An audio recording between former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould and the country’s top civil servant appears to vindicate Wilson-Raybould’s testimony at Justice committee: that she was unduly and inappropriately pressured to divert SNC-Lavalin’s trial for bribery and corruption charges.
Jody Wilson-Raybould recording
“I have a tool under the prosecution act I can use, I do not believe it is appropriate to use it in this case,” says Wilson-Raybould during the tense 17-minute conversation.
Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick: “OK. Alright. That’s clear. Well, he’s in a very firm mood about this so um….”
Wilson-Raybould: “Does [Prime Minister Trudeau] understand the gravity of what this potentially could mean. This is not just about saving jobs, this is about interfering with one of our fundamental institutions. This is like breaching a constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence.”
Wernick: “I don’t think he sees it as that.”
Wilson-Raybould: “Well then nobody’s explaining that to him Michael!”
The scandal that has engulfed the Trudeau government began on February 7, 2019 after Globe and Mail story alleged Wilson-Raybould was replaced after she failed to defer SNC-Lavalin’s charges to remediation, a new criminal code provision shoehorned into 2018’s omnibus budget bill.
The Québec construction firm and two of its subsidiaries are accused of paying $48 million in bribes to Libyan officials to win contracts there between 2001 and 2011. If convicted, without a deferred prosecution agreement the company faces a 10-year bidding ban on federal contracts.
Throughout the conversation Wernick, who resigned on March 18 over the scandal, continues to talk about Trudeau’s position that “He’s quite determined, quite firm. He wants to know why (deferred prosecution agreement) route that parliament provided for isn’t being used. I think he’s going to find a way to get it done … I wanted you to be aware of that.”
After more back-and-forth between Wernick and Wilson-Raybould, the former attorney general informs Wernick that her motivation is not only to safeguard the independence of the public prosecutor, but the PM himself.
“Michael, I have to say, including this conversation, previous conversations that I’ve had with the prime minister and many other people around him, it’s entirely inappropriate and it is political interference,” Wilson-Raybould says. “The prime minister obviously can talk to whomever he wants … but what I’m trying to do is to protect him.”
Earlier in the conversation Wernick says the PM “is thinking about bringing in someone like Beverly McLaughlin to give him advice or to give you advice … so you feel confident that you’re not doing anything outside the box or inappropriate.”
Former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1989 by Progressive Conservative PM Brian Mulroney and later vaulted to the role of chief justice, the highest ranking judge in the country, by Liberal PM Jean Chrétien.
But Wilson-Raybould bristles at the suggestion: “I’m 100 percent confident I’m doing nothing inappropriate.” When Wernick continues to press Wilson-Raybould on getting a second opinion she becomes irritated and reiterates the importance of prosecutorial independence.
“I can have conversation with Beverley McLachlin, I can call her right now,” says Wilson-Raybould. “I’m just issuing the strongest warning I can possibly issue that decisions that are made by the independent prosecutor are their decisions.”
During her testimony at the Justice committee in February, Wilson-Raybould implicated senior Prime Minister’s Office staff, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, his chief of staff Ben Chin and even Trudeau himself for suggesting electoral success in last year’s provincial election in Québec and the federal election this year as a large part of their metric for wanting to go easy on SNC-Lavalin.
The phone conversation with Wernick occurs near the end of this full-court press Wilson-Raybould has alleged, and it was the last she heard from the PM or any of his staff before Trudeau called her on January 7, 2019 to inform her she would be shuffled out of the Justice portfolio and into Veterans Affairs.
With this timeline in mind – what Wilson-Raybould described during her testimony as “the barrage of people hounding me and my staff” for nearly four months between September and December 2018 – she again offers warning to Wernick and suggests his requests, and even the phonecall have entered precarious legal territory.
“We’re treading on dangerous grounds here and I am going to issue a stern warning because I can’t act in a manner, and the prosecution can’t act in a manner that is not objective, that isn’t independent,” says Wilson-Raybould. “I can’t act in a partisan way and I can’t be politically motivated. All of this screams of that. So I’m actually uncomfortable having this conversation.”
When Wernick and Wilson-Raybould sign off, before hanging up the phone she ends the call portentously, unaware of the cabinet shuffle and the raft of resignations and political turmoil for herself and the Liberal government that would follow.
“I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. So I’m not under any illusion how the prime minister has and gets things that he wants. And I’m just stuck doing the best job that I can.”
The conversation occurred on December 19th, 2018.
One month ago, The Post Millennial’s Editor-in-Chief, Ali Taghva, stressed the importance of Wilson-Raybould’s Watergate reference in her original testimony in front of the Justice Committee.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.