Mar 25, 2019
Timeline: The SNC-Lavalin controversy and Jody Wilson-Raybould
The Canadian Press
Wilson-Raybould says she was warned SNC might leave country
OTTAWA -- A chronology of events in the SNC-Lavalin controversy:
Feb. 19 - The RCMP lays corruption and fraud charges against Montreal-based engineering and construction firm SNC-Lavalin, over allegations it used bribery to get government business in Libya. SNC-Lavalin says the charges are without merit and stem from "alleged reprehensible deeds by former employees who left the company long ago." A conviction could bar the company from bidding on Canadian government business, potentially devastating it.
Oct. 19 - The Liberals win a federal election, taking power from the Conservatives. Two weeks later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau names Jody Wilson-Raybould minister of justice and attorney general of Canada. She is the first Indigenous person to hold the post, which combines duties as a politician (heading the Department of Justice) and a legal official (overseeing prosecutions).
March 27 - The Liberals table a budget bill that includes a change to the Criminal Code allowing "remediation agreements," plea-bargain-like deals between prosecutors and accused corporations in which they can avoid criminal proceedings by making reparations for previous bad behaviour. SNC-Lavalin had lobbied for such a provision in Canadian law.
Spring - Although the bill has yet to pass, SNC-Lavalin contacts Public Prosecution Service lawyers to ensure they have all relevant information for a possible invitation to negotiate a remediation agreement. During the next three months, in response to requests from prosecutors, SNC-Lavalin provides detailed information it sees as making a strong case for an agreement.
Sept. 4 - The prosecution service tells SNC-Lavalin it will not invite the firm to negotiate a remediation agreement.
Sept. 17 - Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould discuss the SNC-Lavalin file. As attorney general, Wilson-Raybould could overrule the prosecution service, directing it to negotiate an agreement with the company. (Trudeau later says Wilson-Raybould asked him if he planned to tell her what to do concerning the prosecution -- a conversation that he says ended with him telling her any decision was hers alone.)
Sept. 18 - SNC-Lavalin representatives meet with Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick, Canada's most senior public servant, and Finance Minister Bill Morneau to discuss issues including "justice and law enforcement."
Sept. 21 - The remediation-agreement provisions come into legal force.
Oct. 9 - The prosecution service confirms in writing it will not invite SNC-Lavalin to negotiate a remediation agreement, a decision the company challenges in Federal Court. That challenge is ongoing.
Oct. 10 - SNC-Lavalin issues a news release saying it strongly disagrees with the director of prosecutions' position and remains open and committed to negotiating a remediation agreement. SNC-Lavalin shares fall nearly 14 per cent, closing at $44.86 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. That's the lowest close since March 2, 2016.
Oct. 11 - SNC-Lavalin meets with Elder Marques, a senior adviser in the Prime Minister's Office, to discuss "justice and law enforcement."
Nov. 5 and 19 - SNC-Lavalin meets with Mathieu Bouchard, another senior adviser in the Prime Minister's Office, to discuss "justice and law enforcement."
December - According to the Prime Minister's Office, Wilson-Raybould raises the remediation case with Gerald Butts, the prime minister's principal secretary, and he tells her to talk to Wernick, the Privy Council clerk.
Jan. 14 - Trudeau shuffles his cabinet after the resignation of Treasury Board president Scott Brison. Wilson-Raybould is moved from Justice to Veterans Affairs, widely seen as a demotion. David Lametti, a Montreal MP and former law professor, becomes justice minister. Wilson-Raybould posts a long letter outlining her record as justice minister and noting a great deal of work remains to be done toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
Feb. 7 - Citing unnamed sources, the Globe and Mail newspaper reports that Trudeau's aides attempted to press Wilson-Raybould, while attorney general, to intervene in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, and that exasperation with her lack of co-operation was one reason for shuffling her out of the justice portfolio. Trudeau denies any impropriety. Wilson-Raybould says solicitor-client privilege prevents her from speaking about dealings she had on the case while attorney general.
Feb. 11 - Ethics commissioner Mario Dion says he's beginning an investigation. Trudeau says he's spoken to Wilson-Raybould and confirmed with her that he said any decision on the SNC-Lavalin prosecution was entirely hers. Her continued presence in his cabinet speaks for itself, he says.
Feb. 12 - Wilson-Raybould resigns as veterans-affairs minister and says she's hired former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell to advise her on the limits of solicitor-client privilege. Trudeau says he's surprised and disappointed that Wilson-Raybould has quit, and that if she felt undue pressure in her role as attorney general, she had a duty to report it to him.
Feb. 13 - The House of Commons justice committee debates its own probe of the issue. Liberals use their majority on the committee to call one closed-door meeting and hear from senior officials (Lametti as justice minister, the top bureaucrat in his department, and the Privy Council clerk) who can talk about the tension between the minister of justice's duties as a politician and his or her responsibilities as attorney general of Canada. The Liberals say this is a first step in a cautious investigation, but the opposition calls it a coverup.
Feb. 15 - Trudeau says Wilson-Raybould asked him in September whether he would direct her one way or another on the SNC-Lavalin question. He says he told her he would not.
Feb. 18 - Butts resigns as Trudeau's principal secretary. He denies any impropriety but says his presence in the Prime Minister's Office has become a distraction.
Feb. 19 - Wilson-Raybould stuns observers by attending a meeting of the very cabinet from which she had resigned a week earlier. Trudeau says she had asked to speak there and was invited to do so but cabinet confidentiality means nothing can be revealed about why or what was said. After the meeting, Wilson-Raybould says she is still talking to her lawyer about what she can and can't say publicly.
Feb. 20 - Trudeau says that while an airing of the facts is needed, he is confident the examinations underway by the ethics commissioner and the justice committee will provide it. The Liberals use 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.
Feb. 21 - Wernick launches a vigorous defence of the government's handling of the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, bluntly declaring allegations of political interference to be false and even defamatory. The Privy Council clerk also challenges Wilson-Raybould's assertion that solicitor-client privilege prevents her from responding to allegations.
Feb. 25 - Trudeau partly waives both solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality for his former attorney general, 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 notes, however, that she cannot speak publicly about communication she had with Kathleen Roussel, the director of public prosecutions.
Feb. 27 - Wilson-Raybould tells the justice committee she came under "consistent and sustained" pressure -- including veiled threats -- from the PMO, the Privy Council Office and Morneau's office to halt the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. Trudeau rejects her characterization of events. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer calls on Trudeau to resign. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for a public inquiry.
Feb. 28 - Butts asks to testify before the justice committee.
March 1 - Trudeau makes longtime MP Lawrence MacAulay his new veterans-affairs minister. Marie-Claude Bibeau replaces MacAulay as agriculture minister and Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef takes on the additional portfolio of international development. All three express support for Trudeau.
March 4 - Philpott quits cabinet, saying she has lost confidence in the way the government has dealt with the ongoing affair and citing her obligation to defend the cabinet as long as she is a part of it. Trudeau names Carla Qualtrough interim Treasury Board president. At a rally in Toronto, Trudeau says the ongoing affair "has generated an important discussion" about how ministers, staff and officials conduct themselves. "Concerns of this nature," he says, "must be taken very seriously and I can assure you that I am."
March 6 - Butts tells the justice committee that Wilson-Raybould never complained about improper pressure to halt the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin until Trudeau decided to move her out of her coveted cabinet role as justice minister and attorney general. Wernick disputes parts of her testimony as well. Drouin provides more details about the timeline.
March 7 - Trudeau holds a press conference where he says he should have been aware that trust had eroded between his office and Wilson-Raybould but denies anything inappropriate took place. He talks about learning from the events; he does not specifically apologize. Opposition MPs on the justice committee ask for an emergency meeting to discuss calling further witnesses to testify. They want to recall Wilson-Raybould as well as several officials from the Prime Minister's Office.
March 8 - The Federal Court strikes down SNC-Lavalin's request for judicial review of the prosecution service's decision not to negotiate a remediation agreement.
March 11 - The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development says it is "concerned" the allegations of political interference and monitoring to determine whether Canada is violating its commitment to an international anti-bribery convention.
March 12 - Dion's office says he is taking a prolonged leave from his job for health reasons, but says information will continue to be gathered in all ongoing cases in his absence.
March 13 - Liberals quickly use their majority on the justice committee to end the emergency meeting, and move to reconvene on March 19 as originally planned.
March 15 - Wilson-Raybould tells her Vancouver constituents she intends to run for re-election as a Liberal. She writes in an open letter that important questions haven't been answered about the affair and wants to stay in Parliament, and with the Liberals, to change a "culture of conflict, empty partisanship and cynical games" in federal politics. Meanwhile, Quebec Premier Francois Legault says his government isn't ruling out buying shares in SNC-Lavalin to prevent the company from being sold or dismantled. He adds he has spoken with Trudeau on the need to find a way to save SNC-Lavalin and the jobs it creates.
March 18 - Trudeau appoints former leadership rival Joyce Murray to replace Philpott as Treasury Board president. Hours after being at the swearing-in ceremony, Wernick announces he will step down as the country's top public servant before the fall election, having concluded he has lost the trust of opposition parties.
March 19 - Liberals on the justice committee vote to end the committee's probe, hours after saying in a letter to the committee chair that "all rules and laws were followed" and Canadians "have the necessary information to arrive at a conclusion." The Conservatives protest later in the day by walking out of the House of Commons during Morneau's budget speech.
March 20 - SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce tells BNN Bloomberg he never cited the protection as 9,000 jobs as the reason the company should be granted a remediation agreement. He adds he doesn't expect an agreement to be offered in the current political climate.
In Ottawa, Philpott and Wilson-Raybould attend the Liberal caucus that followed a "frank and emotional" meeting Philpott had with her Ontario caucus colleagues. Caesar-Chavannes quits the Liberal caucus. The opposition parties trigger a marathon voting session after the Liberals use their majority to reject a motion calling on Trudeau to let Wilson-Raybould testify more fully about her allegations.
March 21 - In an interview with Maclean's magazine, Philpott says there is "much more to the story" that should be told. She says she had concerns in January, before the controversy became public, but is prevented from discussing them through efforts by the Prime Minister's Office to "shut down the story." At an event in Mississauga, Trudeau says the issue is about what happened while Wilson-Raybould was attorney general, "and she got to speak fully to that."
March 22 - Wilson-Raybould tells justice committee she will provide "copies of text messages and emails" along with a written statement that will "further clarify statements I made and elucidate the accuracy and nature of statements by witnesses in testimony that came after my committee appearance."
Her fellow Liberal MPs urge Wilson-Raybould and Philpott to publicly talk about what else they have to say on the issue.
March 25 - Trudeau says he looks forward to continuing to have Wilson-Raybould and Philpott in the Liberal caucus. Scheer calls on Trudeau to provide an extended waiver so Philpott and Wilson-Raybould can testify fully before a parliamentary committee.
Citing unnamed sources, The Canadian Press reports Wilson-Raybould and Trudeau clashed over her recommendation in 2017 for chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada -- a conservative judge from Manitoba that Trudeau disagreed with. Wilson-Raybould says there was no conflict with the Trudeau, and raising concerns about the leak of information that could "compromise the integrity of the (judicial) appointments process and potentially sitting justices."
SNC-Lavalin issues a clarification to the March 20 interview that says, in part, that while "the Government of Canada was never threatened by SNC-Lavalin," the company "made it very clear" to the government that a remediation agreement "was the best way to protect and grow the almost 9,000 direct Canadian SNC-Lavalin jobs."
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