2019-03-22 01:04:53 UTC
Trudeau tries to sell new plan for Canada, hoping to leave crisis behind
Liberals lagging behind Tories in new poll
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is rejecting the assertion by one of his former cabinet ministers that "there's much more to the story that needs to be told" when it comes to exactly what went down in the SNC-Lavalin affair.
In a interview with Maclean's Magazine, published Thursday morning, former president of the Treasury Board Jane Philpott explained her decision to resign as a cabinet member and said that “there’s been an attempt to shut down the story" by Trudeau and his advisers.
At issue is the claim by former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould that she was subjected to a "consistent and sustained effort" between September and December 2018 to pressure her into changing her decision not to intervene in the criminal case of SNC-Lavalin to help the Montreal firm escape a potential conviction for corruption charges.
Trudeau said in his view, Wilson-Raybould has been allowed to speak already.
“The issue is the issue of pressure that the attorney general may have experienced while she was attorney general on SNC Lavalin," Trudeau said when asked repeatedly about the assertions.
He added that he thinks Wilson-Raybould has been able to give “full testimony regarding the former attorney general’s time as attorney general in regards to the Lavalin situation."
Trudeau says Philpott meeting was 'good and positive'
Trudeau waived cabinet confidentiality and solicitor-client privilege following intense pressure from critics demanding answers to the allegations.
But the waiver for Wilson-Raybould only allowed her to speak about what happened while she was attorney general.
She was shuffled out of that post on Jan. 14, 2019, something she says she believes was a direct result of refusing to intervene to cut SNC-Lavalin a deal.
However, she remained a member of the cabinet in her new position of minister of veterans affairs until she resigned on Feb. 12.
That means if there were any further discussions of the SNC-Lavalin case around the cabinet table, Wilson-Raybould would likely have heard it up until she resigned. A waiver covering her final month in cabinet would authorize her to speak about whether there were ongoing discussions on the matter.
Attorney General David Lametti, who replaced her in the job, has refused to rule out offering the company a deal to avoid a criminal trial and potential conviction.
Philpott resigned following the testimony of Wilson-Raybould at the House of Commons justice committee that had been conducting a limited probe of the matter up until it decided to drop its examination of the issue on Monday.
Philpott said in her resignation letter that she had "lost confidence" in the prime minister's handling of the allegations.
While she has remained tight-lipped since then, her interview with Maclean's marked the first time she has publicly commented on her ongoing concerns.
"My sense is that Canadians would like to know the whole story," Philpott told Maclean's in her first extended interview since her resignation.
"I believe we actually owe it to Canadians as politicians to ensure that they have the truth. They need to have confidence in the very basic constitutional principle of the independence of the justice system."
Philpott's new public statements fanned the flames of a scandal the government is desperate to douse, and which the Opposition Conservatives are doing their best to keep alive. They've forced the House of Commons to sit all night, voting line by line on the Liberal government's spending plans.
The Liberal majority in the House shot down a Conservative motion calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to let Wilson-Raybould testify more fully about what she experienced through the fall and into the early winter, especially what prompted her to resign from cabinet altogether after she was shuffled from the justice portfolio to Veterans Affairs in January.
The motion was defeated by a vote of 161-134, with both Philpott and Wilson-Raybould absent.
That set the stage for the Conservative-sponsored filibuster that began Wednesday night and continued through Thursday morning.
Since any vote involving government spending is automatically a confidence vote, Liberals were required to be out in force to avoid potential defeat of the government. The voting could theoretically last 36 hours, but the Conservatives have only to keep it going until just after 10 a.m. today to scrub the remainder of the parliamentary day.
A day of committee meetings scheduled for Thursday has already been cancelled.
With files from the Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, March 21, 2019 12:25PM EDT
OTTAWA - A new poll conducted by Leger for The Canadian Press suggests the governing federal Liberals have lost ground to the Conservatives over the past month.
Overall, 31 per cent of respondents polled after the federal budget was released Tuesday said they would vote for Justin Trudeau's Liberals if an election were held now, a decline of about three percentage points from February.
That compared with 37 per cent who said they would back the Conservatives under leader Andrew Scheer, a one-point increase from February, while 12 per cent said they would vote NDP and eight per cent the Greens.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gives remarks at a transit maintenance facility in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday, March 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Scheer also jumped ahead of Trudeau on the question of who would make a better prime minister as the Tory leader got the backing of 25 per cent of respondents compared with 24 per cent for Trudeau, who has been struggling to contain damage from the SNC-Lavalin affair.
As for the budget, which the Liberals are hoping will help turn the page on SNC-Lavalin, 12 per cent of respondents said it was good and 19 per cent that it was bad, but 39 per cent said they didn't really know about it.
Leger's internet-based survey, which cannot be assigned a margin of error because online polls are not considered random samples, was conducted March 19 and 20 using computer-assisted web-interviewing technology and heard from 1,529 Canadians who are eligible to vote and were recruited from the firm's online panel.