A look at Trudeau's evolving statements on SNC-Lavalin
In the months since the SNC-Lavalin controversy began, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has both denied any wrongdoing and taken “full responsibility” for the finding that ethics rules were breached.
However, the prime minister has refused to apologize.
Here’s a look at what Trudeau has said about the SNC-Lavalin saga, which began earlier this year — and how his statements have changed.
February 2019: A complete denial
The controversy first emerged in February, following a report from The Globe and Mail that members of the Prime Minister’s Office put pressure on then-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to interfere in SNC-Lavalin’s court case. The engineering giant was facing corruption and fraud charges related to its business activities in Libya.
Directly following the report, Trudeau denied any impropriety.
“The allegations in the Globe story this morning are false,” Trudeau told reporters on Feb. 7. “Neither the current nor the previous attorney general was ever directed by me nor anyone in my office to take a decision in this matter.”
Wilson-Raybould said solicitor-client privilege prevented her from speaking about dealings she had on the case while attorney general.
WATCH: Trudeau ethics violation — How serious are the findings?
Days later, on Feb. 15, Trudeau said Wilson-Raybould asked him in September whether he would direct her one way or another on the SNC-Lavalin question. He said he told her he would not.
On Feb. 20, Trudeau said an airing of the facts is needed. He added that he is confident the examinations by the ethics commissioner and the justice committee will provide it. Meanwhile, the Liberals used their House of Commons majority to defeat an opposition motion calling for a public inquiry into allegations the Prime Minister’s Office pressured Wilson-Raybould.
Trudeau then partly waived both solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality, paving the way for Wilson-Raybould to tell her side of the SNC-Lavalin saga to the justice committee and ethics commissioner. The order specifically noted, however, that she could not speak publicly about communication she had with Kathleen Roussel, the director of public prosecutions.
At the end of February, Wilson-Raybould testified, saying: “For a period of approximately four months, between September and December of 2018, I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the attorney general of Canada, in an inappropriate effort to secure a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin.”
March 2019: PM responsible for ‘erosion of trust’
Weeks after the testimony, on March 7, Trudeau took responsibility for the “erosion of trust” between his team and Wilson-Raybould on SNC-Lavalin — but stopped short of apologizing.
He also specifically rejected Wilson-Raybould’s argument that the interactions described by her were inappropriate.
“In regards to standing up for jobs and protecting our rule of law, I continue to say there was no inappropriate pressure,” he responded.
WATCH: Trudeau laments ‘erosion of trust’ for SNC saga, but doesn’t apologize
“I’m obviously reflecting on lessons learned through this and I think Canadians expect that of us … there are things that we have to understand and reflect on and do better next time.”
On March 18, Trudeau named Anne McLellan to the post of special adviser on the roles of attorney general and justice minister.
McLellan, a former Liberal justice minister, is tasked chiefly with examining whether the positions, which are shared by one cabinet minister, should be divided into separate roles in the wake of issues raised by the SNC-Lavalin affair.
April 2019: Trudeau says ministers broke trust
On April 2, both Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott were kicked out of the Liberal caucus.
Trudeau said the former ministers broke the trust of the party.
“The trust that previously existed between these two individuals and our team has been broken,” he said.
The prime minister pointed to Wilson-Raybould’s decision to secretly record a phone conversation with clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick as the main reason, calling the move “unconscionable.”
WATCH: Trudeau takes responsibility for the findings of ethics commissioner
August 2019: ‘Full responsibility’ — but no apology
On August 14, ethics commissioner Mario Dion releases a 60-page report saying: “The authority of the prime minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the director of public prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson‑Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer.”
Trudeau spoke hours after the findings were revealed, telling reporters he now takes “full responsibility” for how the case was handled.
The prime minister refused to apologize, saying he believed he had been standing up for the interests of Canadian jobs.
A day after the report’s release, Trudeau doubles down on his refusal to apologize: “I’m not going to apologize for standing up for Canadians jobs. That’s my job.”
— With files from The Canadian Press