Here are the witnesses the Liberals plan to call to the justice committee — and the big names they left out

OTTAWA — The opposition parties went into Wednesday’s meeting of the Commons justice committee seeking an in-depth investigation of the events leading to former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation from cabinet.

Instead they got a Liberal motion that appears to set up a more academic study of the legal issues at play — and fails to invite key players in the story, including Wilson-Raybould herself. The Liberals also voted down a motion to call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to waive solicitor-client privilege on the matter.

“That is not an investigation, that is just simply going through the motions,” said NDP MP Nathan Cullen after the meeting. “Some small faint hope remains, but it’s very small, having watched them batten down the hatches today.”

Conservative MP Michael Cooper called the Liberal motion a “cover-up.” Lisa Raitt, the Conservative justice critic, told reporters that failing to invite Wilson-Raybould shows the Liberals aren’t intent on finding answers.

“Clearly something has happened that has caused her to want to leave cabinet,” she said. “There’s something there, and we just want to hear from her.”

At issue is an allegation aired by confidential sources in The Globe and Mail that members of the Prime Minister’s Office pressured Wilson-Raybould to stay criminal proceedings against the massive construction firm SNC-Lavalin. Such pressure would violate a constitutional principle — known as the Shawcross doctrine — that the attorney general is not to be instructed or pressured on criminal cases by cabinet colleagues.

The Conservatives and NDP had planned a motion that would see the committee investigate whether there was attempted political interference in the SNC-Lavalin case by the Prime Minister’s Office, and had an extensive list of witnesses to be invited by the committee.

But the Liberal MPs on the committee instead introduced their own motion and voted down all opposition amendments to it. The Liberal motion is for the committee to “examine remediation agreements, the Shawcross doctrine, and the discussions between the office of the attorney general and government colleagues.”

The witness list, however, only included three names: David Lametti, the current justice minister and attorney general; Nathalie Drouin, the deputy justice minister and attorney general; and Michael Wernick, the clerk of the privy council. None are directly involved in allegedly pressuring Wilson-Raybould.

The opposition tried to add Wilson-Raybould and two senior Prime Minister’s Office staff — Gerald Butts and Mathieu Bouchard — to the witness list, but it was defeated by the Liberals.

The committee is meeting again on Tuesday in a closed-door session to consider adding more witnesses, as is the usual practice for committees. The Liberals voted against an amendment to make that discussion public.

Conservative Deputy leader Lisa Raitt told reporters that failing to invite Jody Wilson-Raybould to the justice committee shows the Liberals aren’t intent on finding answers.

Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault, who passed the motion, defended the Liberal move as a compromise.

“It’s a reasonable motion that addresses the fundamental issues,” he said. “It’s fair to say that people were expecting us to come here, vote down the Conservative motion, and not move at all.”

Here are the roles played by witnesses on the Liberal list, and the major names left off it:

Witnesses the Liberal motion invites

Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti

Lametti replaced Wilson-Raybould in the January cabinet shuffle that saw her demoted to Minister of Veterans Affairs. Over the weekend, he told CTV that he didn’t think there was enough evidence to prompt a committee investigation, and saw “no reason” to recuse himself from discussions about SNC-Lavalin and whether a deferred prosecution agreement is appropriate.

Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General Nathalie Drouin

Drouin is in charge of the public service side of the justice ministry, and reports to Lametti. She was appointed in June 2017, meaning she also held the office during Wilson-Raybould’s tenure. There is no evidence so far that Drouin has any direct involvement in the matters that caused Wilson-Raybould to resign.

Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick

In addition to his role as Canada’s top civil servant and advisor to cabinet, Wernick’s name has come up twice in relation to the controversy. According to the PMO, Wilson-Raybould brought up SNC-Lavalin with Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, at a meeting in December, and Butts told her to speak with Wernick. According to the Globe’s initial report, Wernick also rebuked Wilson-Raybould for four speeches that accused the Liberal government of double-speak on Indigenous affairs.

Witnesses the Liberals voted against calling

Former Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould

Trudeau has told reporters he met with Wilson-Raybould in September, when she was still Attorney General, on the topic of SNC-Lavalin — but said he told her the decision was hers alone. Wilson-Raybould appears to be bound from speaking on the matter by a combination of solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidence. But upon her resignation, she retained a former Supreme Court of Canada justice as counsel to help determine what she can say.

Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Gerald Butts

As one of Trudeau’s top two political aides, Butts would play a large role in shaping the Liberal strategy on SNC-Lavalin. The PMO says he suggested Wilson-Raybould speak to Wernick on that topic in December. Butts also met with lobbyists for the company in 2017, discussing, according to the federal lobbying registry, “justice and law enforcement.”

Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister Mathieu Bouchard

Mathieu Bouchard, who helps stickhandle Quebec issues for Trudeau, is the person in the PMO most frequently lobbied by SNC-Lavalin, with 13 meetings listed since the beginning of 2017. SNC-Lavalin had been overtly asking for the Liberals to put an option for deferred prosecution agreements into law, which it did in the 2018 federal budget.

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