Canada's top lawyer to testify at committee probing SNC-Lavalin scandal
Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti will be first in the hot seat today as the Commons justice committee begins hearings on the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Lametti to the post in a cabinet shuffle that demoted former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to oversee veterans affairs.
She resigned from that position a week later, just days after the Globe and Mail reported that she had been pressured by officials in the Prime Minister's Office to stop criminal prosecution against SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec-based global engineering and construction firm facing charges of bribery and fraud related to contracts in Libya.
Lametti will appear as the first witness beginning at 10:45 a.m. ET, and CBCNews.ca is carrying the committee proceedings live.
Nathalie Drouin, deputy justice minister and deputy attorney general, and Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to cabinet, are also scheduled to appear Thursday.
Conservative deputy leader and justice critic Lisa Raitt said she will grill Lametti on a Globe and Mail report published Thursday, which says Wilson-Raybould told federal cabinet ministers Tuesday she believed it was improper for PMO officials to press her to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution.
Wilson-Raybould took the unprecedented step of requesting to address cabinet, and was permitted to do so after vigorous debate among ministers.
Raitt said if the account in the Globe and Mail is accurate, Lametti has a responsibility to act.
"If he believes a former attorney general was improperly pressured — he has testimony of that from her as was being reported by the Globe and Mail — then he has a greater burden than being loyal to the cabinet. At that point in time he's got a loyalty to the country," she told CBC News.
The political fallout since the Feb. 7 Globe and Mail report has been swift.
The opposition Conservatives and NDP have called for a public inquiry and demanded Trudeau waive solicitor-client privilege so Wilson-Raybould can speak freely on the matter when she appears before the committee, expected sometime next week.
The CBC's Poll Tracker, an aggregation of all publicly available polls, shows the scandal is taking a toll on the Liberals. It puts the Liberals and Conservatives neck-and-neck in voting intentions and virtually tied in the number of seats each party would be likely to win if an election were held today.
On Wednesday, Wilson-Raybould abstained from a vote in the House of Commons on an NDP motion calling for an inquiry because she was personally involved in the matter. She said she can't waive client-solicitor privilege on her own.
"I understand fully that Canadians want to know the truth and want transparency," she said. "Privilege and confidentiality are not mine to waive, and I hope that I have the opportunity to speak my truth."
Raitt said she is convinced public pressure will mount for a public inquiry.