Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is denying that his office told former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution.
The Quebec engineering and construction giant has been facing legal trouble over allegations it paid millions of dollars in bribes to get government business in Libya, which would be a crime under Canadian law.
Wilson-Raybould, now minister of Veterans Affairs, said Friday she would not comment on claims that the Prime Minister's Office tried to pressure her to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution in pending legal action against the construction company.
The Conservatives and NDP are demanding investigations by a Commons committee and the federal ethics commissioner into allegations Wilson-Raybould was pressured by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office.
Now, following a report by the Globe and Mail, we have learned what lies behind Wilson-Raybould's dispatch to what effectively appears to be the federal Liberals' ministerial gulag, Veterans Affairs (with no disrespect meant to military veterans).
Neither Wilson-Raybould nor SNC-Lavalin has immediately responded to questions from The Canadian Press about the story.
The federal director of public prosecutions told SNC-Lavalin in October that negotiating a remediation agreement would be inappropriate in this particular case.
When asked about any conversations with Ms. Wilson-Raybould about the SNC-Lavalin prosecution, Mr. Trudeau would only say "we have a tremendous, positive working relationship with all members of our cabinet".
The list includes Lametti, the prime minister's chief of staff Katie Telford, and his principal secretary Gerald Butts.
The former federal attorney general is refusing to either sink or protect her prime minister - but it's clear the days of hugs and mutual admiration tweets are history.
The Official Opposition Leader said the Prime Minister's response Thursday morning was insufficient and scripted. "MPs have a duty to determine what exactly happened here and Justin Trudeau and his office must be forthcoming".
"All this cries out for some serious investigation", he said in a telephone interview from Burnaby, B.C., where he's campaigning for a seat in the House of Commons in a February 25 byelection.
"At the end of the day, Canadians deserve to have a government on their side, on the side of justice, not on the side of a multinational corporation". Among other things, she wrote that "it is a pillar of our democracy that our system of justice be free from even the perception of political interference" and that, as attorney general, she believed she must be "always willing to speak truth to power". Lametti said neither he nor Wilson-Raybould were ever directed or pressured to intervene with the director of public prosecutions to drop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
The fact that such directives must be done publicly would seem to constrain a justice minister from doing anything overtly political.