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Conservatives call for emergency meeting after PMO, SNC-Lavalin report

Last Updated Feb 8, 2019 at 11:20 am PDT

FILE - Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – The federal opposition is calling for an emergency committee meeting to investigate allegations the Prime Minister’s Office may have tried to politically interfere with criminal proceedings against Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says the explanations from the prime minister and his team in the wake of the allegations, reported in the Globe and Mail, simply aren’t good enough.

That’s why he says his party will request an emergency Justice Committee Meeting to call witnesses and get answers.

“This matter strikes at the very heart of our rule of law and calls into serious question the ethics and conduct of those at the highest level,” he said.

He is also warning the Liberals not to block the efforts for a meeting.

“If the Liberals vote this down, it is quite clear that there is a cover up going on,” he added.

Scheer says he supports an NDP call for an investigation, noting the Canadian Civil Liberties Association is calling for a criminal investigation.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has said the prime minister should have nothing to fear from an independent investigation by the federal ethics commissioner if, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insists, the allegations are not true.

“All this cries out for some serious investigation,” Singh said in a telephone interview with the Canadian Press. “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.”

The New Democrats have since officially requested an investigation from the Ethic’s Commissioner.

He noted the timeline of events is suspicious.

SNC-Lavalin was charged in 2015 by the RCMP and openly called for a remediation agreement to avoid damaging the company, a major employer in Quebec. After lobbying by the company of government officials, including those in the PMO, the government included in its 2018 budget a Criminal Code amendment to allow such agreements to be negotiated in cases of corporate crime, as is done in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The Globe reports top officials in the Prime Minister’s Office tried to pressure then-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to drop criminal prosecution against the company.

In a brief statement to the media, Wilson-Raybould — who is now the Veterans Affairs Minister — says she can’t discuss the matter because she is bound by solicitor-client privilege.

Meantime, the parliamentary secretary to justice has offered the most sweeping denial yet from the Trudeau government.

“At no point has the current minister of justice, or the former minister of justice, been pressured or directed,” Arif Virani said.