Feb. 28 (UPI) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denied accusations Thursday that he attempted to intervene in a corruption investigation targeting a major Canadian contractor.
Trudeau’s comments came a day after former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said Trudeau pressured her, as Canada’s top prosecutor, to abandon the investigation of SNC-Lavalin.
She said the intervention included threats from Trudeau and senior staff.
Thursday, Trudeau said he’s trying to determine whether Wilson-Raybould will be allowed to remain in the Liberal caucus. She left the justice ministry in January to head the veterans affairs ministry. She resigned from that post earlier this month.
The company had lobbied for a “remediation agreement” to pay a fine and avoid trial. If convicted of charges, SNC-Lavalin would be banned for 10 years from bidding for federal contracts.
In dramatic testimony Wednesday, Wilson-Raybould said Trudeau called her a week before a cabinet shuffle last month and advised her that she would effectively be reassigned.
“I will not go into details of this call, or subsequent communications about the shuffle, but I will say that I stated I believed the reason was because of the SNC matter. They denied this to be the case,” she said.
Trudeau said Thursday he disagreed Wilson-Raybould’s account of events, adding that any lobbying he or his staff did in SNC-Lavalin’s behalf was done to protect jobs.
“I have taken knowledge of her testimony and there are still reflections to have on next steps,” he said, adding that her departure from the justice ministry had nothing to do with SNC-Lavalin.
“Had [former treasury board president] Scott Brison not stepped down, Jody Wilson-Raybould would still be minister of justice and attorney general of Canada,” he said.
Trudeau said it will be up to ethics commissioner Mario Dion to determine who’s telling the truth.
“Canadians need to know that we have an officer of Parliament who is tasked with a specific role to make sure that in questions where there are disagreements amongst politicians, amongst elected officials, there is an arbiter who is empowered to be like a judge,” he said.
Some in Canada’s Conservative Party have urged the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to investigate, and some called for Trudeau’s resignation.
Canadian lawmakers will hold an emergency debate Thursday night on the matter before the justice committee.