Canadian PM Trudeau's former top aide testifies in his defence

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C. in 2016. At home Trudeau has faced a growing political scandal in recent weeks

Canadian PM Trudeau's former top aide testifies in his defence

Liberals are hoping they'll get some ammunition today to fight back against accusations of political interference in the justice system when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's former principal secretary tells his side of the SNC-Lavalin saga.

She resigned nearly a month after former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from federal cabinet.

Wilson-Raybould has claimed that past year she was put under pressure to order a deferred prosecution agreement for the Quebec-based engineering and construction firm's fraud and corruption charges, and that her refusal to do so led to her being shifted out of the attorney general post to the veterans' affairs portfolio.

But if Wilson-Raybould and the Director of Public Prosecutions had arrived at their final conclusion, the only goal outside advice could serve would be to have their decision reversed.

If there was a running theme through Butts's testimony, it was a line of neon tubing that arranged itself to spell out "JOBS JOBS JOBS".

Wilson-Raybould has said that while she considered the pressure inappropriate, she didn't believe it had been illegal and said she was not directly told to interfere.

This comes a month to the day after The Globe and Mail first reported that senior members of his government tried to pressure Wilson-Raybould into dropping a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. So far, other Liberal Cabinet ministers are rallying around him.

At all times, he said, the PMO just wanted to have someone like former Supreme Court justice Beverly McLachlin provide a second opinion, and he did not see how his brief conversations constituted undue pressure. The agreement would have allowed the company to pay reparations but avoid a criminal trial on charges of corruption and bribery.

Butts acknowledged officials had expressed concern that prosecution could endanger thousands of jobs, but said, "I firmly believe here that nothing inappropriate occurred here and nothing inappropriate was alleged to have occurred until after the Cabinet shuffle".

Wilson-Raybould was demoted from her role as attorney general and named veterans affairs minister in January as part of a Cabinet shuffle and resigned weeks later.

He said the SNC-Lavalin file came up briefly at the end of their two-hour meeting and that Wilson-Raybould asked him if he had an opinion on it.

Butts said he told Prince that it was ultimately Wilson-Raybould's decision, but he also made it clear that the jobs of 9,000 people are not a political issue but a "very real public policy issue". Jane Philpott, a close friend of Wilson-Raybould's and a star Cabinet minister, resigned this week, saying she was concerned the ex-attorney general was pressured and because she lost confidence in how the government has handled the scandal.

He denied making any veiled threats against Wilson-Raybould, as she had testified.

Wilson-Raybould has a lot of reasons to be fuming about the former principal secretary's unsworn testimony. "Mathieu Bouchard and Elder Marques are incredibly accomplished lawyers of sterling reputations and it is inconceivable to me that they would engage in this sort of behaviour".

"(Butts') evidence simply defies all logic", he said.

Deputy justice minister Nathalie Drouin said her department was made aware on September 4 that the director of public prosecutions had decided SNC-Lavalin was not eligible for a remediation agreement.

"She has clearly indicated there are more details that need to come out for Canadians to fully understand the gravity of this situation", Scheer said Thursday at the Sheraton Hotel, located at Pearson International Airport.

On Sept. 11, Drouin was informed in an email that Wilson-Raybould would not intervene.

"I know Philpott has felt this way for some time".

Bothwell said Trudeau is not like his father, the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who swept to office in 1968 on a wave of support dubbed "Trudeaumania" and governed for most of the next two decades. Wilson-Raybauld turned down the cabinet portfolio saying her entire life she was opposed to the Indian Act and could not be responsible for administering its programs. Instead, she was moved to the Veterans Affairs post.

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