National Post March 6, 2019
The emphasis of Butts’s testimony was that the sustained and mounting pressure the former attorney general said she was under — from ministers, political staff, civil servants and the prime minister himself — was not really pressure at all. Or if it was, it was merely pressure to seek an outside legal opinion on the matter, perhaps from a former Supreme Court justice.
Various reasons were presented as to why this was justified. Wilson-Raybould had taken only 12 days to arrive at her decision not to overrule the DPP. The law permitting prosecutors to negotiate remediation agreements was “new,” having only been passed (in response to years of lobbying by SNC-Lavalin) earlier that year. Decisions on prosecutions are never final, but must be constantly reassessed in light of fresh evidence. And, of course, those 9,000 SNC-Lavalin jobs that were supposedly at stake.
All of these may (or may not) be true. They’re just not anyone’s business but the attorney general’s, and the DPP’s. It is not relevant, as a matter of law, what the prime minister, or Butts, or anyone else outside the attorney general’s office, thinks about Wilson-Raybould’s decision-making process, or the new law, or what fresh evidence there might be. Those are considerations exclusively for the DPP, or in exceptional circumstances, the attorney general.
Just so, she was told: the decision was hers and hers alone to make. She was the “final decision-maker.” Only the decision was also “never final.” She could make it, that is, but she would have everyone from the prime minister on down coming back to her again and again — not because there was any fresh evidence, but just because they could — all the while implicitly questioning her judgment, in the sly form of that repeated suggestion that she seek an outside legal opinion.