Filibuster Part Two: Conservatives try to force government’s hand on SNC-Lavalin
Conservative MP and finance critic Pierre Poilievre vowed “to speak for hours and hours on end” in the House of Commons this week to force the government’s hand in the SNC-Lavalin affair, setting the stage for a second budget-related filibuster in a month.
“I will be doing a marathon speech demanding the government end its cover up of the SNC-Lavalin scandal,” said Poilievre, who wants parliament to reopen its investigation. “The explosive revelations we witnessed on Friday … show that Jody Wilson-Raybould was telling the truth and Justin Trudeau was not.”
Last Friday the Justice committee released a recorded phone call between former Attorney General Wilson-Raybould and the nation’s top bureaucrat, Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick. Both are at the centre of allegations she was politically pressured to divert SNC-Lavalin’s trial for bribery and corruption charges.
The tense 17-minute conversation was taped and provided as supplementary evidence by Wilson-Raybould and appears to vindicate her testimony at the committee in February: that she was inappropriately pressured to interfere in the public prosecutor’s case against the Québec construction firm.
“We now need to hear from all the players,” said Poilievre. “All those who interfered with the attorney general in an attempt to stop the criminal trial into SNC-Lavalin’s fraud and bribery charges.”
Of key figures implicated by Wilson-Raybould for political interference in the matter, the Justice committee heard from just Wernick and Prime Minister Trudeau’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts’, before its Liberal majority shut down the probe on March 19.
But the former attorney general has also alleged Finance Minister Bill Morneau, his chief-of-staff Ben Chin, Trudeau’s senior advisor Mathieu Bouchard and even Trudeau himself, suggested favourable treatment of SNC-Lavalin was crucial for election success; particularly Québec’s provincial election the Liberals lost in October, and the looming federal election this year.
Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford is also alleged to have said she did not want to “debate legalities” and she would line up “all kinds of people” to write Op Eds supportive of Wilson-Raybould, if she went along with the plan.
However, Trudeau has maintained his former attorney general “saw it differently” and any overtures by him or others in his circle were about saving 9000 SNC-Lavalin jobs, purportedly at risk during a protracted trial and possible conviction. If SNC-Lavalin is found guilty of the charges, it would face a 10-year bidding ban on federal contracts.
Both Butts and Wernick have since resigned over the affair, as well as Wilson-Raybould, who resigned from cabinet in February and former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott, who resigned at the beginning of March in solidarity with her colleague, noting she had “lost confidence” in the government.
Poilievre’s filibuster gambit, which resumed around 4:15pm this afternoon, utilizes parliament’s standing rules providing the Opposition unlimited time to respond to a new budget which Morneau tabled two weeks ago. Budget debate in the Commons is scheduled for four days and Poilievre must yield the floor to daily question periods, private members’ business and end his speech each day at the close of scheduled House business.
“Conservatives will put forward a list of witnesses, all of whom have been implicated in some way,” Poilievre told reporters shortly before noon and the start of his filibuster. “We want the government to agree that all those witnesses come before a parliamentary committee for questioning and when they agree to that, I’ll stop speaking.”
A 30-hour budget filibuster that occured barely two weeks ago – a line-by-line supplementary spending vote on the 2018 budget – was triggered by Conservatives after Liberal MPs voted down a motion to allow Wilson-Raybould more testimony time at the Justice committee.
The former Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Gerald Butts spread false information attempting to further tie the Conservative Party of Canada with the “Canadian alt-right”.
In a tweet that was shared by several dozen followers, Butts retweeted a claim by the account “Jimmy Nobody” which pointed out that the Conservative website’s domain was being hosted by a company called “Rebel.ca Corp”.
However, Butts forgot to do his homework, since a simple search reveals that the website in question is a common domain host and not the right-wing media company.
Earlier this year, Butts resigned from his position in the Prime Minister Office in the midst of the damning SNC-Lavalin scandal, but has since taken up a position on the prime minister’s campaign team.
Furthermore, ironically the Liberal party’s own website is hosted by the very same Rebel.ca Butts was so quick to smear the Conservatives with.
Soon after recognizing his error Butts quickly deleted the false tweet saying, “My bad on that Rebel tweet. Tweet deleted.”.
Butts has gone on record before spreading further outrageous claims about ties between the Conservative Party and Rebel News, like the statement that the right-wing media company is “running” Andrew Scheer’s campaign.
Huffington Post Canada’s Ottawa bureau chief and upcoming election debate moderator Althia Raj dined with Justin Trudeau’s best friend and disgraced former principal secretary Gerald Butts Sunday evening, a week before the official leaders’ English debate.
Rumour that the two were at dinner together swirled on social media after Conservative operative and pollster Nick Kouvalis tweeted out a picture claiming a source sitting next to the pair spotted them at Ottawa’s Whalesbone on Elgin St. for buck-a-shuck oyster night.
“[Gerald Butts] is busy busy busy. I’m told this is happening, right now, at WHALES BONE with…. Someone who looks awfully like an upcoming DEBATE MODERATOR, [ALTHIA RAJ]???? Is that you?” tweeted Kouvalis.
Ottawa criminal lawyer James Bowie tweeted pictures of Whalesbone looking closed for renovations, saying, “It is across from my office, near the courthouse. It’s been closed since last week. Renovations.”
However, upon closer inspection of the sign, it says the front is undergoing renovations so customers can still be served at the back area of the restaurant.
Some online observers noted the restaurant’s outward appearance of looking shuttered would make it an ideal clandestine meeting spot in public. (Bowie promptly deleted his tweet after Kouvalis told him to look closer at the sign.)
The Post Millennial confirmed with sources that Raj and Butts were indeed at Ottawa’s Whalesbone at 7 p.m.
Raj is one of five journalists who were selected to moderate the English official leaders’ debate taking place on Monday, Oct. 7.
Butts resigned as Trudeau’s top advisor in the middle of Feb. for his role in the SNC Lavalin scandal in which he, Prime Minister Trudeau and others pressured former Attorney General Jodie Wilson-Raybould to consider a deferred prosecution—something legislatively created by Trudeau’s government after being lobbied by SNC Lavalin.
A deferred prosecution would allow for the disgraced engineering giant to not have to go to trial for allegations such as buying prostitutes for murderous dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s son and bribing the Libyan dictator’s family with millions.
It was announced in July Butts had rejoined the Liberals as an election campaign pitbull without the mainstream media really questioning the relatively quick return of a disgraced top aide.
Political observers were concerned Raj and Butts may be colluding in debate prep to give Trudeau a heads up on what the questions will be or what prickly questions to throw at Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
Election debate collusion is not new, in the last U.S. presidential election cycle, CNN commentator Donna Brazile leaked questions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign team.
Some journalists came to Raj’s defence, saying it’s common practice for journalists to meet with sources.
The commission responsible for selecting debate moderators came under fire when four of the five journalists they selected to moderate the debate have shown favouritism for the Liberals and Trudeau.
Debate moderator Rosemary Barton, one of four anchors on CBC’s flagging flagship news show The National, took a selfie with Trudeau shortly after he got into office—proudly posting it on Twitter—and makes partial remarks in favour of the Liberals such as how the Trudeau government’s large deficits don’t matter or that the RCMP are “just asking a few questions” about the SNC Lavalin scandal investigation. Fellow debate moderator Susan Delacourt has long been a stalwart supporter of Trudeau in her Toronto Star columns and was a Trudeau Foundation mentor in 2016, receiving a $20,000 honourarium.
Raj herself wrote an effusive biography of Trudeau—Contender: The Justin Trudeau Story—in which she repeatedly praised Butts’ intelligence. She’s also repeatedly defended Trudeau in her writing and on national television, as one of CBC’s “At Issue” panellists, for his scandals and government’s failings.
Last week Raj faced a firestorm on Twitter for greenlighting and publishing another HuffPo writer’s hit piece—on a 16-year-old allegation that Andrew Scheer tacitly supported an MP’s homophobic comments in 2003—which didn’t properly quote the response from Scheer’s spokesperson.
The debate moderators were selected by the Canadian Debate Production Partnership (CDPP), which was created by a Leaders’ Debate Commission that the Trudeau government founded in 2018.
The spokesperson for the Leaders’ Debate Commission referred The Post Millennial’s questions of debate integrity to the CDPP.
“…It’s not unusual for political journalists to meet with political sources. We remain confident in all of the debate moderators, all of whom are professional journalists who are working for their respective outlets, as well as with the CDPP production teams on the debates,” said CDPP spokesperson Leon Mar.
So far, Trudeau has skipped a Maclean’s debate and caused the Munk debate to be cancelled because he refused to attend.
Raj and the Liberal Party of Canada did not respond to requests for comment.
Gerald Butts spreads fake news on Twitter with Hollywood & "colossal lack of knowledge" about mortgages, banking sector
Gerald Butts, former jack of the advice trade in the Prime Minister’s Office and now on Twitter as Justin Trudeau’s virtual campaign guru, still hasn’t learned his lesson about giving tips after SNC-Lavalin.
Following Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s announcement Monday – that his party would ease up on mortgage amortization from 25 to 30 years – Butts attempted to scare the plebes with a banking lesson gleaned from watching an American film about the 2008 U.S. subprime mortgage collapse.
Readers of mainstream media in Canada, especially political watchers, will recall that Butts resigned as Trudeau’s principal secretary in February, after revelations that he orchestrated and participated in attempts to pressure former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to go easy on SNC-Lavalin.
SNC-Lavalin is the Québec-based construction firm, whose activity in Libya between 2001 and 2011 is the subject of bribery and corruption charges set to go to trial later this year.
Butts, Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick, Trudeau, and Finance Minister Bill Morneau were among the cast of a failed attempt to have Wilson-Raybould divert the case to a remediation deal.
“When you boil it all down, all we ever asked the attorney general to do was to consider a second opinion,” Butts told Parliament’s Justice committee back in March when the scandal was daily headline news.
“I am not a lawyer but I have extensive experience in government.”
But not enough to prevent his boss from breaking conflict of interest law as Ethics commissioner Mario Dion’s scathing Trudeau II report concluded; the RCMP is also probing a potential obstruction of justice element to the scandal.
Which brings us to Monday’s Twitter activity from Butts, who showed his Canadian banking sector insight – informed by Hollywood’s version of the 2008 U.S. financial crisis – is as reliable as his knowledge of the law.
But don’t take The Post Millennial‘s word for it.
Anticipating that Scheer’s mortgage promise would be torqued as harbinger for a similar banking failure in Canada, we asked Carleton University professor Ian Lee, MBA director with the Sprott School of Business and former BMO mortgage manager, to explain why that perspective is poppycock.
“What happened in the states did not and could not have happened here. It could not happen because of the law. The law. I repeat that a third time, the law that made it mandatory that high ratio mortgages be insured against credit default,” Lee told TPM during a wider interview about changes in amortization rules in Canada over the past decade.
TPM’s conversation with Lee was conducted before Butts’ ill-informed Tweet and elements of it were used in TPM’s Monday coverage of Scheer’s announcement.
“There is no such law in the United States of America (and) you can lend zero (down)payment and that’s perfectly legal. The regulatory system that Canada has had forever and ever, is we regulate the downpayment between
“And secondly, the due diligence is completely different in the states – the two systems are incommensurate. In Canada, most banks keep most of the mortgages they book, whereas what’s happened in the states is that the banks sell off most of the mortgages they book.”
“There’s so many profound structural differences and people who make parallels between the two simply do not know what they are talking about and betray their colossal lack of knowledge.”
So there you have it: Gerald Butts, MA English Literature from McGill University on 30-year mortgage amortizations impact on the Canadian banking ecosystem, versus a business school director and former mortgage manager for Bank of Montreal.
Update: This article has been edited to correct the suggestion Mr. Butts was to receive payment or work on the contract, further information has revealed that his employers will be the ones to receive the funds.
Former principal secretary and long-time friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s latest employer was proposed as the recipient of a contract for nearly $200,000 dollars from Natural Resources Canada “to provide energy market analysis,” according to a new report from Sheila Gunn Reid from The Rebel.
Eurasia Group, a New York-based company which Butts had joined in May of this year was listed in the official advance contract award notice as the “proposed contractor” for the project. The group would receive nearly $200,000 CAD to “identify regulatory and policy risks in the context of carbon and environmental policy, supply disruption issues, market access, oil prices, and supply and demand fundamentals in North America and globally.”
Butts has since stated that he will have nothing to do with the contract and will not receive any of the funds that ensue from the work.
The contract aims to award someone that can show expertise through “trade and fiscal policy, through an established intelligence network … comprised of government officials, energy industry CEO’s, executives and industry insiders…”
Butts is, of course, no stranger to being associated with anti-Canadian oil measures. In an op-ed in the Toronto Star, Butts described oil and gas as a cancer to society, stating: “Keep smoking kids. We need the tax revenue. Trust us, we will cure cancer by the time you get it. So goes our national political leaders’ myopic view of the tar sands.”
Butts was also heavily involved in the Ontario Green Energy Act, which led to a 150 percent increase in off-peak electricity rates which struck Ontarians.
Butts had previously stepped down from his role as the top advisor to Justin Trudeau in February of 2018 after the SNC-Lavalin scandal. He has since returned to Trudeau’s fold as a member of his 2019 campaign team in late July.
The following update was also issued by The Rebel on the story.
“UPDATE: Eurasia Group has contacted us to advise that they have received other grants from the Trudeau government when Butts worked