FALL RIVER: Darrell Samson didn’t mince words when asked for reaction to the testimony by former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould before the Justice Committee in Ottawa.
The Liberal MP for Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook, unlike some MPs and Cabinet members, wasn’t afraid to answer questions about the comments she said, including comments she said that felt like “veiled threats” and were political interference.
Wilson-Raybould testified before the House of Commons justice committee on Feb. 27, documenting in fine detail what she described as a campaign by senior members of the Prime Minister’s Office to pressure her to reach an agreement with SNC-Lavalin to help the engineering firm avoid criminal prosecution.
She described what she considered an inappropriate attempt by political staffers, and even the most senior bureaucrat in the country, Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, to pressure her to overrule the director of public prosecutions and negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with SNC-Lavalin. The DPA would allow the company to avoid a trial over allegations it used bribery to secure government contracts in Libya.
The former justice minister told the committee she believed the sustained pressure was inappropriate, but that it wasn’t illegal. She also said there were “veiled threats.”“
Samson said it’s not an easy situation, but the responsibility of MPs are to focus on the job at hand, running the country.
“I think we should note that she did state in her testimony that the Prime Minister told her several times that it was her decision to take,” said Samson. “That is very important. She did say that the PMO’s office indicated it did not want to cross the line, and finally she said there was nothing, in her opinion, that was illegal.”
He said that piece and the Ethics Commission doing their work, which is an independent part of Parliament, and the Justice Committee doing interviews, there is lots of information being provided.
“This is something on the side, that is very important don’t get me wrong,” he said.
Seniors Minister Filomena Tassi was in Truro and the Halifax area on March 7 and March 8. The Laker asked her to respond following a speech she gave at an International Women’s Day event at the Sackville Legion to what Wilson-Raybould said.
“In this situation I’m saddened that both Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott have made the decision to leave cabinet,” said Tassi. “I recognize the contributions that they have made.
“I think the initiatives that PM Trudeau are undertaking in this situation are commendable and look forward to moving forward. I think we as a government need to continue the great work we are doing for Canadians. That is going to be what my focus is.”
She said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to have her backing.
“I am confident in our Prime Minister,” she said.
Tassi said PM Trudeau has come out with a statement, which he underscored how there was an “erosion of trust” and a “breakdown in communication.”
“He’s committed to get outside advice in order to correct what has happened, so that it’s not repeated,” she said.
Samson said when you’re a Minister of a department one should expect to be lobbied.
“You should be lobbied, and there’s going to be pressure and there should be pressure,” said Samson, who calls Fall River home. “I can tell you that in my job as MP for this area I have met various Ministers on many occasions on many different projects on how they’re important to my communities, and how we they can make this happen.
“If I was Minister tomorrow morning I would sincerely want you, and any constituents or any of the 338 MPs across Canada I would want you to tell me everything so I can do a full analysis to make the decision I should make.”
He says Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is just politicking by calling for Trudeau’s resignation.
“He’s wishing, but it ain’t going to happen,” said Samson.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen was asked by The Laker for his reaction on Wilson-Raybould’s testimony when he visited Fall River in early March. He said he was busy and had not heard what the former Attorney General had to say