Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has moved to shore up support in his Liberal caucus as the aftershocks of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation from cabinet rocked both Parliament Hill and members of his own party.
Multiple caucus sources told CBC News that Trudeau convened an extraordinary caucus meeting by telephone Tuesday evening to reassure them that nothing untoward had taken place in his office’s interactions with Wilson-Raybould over the SNC-Lavalin case when she was justice minister.
But unlike the party’s normal caucus meetings, this was a one-way call — with Trudeau doing the talking. Caucus members were not able to ask Trudeau questions. MPs were told to follow up with the PMO or regional offices.
MPs on the call that spoke to CBC News on condition their names not be used said they believed Trudeau when he told them neither he nor the PMO had pressed Wilson-Raybould.
Multiple MPs also told CBC News that while there was a consensus in caucus that Wilson-Raybould should no longer sit at the cabinet table, there was no justifiable reason to remove the MP for Vancouver-Granville from the Liberal caucus.
The unusual call to Liberal MPs came as Trudeau’s government scrambled to deal with the aftershocks of Wilson-Raybould’s abrupt resignation Tuesday as Veterans Affairs minister.
Her resignation came only days after a Globe and Mail report, quoting anonymous sources, said members of the Prime Minister’s Office tried to get Wilson-Raybould to help Quebec construction giant SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution on bribery and fraud charges through a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA).
The SNC-Lavalin case is before a court in Montreal, charged with fraud and corruption in connection with payments of nearly $48 million to public officials in Libya under Moammar Gadhafi’s government and allegations it defrauded Libyan organizations of an estimated $130 million. Its preliminary hearing is scheduled to resume Friday.
To date, the director of public prosecutions has refused to allow the company to avoid a trial by negotiating a DPA or remediation agreement.
‘I do wish her well’
During the political firestorm that followed the report, Wilson-Raybould refused to comment on the case, saying she was still bound by solicitor-client privilege.
MaryAnn Mihychuk, who served with Wilson-Raybould in cabinet until January 2017, said neither Trudeau nor his staff ever pressured her when she was minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.
“I made a lot of change and I really pushed the envelope … I never had a call from the prime minister or the Prime Minister’s Office to push me in a certain direction.”
Some Liberal MPs suggested anonymously in media reports that Wilson-Raybould was difficult to deal with and didn’t have friends in caucus. Mihychuk said that’s not the case.
“I feel she’s a good friend and she is an amazing leader so I do wish her well.”
Mihychuk said Wilson-Raybould also worked closely with fellow cabinet minister Jane Philpott, who has supported Wilson-Raybould on social media in the wake of her resignation.
“Jane and Jody were a team right from the start. They were working immediately on assisted dying for Canada, which has been a really terrific program, helping a lot of people. But it was complicated, so they spent a lot of time together.”
Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at [email protected]