NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for public inquiry over SNC-Lavalin affair

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for public inquiry over SNC-Lavalin affair

In a letter he released Monday, Gerald Butts said he resigned as Trudeau's principal secretary so his presence would not distract from the "vital work" of the government.

Singh, who's in Burnaby for a byelection in which he's the party's candidate next Monday, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government appears to be acting on behalf of its "friends" in this situation.

Vancouver-Granville member of Parliament Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet last week, days after a report that says she was pressured to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution when she was justice minister. "It is in the best interests of the office and its important work for me to step away", said Butts.

Butts was not specifically named in a Globe and Mail report February 7 that first reported claims by unnamed sources that Jody Wilson-Raybould was shuffled out of her job as justice minister because she resisted pressure by unidentified senior PMO officials to cut a deal that would avoid criminal liability in a fraud and bribery case against Quebec-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

This afternoon, the House Justice Committee is holding a closed-door meeting to discuss next steps for its probe of after last week's meeting saw the Liberal majority vote to limit the scope and witness list of its study into the case and the broader surrounding legal principals in a way that the opposition has characterized as a "cover-up". Some reports suggest Butts had met and spoken to Wilson-Raybould about the case. Butts was the youngest son of a Glace Bay, N.S., coal miner and a nurse, who nonetheless grew up to have at least one link to Liberal politics.

He said Trudeau has accepted his resignation. His aunt, Peggy Butts, a nun and social activist who is said to have been one of the biggest influences on how he views the world, was appointed to the Senate by Jean Chretien in 1997. "My sense is that he's decided, and I think appropriately, to defend himself against people saying things that just aren't true". The government gave itself the power to do so past year by changing the law to allow for deferred prosecution agreements, whereby the attorney general can order the country's independent prosecution service to strike a deal to end a criminal case.

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The NDP motion reads that the House of Commons "call on the Prime Minister to waive solicitor-client privilege for the former Attorney General with respect to allegations of interference in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin; and urge the government to launch a public inquiry, under the Inquiries Act, in order to provide Canadians with the transparency and accountability promised by the Liberals in the 2015 election campaign". Motions are not binding on the government, however.

Butts has confirmed that Wilson-Raybould briefly raised the matter of SNC-Lavalin during a meeting in December; he advised her to speak with the clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick.

In his resignation statement Butts even made a pitch for action to halt climate change: "Our kids and grandkids will judge us on one issue above all others", he said.

"It's obviously a sad moment for me and Gerry's many friends, and people who really admire the tremendous work he's done for Canada", she told reporters in a scrum.

Gerald Butts, senior adviser to Liberal leader and then Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau walks off the campaign plane in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, October 17, 2015. I have served the public interest, not the interests of any individual or any narrow private interest of any kind, at any time.

"Gerald Butts served his government - and our country - with integrity, sage advice and devotion. I want to thank him for his service and continued friendship".

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