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Wilson-Raybould to reveal more details, documents on SNC-Lavalin affair

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OTTAWA — Liberals are urging former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to use her parliamentary privilege to tell the House of Commons whatever she wants about the SNC-Lavalin affair.

But they want her and her former cabinet ally Jane Philpott to tell their stories in full all at once, rather than dragging out the controversy with partial statements and hints of more to come, which have overshadowed all other aspects of the government’s agenda.

“That should happen right away,” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Friday. “If there are serious concerns, we should all be concerned, but we’ve also got to continue delivering what we’re delivering for Canadians.”

McKenna made the comment shortly after Wilson-Raybould informed the House of Commons justice committee that she intends to make a written submission revealing more about her accusation that she faced improper pressure last fall to avert a criminal prosecution of Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

In a letter to the committee, Wilson-Raybould said she will provide “copies of text messages and emails” that she referred to last month when she testified for nearly four hours before the committee. She will also make a written submission, based on “relevant facts and evidence in my possession that further clarify statements I made and elucidate the accuracy and nature of statements by witnesses in testimony that came after my committee appearance.”

Her written statement will be “within the confines of the waiver of cabinet confidence and solicitor-client privilege” she was granted before testifying orally, she said. That waiver covers up until Jan. 14, when she was shuffled out of her dual role as justice minister and attorney general.

When she testified in person, Wilson-Raybould said she’d suffered a months-long campaign, pushed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office, to get her to order a “deferred prosecution agreement” be offered to SNC-Lavalin over its allegedly corrupt dealings in Libya. She was followed by former prime ministerial aide Gerald Butts, who said there were miscommunications but no improper pressure, and then-Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick, who denied Wilson-Raybould’s allegation that he’d issued veiled threats about her place in cabinet on the prime minister’s behalf.

Wilson-Raybould’s letter came the day after former cabinet ally Jane Philpott fanned the SNC-Lavalin fire in an interview with Maclean’s magazine, saying there is “much more to the story” — a report that landed in the midst of a 31-hour, Conservative-orchestrated filibuster over the controversy.

The filibuster, which continued until almost 1 a.m. Friday, was intended to protest Trudeau’s refusal to offer a blanket waiver of privilege and confidentiality that Wilson-Raybould has claimed is necessary if she is to fully tell her side of the story — including things that occurred after her move to Veterans Affairs until her resignation from cabinet a month later.

Philpott resigned from cabinet early this month, saying she’d lost confidence in the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin case. Both former ministers remain in the Liberal caucus and intend to seek re-election this fall as Liberals but their continued stirring of the pot is testing the patience of their colleagues.

Liberal MPs publicly professed Friday to be comfortable with the pair remaining in caucus, in keeping with Trudeau’s argument that diversity of opinion within Liberal ranks is a good thing .

The Liberal-dominated justice committee shut down its investigation into the affair on Tuesday, with Liberal members concluding no rules or laws were broken. That denied Wilson-Raybould a potential opportunity to testify again and respond in person to Butts’s and Wernick’s accounts.

A different set of Liberal MPs will likely reject a bid by the Conservatives to launch a separate investigation through the Commons ethics committee next week.

Still, Toronto Liberal MP Adam Vaughan said nothing is stopping the ex-ministers from saying whatever they want in the Commons, where they are protected by parliamentary privilege from lawsuits.

“If they want to tell their story, they have the best seat in the house in this country to do so. Parliamentary privilege allows them to tell their truth and my advice to both of them is avail yourself of the seat you have in the House of Commons,” he said. “Any member can rise at any time on a point of privilege and make a statement.”

But Conservative House leader Candice Bergen said suggestions that parliamentary privilege frees the former ministers to say what they like is “a smokescreen.”  She argued that opportunities to speak at length in the Commons are limited and continued to push for a blanket waiver to let the pair testify in a committee hearing.

Wilson-Raybould “has things she needs to tell Canadians and we need to get to the bottom of this,” Bergen said.

At an event in Thunder Bay, Ont., on Friday afternoon, Trudeau once again shrugged off the Opposition’s demand for a broader waiver, arguing that the original waiver was “unprecedented” and allowed Wilson-Raybould to talk “entirely and completely” about the question he puts at the core of the controversy: whether she was pressured unduly on the SNC-Lavalin case during her time as attorney general.

“She testified for four hours … There has been a full airing at the justice committee,” Trudeau said, noting that the federal ethics commissioner is also conducting his own investigation.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press




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China asks for suspension of Canadian meat, citing forged certificates

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OTTAWA — The Chinese Embassy said Tuesday it has asked Canada to suspended all meat exports, a surprise move that comes amid the diplomatic dispute over the December arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

The latest Chinese move comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to depart Wednesday for a G20 leaders’ summit in Japan, where he is expected to rely on U.S. President Donald Trump to raise the plight of two detained Canadians during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The embassy said in a statement to The Canadian Press on Tuesday that this latest move follows Chinese customs inspectors’ detection of residue from a restricted feed additive, called ractopamine, in a batch of Canadian pork products. The additive has permitted uses in Canada but is banned in China.

“The subsequent investigation revealed that the official veterinary health certificates attached to the batch of pork exported to China were counterfeit and the number of those forgery certificates was up to 188. The Canadian side believes that this incident is criminal offence,” said the embassy statement.

“These forged certificates were sent to the Chinese regulatory authorities through Canadian official certificate notification channel, which reflects that the Canadian meat export supervision system exists obvious safety loopholes.”

China is therefore taking “urgent preventive measures” to protect Chinese customers and has asked the Canadian government to suspend all meat-export certificates, the embassy said.

“We hope the Canadian side would attach great importance to this incident, complete the investigation as soon as possible and take effective measures to ensure the safety of food exported to China in a more responsible manner.”

A spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau did not immediately comment on the report.

A report in the newspaper Journal de Quebec, which first reported the story, quotes a Montreal-based diplomat with the Chinese consulate-general as saying the ban is temporary.

China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor and sentenced another Canadian to death in an apparent attempt to pressure for Meng’s release.

China has also stopped imports of Canadian canola and has suspended import permits for three pork producers.

A senior Canadian government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the dispute, described the matter as a “technical issue.”

The official said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is “seized with the issue and looking into the matter to ensure that all the rules are being followed.”

The CFIA is working with Chinese officials to resolve the matter.

“This is a technical issue related to potentially fraudulent permits,” said the official. “We stand by the quality of Canadian products.”

The Conservatives blamed Trudeau.

“Conservatives know that Canadian farmers produce some of the highest-quality meat in the world. Any assertion by the Chinese government to the contrary is both false and baseless,” said a statement from Tory agriculture critic Luc Berthold. “It is clear that this is not an issue of food safety, but a political issue caused by Justin Trudeau’s incompetence and weakness on the world stage.”

Berthold said Trudeau has to “personally raise this issue” with Xi in at the G20 meeting and demand the trade barriers be lifted.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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Report: China bans all Canadian meat before G20 as Trudeau turns to Trump on detainees

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OTTAWA — A report in a Quebec newspaper says China has suspended all Canadian meat exports in a dramatic escalation of its diplomatic dispute with Canada over the December arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

The latest Chinese move comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to depart Wednesday for the G20 leaders’ summit, where he is expected to rely on U.S. President Donald Trump to raise the plight of two detained Canadians during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

A report in the newspaper Journal de Quebec quotes a Montreal-based diplomat with the Chinese consulate-general as saying the ban is temporary.

The diplomat says the move is being taken because about 100 faked veterinary health certificates have been identified on exported meat products.

A spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has yet to comment on the report.

China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor and sentenced another Canadian to death in an apparent attempt to pressure for Meng’s release.

China has also stopped imports of Canadian canola and has suspended export permits for three pork producers.

The Canadian Press

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