Fin in the News: Wilson-Raybould testimony ignites Tri-City opposition

Stefan Labbé, Tri-City News, Feb. 28, 2019

Conservative Party leader Andrew Sheer called for the Prime Minister’s resignation Wednesday, saying the Liberal government had lost moral authority to govern after former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould’s explosive testimony.

"Justin Trudeau simply cannot continue to govern this country now that Canadians know what he has done," Scheer said. "And that is why I am calling on Mr. Trudeau to do the right thing and to resign."

Speaking at an event in Montreal, Trudeau immediately rejected Scheer’s demand and pointed to his government’s record of defending jobs and “the independence of the judiciary.”

Earlier in the day, Wilson-Raybould spent three hours laying out how she and her office endured months of relentless pressure from the prime minister and other senior Liberal officials to head off a criminal prosecution of the Montreal engineering firm SNC-Lavalin. 

Wilson-Raybould told the committee that she believed the pressure was inappropriate but added she did not think it was illegal.

Across the Tri-Cities, SNC-Lavalin’s footprint is substantial: the company built the Coast Meridian Overpass connecting Coquitlam with Port Coquitlam, and has had a significant hand in building out the Skytrain network, including the Evergreen Line to Port Moody.

In the wake of Wednesday’s testimony, NDP has taken a more measured approach, calling for a public inquiry to gather all the facts and give the Liberal government an opportunity to explain itself.

“In my 10 years as an MP, I've never seen anything like this to this extent,” said the Port Moody-Coquitlam MP Fin Donnelly in a call with The Tri-City News. “We heard Ms. Wilson-Raybould's version of the facts, and they were damning. Three-and-a-half hours of testimony — she was lucid, credible, believable.”

The NDP MP said he expects a public inquiry would likely take a number of weeks — if not months — to get to the bottom of what happened.

“We need to give the government an opportunity to provide its case, to respond to Ms. Wilson-Raybould's accusations and her testimony. And then let the public be apprised of what the results are,” said Donnelly. 

“Let them be the judge.”

SNC-Lavalin and the federal election

The overwhelming mood in Ottawa is one of disbelief, according to Donnelly.

Yet even in this state of shock, many are looking ahead to the federal election in October, and Donnelly said he sees the Wilson-Raybould testimony as a game changer, and not just for the Liberal party.

“This brings all politics down when you have these sorts of allegations against the prime minister,” said Donnelly, who recently announced he would not be seeking re-election in October.

Donnelly also pointed to the case of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman as having the potential to explode into another SNC-Lavalin-type story, one that could continue to damage the Liberal party in the lead up to the elections.

Norman was suspended as the military's second-in-command in January 2017 and charged last March with one count of breach of trust for allegedly leaking government secrets to undermine cabinet's decision-making process on a major shipbuilding deal.

Earlier this month, one of Norman’s lawyers argued the discussions between the Crown lawyers and Privy Council Office were "more concerning" than allegations the Prime Minister's Office tried to intervene in the criminal case against SNC-Lavalin.

“I think it [all] will play a big role in shaping the tone of the 2019 election,” said Donnelly.

In the meantime, the Port Moody-Coquitlam MP said he is circulating an NDP-backed petition calling for a public inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin affair “so that people can let the government know that this is the right thing to do,” Donnelly said.