Trudeau’s Liberals Change Course and Invite Ex-Minister to Speak

(Bloomberg) -- The controversy that has engulfed Justin Trudeau’s office and claimed his top aide took another strange turn, with an ex-minister speaking privately to cabinet a week after her resignation.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, who served as attorney general until being demoted to veterans affairs minister at the beginning of the year, quit cabinet last week amid questions about whether the Canadian prime minister’s office had pressured her to help end a legal case against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. The Montreal-based engineering giant is facing corruption charges and has been pushing the Trudeau’s government to settle out of court.

Trudeau’s Liberals Change Course and Invite Ex-Minister to Speak

Lawmakers with the governing Liberal Party blocked an effort last week to summon Wilson-Raybould to testify before the justice committee. And on Monday, Gerald Butts quit his post as principal secretary to the prime minister over the SNC-Lavalin controversy.

On Tuesday, however, Wilson-Raybould surprised observers by emerging from the weekly cabinet meeting in Ottawa. Trudeau later told reporters she’d asked to speak to ministers but he didn’t specify what about. The former minister said she would remain in the Liberal caucus, and another lawmaker said she will indeed be called to speak to the justice committee. The committee met behind closed doors Tuesday and agreed to invite Wilson-Raybould.

The impact of the controversy will hinge largely on what Wilson-Raybould ultimately says in public -- in particular any claims she makes about pressure she faced from Butts or other staff in Trudeau’s office. Tuesday’s developments signal, however, she is still in the Liberal Party fold, likely lowering any expectations for more explosive allegations.

Wilson-Raybould said Tuesday she’d accept any invitation to speak to the committee but is still in talks with her lawyer on what she can say. “I will appear,” she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. “I am continuing to discuss and talk with my counsel about what I can and cannot say. That, too, would apply at the justice committee.”

Canada’s two major opposition parties have called for an inquiry into the ordeal, which the parliamentary ethics watchdog is already investigating. Trudeau said last week his cabinet discussed the SNC-Lavalin issue in part to avoid job losses at the company.

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