Q+A: Jody Wilson-Raybould reacts to ethics commissioner's SNC-Lavalin report
This week, Canada’s independent ethics commissioner found that the prime minister violated the Conflict of Interest Act when he and his office interfered in the SNC-Lavalin investigation and attempted to pressure then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to reconsider cutting the company a deal on corruption charges under what’s known as a Deferred Prosecution Agreement.
The commissioner found the prime minister’s authority and office were used to “circumvent, undermine, and ultimately attempt to discredit” Wilson-Raybould’s authority and her office.
Justin Trudeau said he accepted “full responsibility,” but disagreed with the commissioner’s findings, and stopped short of acknowledging wrongdoing or apologizing.
On Thursday, Wilson-Raybould, who was kicked out of the Liberal caucus earlier this year and now sits as an independent for Vancouver Granville, sat down with CTV News Senior Reporter David Molko to respond to the report, and to the prime minister.
Here are some highlights from their conversation:
Report as 'vindication'
David Molko, CTV News: I want to start out by talking about the commissioner’s report here. You wrote that it represents a “vindication of the independent role of the Attorney General.” Do you personally feel vindicated?
Jody Wilson-Raybould, former attorney general and justice minister: I was gratified when I read the commissioner’s report that upheld what I’ve been saying all along about what happened to me, about the successive attempts at political interference. And I recognize the commissioner’s finding that the Conflict of Interest Act was broken by the prime minister, it’s an important finding. And again, as I said yesterday, it is an important validation for the independence of the Office of the Attorney General and the independence of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Should the prime minister apologize? Resign?
Molko: I want to ask about the prime minister. He says he takes "full responsibility for the mistakes made" but at the same time "he cannot apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs." He said it yesterday, he said it again today. What are your thoughts?
Wilson-Raybould: Well, the prime minister was found to have violated the conflict of interest act. There was wrongdoing here. And I was always taught from a very young age that you make amends and you should apologize for it.
Molko: So you think he should apologize and say he's sorry.
Wilson-Raybould: I think it would have been an opportunity for the prime minister to come forward and acknowledge the wrongdoing that the commissioner found very clearly and to reach out to Canadians and apologize for what happened, as an important step. And I know that's something that I as a Canadian I would have liked to have heard, and I know many other people probably feel the same way.
Molko: Do you think he should resign?
Wilson-Raybould: That's not something for me to determine. I hope that the prime minister, the government and people have learned something from this.
Do you regret how you handled the SNC-Lavalin matter, including secretly recording Canada’s top bureaucrat?
Molko: Some of your critics have argued that you behaved unethically when you recorded that conversation with [former clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick.] You've committed to doing politics differently. Do you regret that recording?
Wilson-Raybould: I don't and I'll tell you why. I actually more broadly than that don't regret the actions that I took, and if I was placed back into that situation again, I would do the same thing. In terms of recording the conversation with the former clerk, I was in an extraordinary situation, and I had to protect myself, and my role, my job as the attorney general to ensure the integrity and independence of my office and the prosecutor's office. And I, in wanting to ensure that I rpotected myself in that case, felt compelled, because of the extraordinary circumstances and the nature of the increasing pressure that was on me and my office, to ensure that I had a clear understanding and evidence of what was taking place.
Molko: Is that doing politics differently though?
Wilson-Raybould: Again, I don't regret it. I am fundamentally committed to doing politics differently. Doing politics differently means, in my mind, acting on principle and acting according to your values and doing what is right above-and-beyond any partisanship considerations. Back in December, when I recorded that call, I was very concerned about the independence of our institutions and that something was seriously wrong, and I needed to protect myself, protect the independence of the Prosecution Service, and ensure, at the end of the day I was seeking to protect the prime minister.
Winners and losers
Molko: With this report, which is scathing, who wins and who loses? Do all Canadians lose here?
Wilson-Raybould: Well I think that the commissioner is an independent officer of parliament. And it’s an important report that he has provided. And we need to each individually, and I include myself and I include the prime minister in this, take some lessons from what he has said, and make sure that we’re vigilant every day to uphold our institutions of democracy. So there’s lessons that we can learn.
I think that one of those, as I said earlier, is going into October, that we look to the individuals that have had the courage enough to put their names on the ballot, that we understand who those people are, what they’re bringing to the table, how they’re making decisions, and that we hold them to account. But that’s a direct account to the constituents in their particular ridings, not an account to a Prime Minister’s Office or particular leaders, but that leaders are accountable to the people that elect them. That’s the opportunity that we have.