In the aftermath of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s expulsion from the Liberal caucus, Michael McLeod says pressure she faced over SNC-Lavalin was improper, but nobody broke the law and he’s sticking with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau going into the next election.
“I wouldn’t run if I didn’t support the prime minister,” said Northwest Territories’ member of parliament. “Am I happy where we ended up? No. Could we have done things different? I guess in hindsight, maybe we could do an analysis.”
On Tuesday evening and before the nation’s media, Trudeau shared his analysis in a campaign-style speech.
“Civil wars within parties are incredibly damaging because they signal to Canadians that we care more about ourselves,” the prime minister began before turfing Wilson-Raybould and former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott from the party.
Both women had previously resigned from cabinet over what Wilson-Raybould alleges was a sustained effort from the Prime Minister’s Office to have her divert SNC-Lavalin’s trial for fraud and corruption charges.
“It’s become clear that Ms. Wilson-Raybould and Dr. Philpott can no longer remain part of our Liberal team,” said Trudeau. “If they can’t ultimately say they have confidence in this team … then they cannot be part of this team.”
The Québec construction firm and two of its subsidiaries stand accused of bribing Libyan officials for contracts there between 2001 and 2011. If convicted, the company faces a 10-year ban on bidding for federal work.
On top of explosive testimony Wilson-Raybould offered at the Justice committee in February, implicating Trudeau, key figures in his PMO, as well as the nation’s top bureaucrat Michael Wernick, she also released a secret recording between her and privy council clerk Wernick that supported her version of events.
“I think the recording didn’t bring out anything new for me,” said McLeod. “Jody Wilson-Raybould said what happened in her position was improper and I agree with that. Was it illegal? She said no. And there is nothing illegal.”
Asked if Wilson-Raybould prevented a crime by refusing to go along with Trudeau’s desire to divert SNC’s trial – a desire articulated by Wernick several times during the 17-minute conversation – McLeod said, “I guess that will be for the public to decide.”
Political pundits, legal experts, opposition MPs, and even Wilson-Raybould herself insist the credibility of the country’s rule of law is on the line if the government goes easy on SNC-Lavalin in such public fashion, marring Canadians’ confidence in the fairness of their justice system.
Even before Wilson-Raybould released the taped conversation, her testimony to the Justice Committee spurred five former attorneys general—Peter MacKay (Canada), Douglas Grinslade Lewis (Canada), Jonathan Denis (Alberta), Colin Gabelmann (B.C.) and Cecil Clarke (Nova Scotia)—to write RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, urging a criminal investigation for obstruction of justice.
While Québec MP David Lametti was tapped by Trudeau to replace Wilson-Raybould and has not ruled out providing SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement, McLeod declined to take a side on the company’s legal fate.
“You know of course it’s a deal entered into by the prosecutor and the company. It’s not something I have an opinion on, it’s not something I’m responsible with,” said McLeod. “I think Jody Wilson-Raybould analyzed it, that was her job. She didn’t involve me.”
As for hers and Philpott’s fate in the Liberal fold, McLeod said it was a matter of internal deliberation for weeks and his position that either should be allowed to make their case to the caucus.
“I don’t think my voice was among the majority so it came out the way it did,” he said. “They were strong members, people that are strong on Indigenous issues, I really appreciated that. But at the same time I have to look at the big picture and see what’s on the drawing board for the North.”