Canada's Justin Trudeau denies impropriety, offers no apology

Elias Hubbard
March 10, 2019

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his government's handling of a political crisis that could dash his chances of winning re-election in October, while admitting some mistakes had been made.

On Thursday, Trudeau addressed the accusations of backroom brokering and bullying that have been dogging his government, saying he has learned "lessons" from the crisis but denying any wrongdoing.

SNC-Lavalin finds itself at the centre of a political tempest over allegations prime ministerial aides leaned on former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help the company avoid prosecution.

Patty Hajdu, the minister of employment, workforce development and labour, speaks during an announcement at the Thunder Bay Multicultural Association on Thursday, March 7, 2019.

Trudeau was expected to strike a conciliatory tone but at times sounded defensive.

Butts said all they wanted was for Wilson-Raybould to seek an outside legal opinion on the matter from an eminent retired judge.

"If reconciliation is really the government's primary goal and responsibility ..."

In 2015, his government was praised for not only appointing Wilson-Raybould as justice minister and attorney general, but creating a diverse cabinet.

Throughout the news conference, he affirmed much of Wilson-Raybould's account but cast his involvement as a pure-minded effort to protect pensioners and jobs.

Jody Wilson-Raybould said officials kept pressing her to think again even after she made clear she felt the company needed to face a trial.

"We considered she was still open to hearing different arguments, different approaches on what her decision could be".

He also acknowledged mentioning to her that he was speaking as an elected representative from Quebec, where jobs were on the line, but claimed the comment was not "of a partisan nature".

On Thursday, Trudeau apologized for the "erosion" in trust, noting he should have been aware of the breakdown.

He said situations were "experienced differently and I regret that". "There was, you know, two sides being told right now.all the other cabinet (ministers) have supported Trudeau along with many of us, including myself", Sheehan said. He closed by trying to look ahead.

The resignations highlight just how deep-rooted the SNC Lavalin scandal is.

SNC-Lavalin, which employs 9000 people in Canada, was seeking a deferred prosecution agreement to allow the firm to escape with a fine.

The spotlight in the SNC-Lavalin affair has shifted to rookie Justice Minister David Lametti now that a court has rejected the company's bid to force the public prosecutor to pursue an alternative to criminal proceedings.

Trudeau responded to the Globe report by telling the news media that his government did not "direct" her on the matter.

It also bars her from speaking about her reasons for resigning from cabinet on February 12. She hired a renowned lawyer but declined to say more.

On Wednesday, Trudeau's former principal secretary Gerald Butts painted a detailed picture of the thinking around January's cabinet shuffle.

It did not work.

The Canadian leader also maintained that Wilson-Raybould did not come forward to him with her concerns about the pressure she felt around the SNC-Lavalin file, asserting that "one of the things central to my leadership is fostering an environment where my ministers.feel comfortable coming to me when they have concerns".

Trudeau characterized the interactions with Wilson-Raybould as an open debate among colleagues, involving a possible loss of up to 9,000 Canadian jobs.

Mr Wilson-Raybould has said she believes she was demoted for failure to give in to the pressure. She spoke at an International Women's Day breakfast at Ottawa city hall, where she began by warning the several hundred attendees they were going to be disappointed if they'd come to hear her talk about the events of the last week.

Political analysts say Trudeau is safe for now, since he has made clear he wants to stay on and there are no challengers inside the party.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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