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KNIGHT: Testimony only adds fuel to the dumpster fire in the PMO

Butts was free to spout whatever nonsense he wanted without fear of a perjury prosecution

Appearances in front of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights today by former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Gerald Butts and the Clerk of the Privy Council  Michael Wernick threw more fuel on the dumpster fire in the PMO.

Butts started off with a formal statement. Bizarrely, the first words out of his mouth was an admission that they “were on Algonquin land.” Why Butts would inject his opinion or conclusion into something that has been subject to a land claims negotiation that has been going on for years is puzzling.

He then went on to describe how he perceived the interactions between him and the former Attorney General. He said he was just trying to “inform” the AG that there were options and that he was very concerned about the existing 9,000 jobs in Quebec at SNC-Lavalin.

This isn’t the first time the government has used the “jobs” excuse in light of the recent scandal. The Prime Minister has reiterated this numerous times – it should always be the priority of the government to protect and create jobs.

But I have to ask, while Trudeau’s Liberals are willing to change the law to protect 9,000 jobs in Quebec, why didn’t they lift a finger to save the jobs of GM workers in Oshawa? What about the 180,000 jobs lost in the oil and energy sector?

Their “jobs” spin is nothing but fluff.

In Butts’ testimony, he claimed the first he had heard that she had made up her mind in September was when she testified before the same committee last week. This, despite the fact she told the Prime Minister that the decision was made in September. Butts would have us believe that he and his BFF of 30 years didn’t talk about this once that information had been conveyed. It defies credulity.

But then, since the Liberal dominated committee turned down the Conservative motion to have Butts testify under oath, he was free to spout whatever nonsense he wanted without fear of a perjury prosecution.

Butts actually said that people perceive interactions differently, echoing  the same language Justin Trudeau used being accused of groping a local B.C. reporter named Rose Knight in the year 2000.  After the allegations of the Kokanee Grope emerged, Trudeau said this in his defence, “I’m confident that I did not act inappropriately but I think the essence of this is that people can experience interactions differently.”

And there was the smug, pompous sanctimony of Wernick who took umbrage and outrage at folks calling him out on social media after his last testimony before the committee two weeks ago.

Well boo hoo!

He has spent a career living behind the cloak of bureaucratic invisibility while suckling the public teat and whining about it when he gets called on it. Welcome to the real world.

The real problem in all of this is the amendment to the Criminal Code the Liberals brought about as an add-on to their budget legislation last summer allowing for Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPA) or remediation agreements. These are a Liberal dreamed-up scheme seemingly brought into existence, hidden in budget legislation specifically for SNC-Lavalin which was charged with corruption in 2015 over issues on their business in Libya.

SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce wrote a letter to Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough on October 13, 2017 arguing for just that. He also copied seven other cabinet ministers. He was trying to avoid the requisite 10-year ban on getting government contracts introduced by the Harper government for corporations convicted criminally.

Butts, Trudeau and Wernick all tried to invoke the potential 9,000 job losses in Quebec if SNC-Lavalin was convicted and prevented from getting contacts in Canada. It’s specious logic at best.

SNC-Lavalin does only about 15% of its business in Canada. And even if they were no longer able to compete in Canada, other engineering companies who were awarded those contracts would pick up the available employees to fulfill their commitments.

Secondly, in and of itself it seems to fly in the face of their own law. Section 715.32 (2) of the Criminal Code – the section added in the budget omnibus bill by the Liberals – says, “The prosecutor must not consider the national economic interest, the potential effect on relations with a state other than Canada or the identity of the organization or individual involved.”

Had Jody Wilson-Raybould acquiesced to the reasoning and pressure from the PMO and the PCO, she might well have been in breach of their own hastily-brought legislation.

The dumpster fire has grown larger.


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