Former Trudeau Adviser Butts Testifies Before Commons Justice Committee

Former Trudeau Adviser Butts Testifies Before Commons Justice Committee

Former Trudeau Adviser Butts Testifies Before Commons Justice Committee

A onetime senior aide to Justin Trudeau, Gerald Butts, defended the Canadian Prime Minister in a testimony given to the House of Commons justice committee on Wednesday, arguing that there was no misconduct involved in the dismissal of former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, or in her investigation into engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

The firm, which employs 9,000 people in Canada, is based in the province of Quebec, where Trudeau's Liberals need to pick up seats to win October's federal election. "And we also made it clear that she was free to accept that opinion, or not", he said. It was not about second guessing the decision.

Wilson-Raybould said that being attorney general and justice minister was her "dream job", Butts testified, and that she wanted to remain in that post. One of those was successful last summer, when the Federal Court of Appeal tore up cabinet approval for the expansion project on the grounds of insufficient environmental and Indigenous consultations. He repeated his claim that he never applied inappropriate pressure on, or issued veiled threats against, Wilson-Raybould.

Butts said all officials working on the file knew that the decision to direct Director of Public Prosecutions Kathleen Roussel to enter into negotiations on a DPA or remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin was exclusively at the discretion of the attorney general.

In testimony before the committee, Wilson-Raybould named 11 government officials, including Butts, saying they "urged me to take partisan political considerations into account, which was clearly improper".

"I think women across the country are looking at that and understanding it", she said.

Trudeau's Liberal government has been rocked for weeks by the snowballing scandal, which has triggered the resignation of two cabinet ministers and badly tarnished the image of the golden boy premier.

It was in that light that Butts explained efforts to get Wilson-Raybould to see an outside legal opinion, even though she seemed bent on sticking with the decision of the director of public prosecutions (DPP) not to invite the company to negotiate a remediation agreement.

But in what Wilson-Raybould depicted as a "consistent and sustained" pattern of political meddling, there were calendar squares Butts did not directly contradict. It was only after she was demoted from her "dream job" that she began to complain about interference in the SNC-Lavalin file.

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But, a spokeswoman for the company said Trudeau changed his schedule.

Butts chose to wear a crossed miner's pick and shovel and in his testimony drew parallels between events during his childhood in Cape Breton, where coal-mining was once dominant, and the potential outcome in the wake of a prosecution against SNC-Lavalin.

According to Butts, Wilson-Raybould rejected the move, citing her decades of opposition to the Indian Act, which she would be responsible for enforcing in the role.

"I take my fair share of responsibility for that tragic state of affairs". They came from members of Canada's largest opposition party, the Conservatives, but also from lawmakers representing Trudeau's Liberal Party and two influential left-of-center parties, the New Democratic Party and the Greens.

Liberal legislators on the committee appeared relieved after the testimony by Butts, telling reporters he had clearly done nothing inappropriate.

"(Butts') evidence simply defies all logic", he said.

Butts said he regrets that Wilson-Raybould's trust and faith in her colleagues have eroded, but all the officials named in Wilson-Raybould's testimony have done nothing wrong.

Butts' defence to the explosive allegations from the former AG can be summed up in a single word: jobs.

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