Jody Wilson-Raybould now says she was contacted by the RCMP in the spring over the SNC-Lavalin affair, CBC News has learned.
The former Liberal justice minister and attorney general, who now sits as an Independent MP, was asked by CBC News Network’s Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos on Thursday if she had been contacted by the RCMP.
“They haven’t reached out to me on this, no,” Wilson-Raybould replied.
Today, she issued a statement to CBC to clarify.
“To clarify my answer from yesterday — I was asked if the RCMP had contacted me in response to the ethics commissioner’s report and specifically since the RCMP’s public statement yesterday. The answer is no,” she wrote.
“However, and after clarifying with the RCMP, I can confirm that I was contacted by them this past spring regarding matters that first came to the public’s attention on February 7, 2019 in a Globe and Mail article. I will make no further statement regarding the content of my discussions and communications with the RCMP.”
During the Thursday interview, Wilson-Raybould told Kapelos that she still believes there was nothing criminal about the actions of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, or the staff acting under his direction, on the SNC-Lavalin file.
Just because the RCMP spoke to the former justice minister in the spring it does not mean there is an active investigation.
According to the Conflict of Interest Act, the ethics commissioner must immediately suspend a probe if a police investigation is launched into the same matter, or if a charge has been laid. The commissioner also cannot restart their investigation until that police investigation has been concluded and the charges disposed of.
Usually the Mounties decline to make public statements unless charges are laid, but earlier this week RCMP spokesperson Chantal Payette had more to say.
“The RCMP is examining this matter carefully with all available information and will take appropriate actions as required,” she said. “It would be inappropriate for us to provide anymore comments on this matter at this time.”
In a statement to CBC News, the RCMP said today that it will not be commenting further on the matter.
A spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s Office told CBC News that no one from the PMO has been contacted by the RCMP.
The ethics violation
Earlier this week Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion found Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by trying to influence Wilson-Raybould to overrule a decision denying a deferred prosecution agreement to Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.
In his report released Wednesday, Dion wrote, “The evidence showed there were many ways in which Mr. Trudeau, either directly or through the actions of those under his direction, sought to influence the attorney general.”
“The prime minister, directly and through his senior officials, used various means to exert influence over Ms. Wilson‑Raybould. The authority of the prime minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the director of public prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson‑Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer,” Dion said.
Dion found Trudeau contravened Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act through a series of “flagrant attempts to influence” Wilson‑Raybould to reach an agreement with SNC-Lavalin to avoid criminal prosecution. That section of the code prohibits any official responsible for high level decision-making in government from seeking to influence the decision of another person to “improperly further another person’s private interests.”
SNC is facing bribery and fraud charges related to alleged payments of close to $50 million to public officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011 to secure government contracts. The company is due back in court Sept. 20.
“We recognize the way that this happened shouldn’t have happened. I take responsibility for the mistakes that I made,” Trudeau said, adding that he disagrees with Dion’s assertion in the report that any contact with the attorney general on the SNC-Lavalin file was improper.
‘You need to come clean’
In a statement, Wilson-Raybould said Dion’s report was a vindication of sorts because it “confirms critical facts, consistent with what I shared with Canadians, and affirms the position I have taken from the outset,” namely, that there “were multiple attempts to improperly influence my decision.”
As part of its bid to keep the controversy top of mind with voters, the Conservative party released Friday a video of a brief encounter between Scheer and Trudeau during a street party a day earlier in Dieppe, N.B., to celebrate National Acadian Day.
In it, Trudeau, dressed casually and flapping a noisemaker, calls to “Andrew” and comes through the crowd of revellers to shake his hand. Scheer’s words can’t be heard clearly, but according to subtitles provided by the party, he tells the prime minister: “You have to stop lying to Canadians. You need to come clean.”
Trudeau responds with a jaunty “Oh, this is a good day today,” and turns away as Scheer waves a small Acadian flag.