Canada's Trudeau Tries To Quell Growing Political Scandal

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a Liberal Climate Action Rally in Toronto Monday

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a Liberal Climate Action Rally in Toronto Monday

Gerald Butts is testifying at the House of Commons justice committee, to tell what he describes as a "very different" version of events from former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould's explosive testimony last month.

Trudeau ultimately moved Wilson-Raybould to Veterans Affairs, and Butts said that days later, Wilson-Raybould accused them of being punishing her for refusing to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin case.

Despite all of his huggy-bear, kissy-face posturing in front of the committee, including the claim that he didn't want to "cast aspersions" on his former colleague, Butts tossed former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould into the wood chipper. The disturbing part is that he doesn't seem to realize that it's exactly this attitude that has appalled and turned off Canadians since the SNC-Lavalin scandal was uncovered.

In his heavily anticipated address to the committee, Butts, who resigned as Trudeau's principal secretary last month, largely disputed the allegations made last week by Wilson-Raybould, saying the PMO only appealed to her to seek out an external legal opinion on the DPA, which she refused.

He also cast doubts on Wilson-Raybould's motivations by pointing out that did not come forward sooner.

"It was our obligation to exhaustively consider options the law allows ... to demonstrate that (the decision) was taken with great care and careful consideration of their livelihood".

Philpott, who had previously served as minister of health and Indigenous services prior to her appointment as Treasury Board head in January, announced her resignation on Monday in a statement saying that there "can be a cost to acting on one's principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them".

Democracy Watch has labelled the current ethics investigation as "biased" and said it should be delegated to a provincial commissioner.

In his own testimony, Butts attempted to refute Wilson-Raybould's account, suggesting that high-level discussions of the Lavalin matter focused appropriately on how the case might affect jobs and employment, not on political repercussions of the case.

A motion was put forward at the committee to have Wilson-Raybould return to respond to Butts' testimony, but it was defeated by the Liberal majority on the committee.

Based on the briefings he received, Butts said the DPA could be reached anytime before a verdict is rendered, and as such, Wilson-Raybould could not have completely made up her mind.

"I will tell the truth", Butts told the committee as he started his opening statement.

SNC-Lavalin, its worldwide arm and another subsidiary are accused of having offered Can$47 million (US$36 million) in bribes to Libyan officials and of defrauding the Libyan government of Can$130 million.

"I take my fair share of responsibility for that tragic state of affairs".

Andrew Scheer, leader of the opposition Conservative Party, has called on Trudeau to resign and is asking police to investigate.

"This blow won't bring down the government, and Trudeau, like Diefenbaker, will survive and fight back", Wiseman said. 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.

If Trudeau should lose another Cabinet minister before the election his leadership could be called into question and already shaken Liberals could rebel.

Small Business Minister Mary Ng said in an interview that she does not see the cabinet departures as having an impact on the Liberal government's feminist agenda.

Time will tell how the scandal influences the country's perception of their leader, and if those who voted for Trudeau in the last election turn against him when Canada go to the polls in October.

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