Trudeau says an ‘airing’ needed on SNC-Lavalin affair, dodges questions on calls for public inquiry

By Amanda Connolly

On his way to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to say why his government has not supported calls for a public inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin affair but said it’s important there be an “airing” of the issue.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it’s important there be an “airing” of what happened in the SNC-Lavalin affair.

But he dodged questions on why his government is refusing to support a public inquiry into allegations of political interference at the heart of the matter.

READ MORE: Jody Wilson-Raybould says she’s seeking clarity before speaking on SNC-Lavalin

“I think we have a number of things going on: there’s the ethics commissioner doing an investigation into this, there’s the parliamentary committee,” he told reporters on the way into a caucus meeting in Ottawa on Wednesday morning when asked about calls for an inquiry.

“It is important that there be an airing on this situation at the same time as we continue to work on a broad range of big issues that matter.”

WATCH BELOW: Wilson-Raybould attends Liberal caucus as justice committee hearing begin without her

Trudeau’s comments come after the Liberals on Tuesday voted against an opposition motion in the House of Commons calling for a public inquiry.

The House of Commons justice committee had also been set to hear from its first witness in a limited probe of the affair later in the afternoon.

READ MORE: Trudeau government leaks support in wake of SNC-Lavalin, Wilson-Raybould matter: Ipsos poll

That witness was supposed to be Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, senior associate counsel at Woodward & Company LLP, one of Canada’s leading Indigenous rights law firms. However, the meeting is now cancelled for unknown reasons.

The committee has also agreed to call former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, though no witnesses from the Prime Minister’s Office.

It is not clear when Wilson-Raybould might appear.

WATCH BELOW: Wilson-Raybould meets with cabinet after Butts resigns

She spoke with reporters on her way into the caucus meeting on Wednesday morning, saying she knows it is frustrating for Canadians who want to hear her side of the story following a bombshell report by the Globe and Mail roughly two weeks ago.

That report alleged unknown individuals within the Prime Minister’s Office had pressured Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the decision of the public prosecution service not to offer what’s known as a “remediation agreement” or “deferred prosecution agreement” to SNC-Lavalin.

Such an agreement would have let the company pay a fine and admit wrongdoing but avoid a criminal trial and potential conviction on the corruption and fraud charges against it over business activities in Libya between 2001 and 2011.

Wilson-Raybould reportedly refused.

She was demoted from the position of attorney general in January in a cabinet shuffle sparked by the resignation of Scott Brison.

However, the decision to not only replace Brison, who had been president of the Treasury Board, but also to move Wilson-Raybould from the high-profile portfolio into the lower-profile position of Minister of Veterans Affairs raised questions, exacerbated when she issued an unusual letter defending the important of the role being free from political interference.

Wilson-Raybould did not deny the allegations in the Globe and Mail report but has said she cannot speak on the matter because of solicitor-client privilege.

She has retained former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell to advise her on what she may be able to say.

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