September 11, 2021
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he would “never” ask Jody Wilson-Raybould to lie, after an explosive book excerpt from the former Liberal cabinet minister alleged he wanted her to do just that.
In the book, Wilson-Raybould describes conversations she had with Trudeau about what would later become publicly known as the SNC-Lavalin affair.
The excerpt from her soon-to-be-published book, ‘Indian’ in the Cabinet, was published as an op-ed in The Globe and Mail.
Wilson-Raybould said that during those conversations, Trudeau was pushing her to lie about how his team had handled the situation.
“I knew what he was really asking. What he was saying. In that moment, I knew he wanted me to lie – to attest that what had occurred had not occurred,” Wilson-Raybould said.
When pressed on the allegation during a Saturday press conference, Trudeau rejected it.
“I did not want her to lie. I would never do that. I would never ask her that,” he said. “That is simply not true.”
In 2019, the federal ethics commissioner found that Trudeau had violated conflict of interest rules by attempting to interfere in the corruption case against Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.
The firm had been charged with corruption over its dealings with the Libyan government but, citing the importance of saving jobs, the government starting exploring the possibility of striking a deal — a deferred prosecution agreement. Wilson-Raybould, who was serving as justice minister at the time, was opposed to the deal.
But as Wilson-Raybould made that opposition known to Trudeau’s team, she said they ramped up the pressure. The Globe and Mail later broke the story, and three days later, Wilson-Raybould met with Trudeau.
“As I sat there in that room – a big room, all by myself – waiting for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to arrive, I asked myself why I felt that I had to try to help him out of this mess, to protect him,” she wrote in the excerpt.
“Especially when his government had been digging a deeper and deeper hole by the hour by not coming clean on how I was pushed to take over the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin to enable them to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement, or DPA. Especially when his office had been telling their MPs to repeat lines they knew were not accurate.”
Their conversations in the days after the story broke were tense, Wilson-Raybould wrote.
“I could see the agitation visibly building in the Prime Minister. His mood was shifting. I remember seeing it. I remember feeling it. I had seen and felt this before on a few occasions, when he would get frustrated and angry. But this was different. He became strident and disputed everything I had said,” she said.
“He made it clear that everyone in his office was telling the truth and that I, and by extension Jessica Prince, my chief of staff, and others, were not. He told me I had not experienced what I said I did. He used the line that would later become public, that I had ‘experienced things differently.’”
Wilson-Raybould said that in that moment, she knew he wanted her to lie — a claim Trudeau rejected.
“For me, this was just more evidence that he did not know me, did not know who I was or where I was from. Me – lie to protect a Crown government acting badly; a political party; a leader who was not taking responsibility. He must be delusional,” she wrote.
Trudeau was pressed repeatedly on the excerpt on Saturday. As reporters grilled him about the details of Wilson-Raybould’s claims, he called the situation “unfortunate.”
“It is unfortunate when people who believe in a say, a similar optimistic vision for the country, end up moving in different directions and end up disagreeing. That’s no fun. It’s not something anyone wants to have to go through,” he said.
He added that the issue was “discussed and picked apart extensively two years ago.”
“I don’t regret the things I chose to do to stand up for Canadians,” Trudeau said.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives have pounced on the excerpt of Wilson-Raybould’s book, which is set to be published on Tuesday — less than a week before the federal election.
“It’s a reminder that Mr. Trudeau will say and do anything to win, and never has any intention of actually putting Canadians and the needs of the country first,” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said on Saturday, after being asked for his thoughts on the allegations.
“I have great respect for Ms. Wilson-Raybould, and I think her departure from politics is yet another sign that Mr. Trudeau has constantly, constantly let people down and misrepresented himself.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh levelled a similar attack against Trudeau on Saturday.
“We’ve always believed what Ms. Jody Wilson-Raybould has had to say,” Singh said.
“We believe that that’s another example of this pattern of behavior that we’re seeing from Mr. Trudeau, of … kicking out strong women in his cabinet.”
Trudeau defended his track record in government when pressed about his handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair on Saturday.
“I have demonstrated throughout these past six years that I am able to build an extraordinary team that delivers for Canadians — strong, thoughtful, independent leaders gathered around me to push in the same direction. I’m proud of the amazing people, of all the amazing people that we’ve been able to gather around to do really big things,” he said.
“I can’t help but think back to those first years of our government where we did really big things with Jody as an important part of the team, and it’s unfortunate to see how things went from there.”