OTTAWA — Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council, appeared at the House of Commons justice committee Thursday, to answer questions about his knowledge on the SNC-Lavalin affair and whether former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was pressured not to prosecute the company.
Wernick predicted Wilson-Raybould will express concerns about three meetings when she appears at the committee next week, two of which he attended and all of which he maintained did not cross the line into improper pressure on Wilson-Raybould.
Here is Wernick’s version of those events:
Sept. 17, 2018
A meeting involving Wilson-Raybould, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Wernick, two weeks after the director of public prosecutions decided not to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin.
Wernick said Trudeau called the meeting to discuss the Indigenous rights recognition framework which had bogged down due to “a very serious policy difference” between Wilson-Raybould and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, and other colleagues, about how to proceed on the framework.
Almost the entire meeting was devoted to that subject, he said, but Trudeau did also reassure Wilson-Raybould that any decision on whether to instruct the public prosecutor to drop the SNC-Lavalin prosecution was hers alone.
Dec. 18, 2018
A meeting between the prime minister’s staff and Wilson-Raybould’s chief of staff. Wernick, who wasn’t involved, did not provide any details.
Dec. 19, 2018
A conversation between Wilson-Raybould and Wernick.
Wernick said he was trying to get a handle on the issues that might confront the government when Parliament resumed sitting in January. He wanted to know, among other things, whether a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin was still an option and said he “conveyed to her that a lot of her colleagues and the prime minister were quite anxious about what they were hearing and reading in the business press … about the company moving or closing” if the prosecution continued. There were fears it would have consequences for innocent employees, shareholders, pensioners, third-party suppliers and affected communities.
Wernick said he’s confident the conversation was “within the boundaries of what’s lawful and appropriate. I was informing the minister of context. She may have another view of the conversation but that’s something that the ethics commissioner could sort out.”
The Canadian Press