced he was leaving politics, “which created a number of opportunities and consequences that we moved forward on.”
Asked if SNC-Lavalin threatened to move their head office if they were subjected to criminal prosecution, Trudeau replied: “We know that there are many factors that go into decision like that — we also know that it is pretty fundamental, that all Canadians expect of their governments, to look for ways to protect jobs and ensure that we continue to grow the economy.”
Trudeau came to the Canadian Space Agency to announce Canada would be joining the U.S.-led Lunar Gateway program that aims to place laboratories on the moon. Canada will be developing a new Canadarm — the Canadarm3 — to help with construction and exploration on the moon, and will be investing $2 billion over the next 24 years in space exploration.