Gerald Butts full statement to the Commons justice committee on SNC-Lavalin

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancels visit to Regina

Justin Trudeau has cancelled his planned trip to Regina for Tuesday afternoon

Gerald Butts, former principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, prepares to appear before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights regarding the SNC Lavalin Affair, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, March 6, 2019.

Wilson-Raybould testified she believes she lost the justice job because she didn't give in to "sustained" and "inappropriate pressure" to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin.

Since Wilson-Raybould's testimony, opposition parties have called for Wernick, who is supposed to be non-partisan, to be fired. However, Butts said he was unaware she had drawn any conclusion, she was encouraged to seek independent legal counsel, but the decision was her's alone.

Treasury Board president Jane Philpott, considered a star minister, said in a resignation letter that it was "untenable" for her to continue in the Cabinet because she lost confidence and could not defend the government.

In his testimony following Butts', top civil servant Michael Wernick said that it was made clear to Wilson-Raybould that she was the decider.

Gerry Butts told the House justice committee Wednesday that the former attorney general only raised the issue of the DPA with him once before the shuffle - at the tail-end of a dinner at the Château Laurier hotel - and never framed the overtures of PMO or Privy Council Office staff on the issue as inappropriate.

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She accused Trudeau, Butts, other senior staff in the Prime Minister's Office, Wernick and Finance Minister Bill Morneau's office of inappropriately pressuring her to halt a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. He said that the first time he learned that the Wilson-Raybould had reached a final decision in September on the SNC-Lavalin case was when she testified last week.

SNC-Lavalin faces trial on fraud charges relating to bribes the company is said to have offered to Libyan officials to influence the awarding of contracts between 2001 and 2011.

Gerry Butts, an architect of Trudeau's 2015 victory and a longtime friend, quit as his principal secretary last month, saying he did not want to become a distraction as the government braces for a tough general election in eight months.

Butts laid the groundwork for all of that Wednesday when he told the committee there was a breakdown in the relationship between the prime minister and his former attorney general.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould said she is still limited as to what she can say, since a cabinet order permitting her to speak without violating solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality does not apply to conversations that took place after she was shuffled out of the justice portfolio or in relation to her resignation.

According to Butts, Wilson-Raybould rejected the move, citing her decades of opposition to the Indian Act, which she would be responsible for enforcing in the role.

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Butts' testimony is expected to contradict Wilson-Raybould's version of events, in some detail.

As a result, Butts said Trudeau and the PMO determined that only Jane Philpott had the capacity and institutional knowledge to take over the complicated role, but anxious what signal it would send by shuffling one of its most capable ministers from the Indigenous Services portfolio.

In the wake of testimony from the prime minister's former right hand man Gerald Butts and new information from Michael Wernick, clerk of the privy council, Chris Hall sits down with Peter Donolo, director of communications for former prime minister Jean Chretien, for his take on the SNC-Lavalin scandal and what should happen next.

"I made no threats to the former attorney general".

The Vancouver Granville MP said she would happily comply. "That is not a fair commentary because it has nothing to do with friendship and everything to do with her (Philpott's) set of values and how she felt about standing there and toeing the cabinet line when she didn't believe a word that the prime minister was saying".

"I will note, as I indicated at the time, my statement to the committee was not a complete account but only a detailed summary".

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