NewsAlert: PM acknowledges 'erosion of trust' between office and former minister

Canadian PM Trudeau's former top aide testifies in his defence

NewsAlert: PM acknowledges 'erosion of trust' between office and former minister

Butts testified before the House of Commons justice committee Wednesday, methodically and calmly rebutting explosive testimony from Wilson-Raybould the week before that she was relentlessly pressured last fall - and even received veiled threats about her future as justice minister - to intervene in the criminal trial of the Montreal engineering giant.

She resigned nearly a month after former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from federal cabinet.

But if Wilson-Raybould and the Director of Public Prosecutions had arrived at their final conclusion, the only objective outside advice could serve would be to have their decision reversed.

Goodale would not speculate on what Butts would or should say, except to say that he expects honesty from the former senior aide.

Before beginning to speak, the Liberal majority on the committee voted down a Conservative motion for Butts to be sworn in to testify under oath.

"How can you be credible to us when Ms. Wilson-Raybould gave us such clear consistent testimony of a pattern of interference in an independent prosecution?" asked legislator Charlie Angus of the left-leaning New Democrats. If it's convicted, SNC-Lavalin could be banned from federal contracts for 10 years.

Butts provided the committee Wednesday with a different view on those meetings, saying 11 meetings and calls in four months is hardly a large number on an important file, and that Wilson-Raybould never told Butts or Trudeau she was unhappy about them until she was told she was shuffled out of what she called her "dream job" as justice minister.

That agreement would have allowed the firm to avoid a criminal trial and instead agree to alternative terms or conditions, like penalties or enhanced compliance measures. Butts said all they wanted was for Wilson-Raybould to seek an outside legal opinion on the matter from an eminent retired judge.

Drouin indicated that SNC-Lavalin was just one of a host of issues she was asked to include in briefing notes.

"I don't think 9,000 people lose their jobs", said Frederic Bastien, analyst at Raymond James based in Vancouver.

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"This is a story of two people who hold high office-the Prime Minister and the former attorney general-both of whom did their jobs to the best of their abilities, as did their respective staff", Butts said early on in his remarks. And by the end of the day's testimony, it was obvious Wilson-Raybould needed to return to the witness stand.

Deputy justice minister Nathalie Drouin said her department was made aware on September 4 that the director of public prosecutions had decided SNC-Lavalin was not eligible for a remediation agreement.

Butts did not provide specific evidence to justify the 9,000 figure, but said he was briefed by Finance officials on the matter several times.

He said clearly that was not the case and he wishes she had come to him to tell him she did not like the contacts she was receiving.

Butts said the shuffle had "absolutely nothing to do with the SNC-Lavalin" issue and was necessitated after Scott Brison announced that he was going to step down as Treasury Board president. As long as she was justice minister, Wilson-Raybould made no complaints.

Wilson-Raybould showed little sign Wednesday of relenting. Wernick has also been pictured wearing the pin during his time as deputy minister in the Department of Indigenous Affairs.

Bothwell said Trudeau is not like his father, the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who swept to office in 1968 on a wave of support dubbed "Trudeaumania" and governed for most of the next two decades.

Jordan said she does not have concerns that her own future decisions as a cabinet minister could be undermined, and said she's always felt that Trudeau has "had her back".

Butts said Wilson-Raybould turned down the offer, explaining that she had spent her life opposed to the Indian Act and couldn't be in charge of the programs administered under its authority.

After his first appearance, in which he said no improper influence was ever applied to Wilson-Raybould, he was accused of being partisan and the NDP went so far as to demand he resign or be fired for failing his duty to remain politically neutral.

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