OTTAWA (Reuters) – The Canadian parliament’s justice committee on Wednesday rejected an opposition bid to question senior officials about allegations of political interference that are becoming a problem for Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
FILE PHOTO: Canada’s Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould listens to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo
Former Veterans Affairs Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould quit unexpectedly on Tuesday amid allegations she had been pressured by Trudeau’s team to go easy on SNC-Lavalin Group Inc last year when she was justice minister and attorney general.
The committee, dominated by Liberal legislators, defeated an opposition proposal to question Wilson-Raybould as well as two top aides in the prime minister’s office.
“It’s a cover-up and it’s becoming clearer by the day,” Conservative lawmaker Michael Cooper told the committee after the vote.
Liberals on the committee, who said it was not clear there had been any wrongdoing, said they wanted to discuss the matter further behind closed doors next week.
The televised meeting maintained the pressure on Trudeau, who faces a tough re-election battle this October.
Speaking in the Ontario city of Sudbury, Trudeau repeated his insistence that the government had done nothing wrong.
“If anyone, any minister including the former attorney general, felt that we were not living up to that standard, it was her responsibility to come and speak to me directly about that. She did not do that,” he said.
The Globe and Mail reported last week that Trudeau officials urged Wilson-Raybould to allow SNC-Lavalin to avoid a corruption trial on charges of bribing Libyan officials and escape with a fine instead.
Wilson-Raybould, one of the most prominent aboriginal politicians in federal politics, was only the third woman justice minister in Canadian history and there are clear signs some in the party are upset by her departure.
Trudeau notably broke from tradition and did not thank her for her service when discussing the matter.
Fellow Cabinet minister Jane Philpott tweeted: “You taught me so much – particularly about Indigenous history, rights and justice … I know you will continue to serve Canadians.”
Wilson-Raybould – who has said nothing about why she quit – was demoted to veteran affairs minister in a January Cabinet shuffle. The Globe said she had resisted pressure to help the firm avoid a trial.
SNC-Lavalin is a major employer in the populous province of Quebec, where the Liberals say they need to pick up seats to have any chance of winning a majority in October’s election.
Reporting by Julie Gordon and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Peter Cooney