CBC Radio March 7, 2019
JD: That was the PM speaking in Ottawa today. Lisa Raitt is the Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party. And we reached her in Toronto.
CO: Ms. Raitt we just heard Justin Trudeau say that it was a matter of conversations being experienced differently — and that led to an erosion of trust between team members. Did that resolve any issues for you?
LISA RAITT: Not at all. Actually it makes me even more concerned that the prime minister and his staff don’t understand the principles associated with keeping the Minister of Justice separate from the Attorney General. The attorney general can seek advice from her colleagues. It’s not for the prime minister and his staff to consistently apply pressure or to even bring up matters with the attorney general at all. That is the Shawcross principle. That is how our system of separation between the executive branch and the judicial branch is founded — and he was completely over the line.
CO: If we go back to what Gerald Butts said in his testimony yesterday — this is a really important addition — he said those conversations were not to say, do things differently Jody Wilson-Raybould — they’re saying take on a second opinion. This is a new law — and because there are conflicts within this and the criminal code, take it under advisement — and that she refused to do that. Is that not an important development?
LR: Not really — and I’ll tell you why. There’s always new law — fresh law — that’s being developed by the House of Commons. That’s what we do. We create laws. Some of them are criminal code things, some of them have to do with different statutes. But we entrust the attorney general with the ability to determine whether or not there is a matter of public interest that needs to be intervened for the government. She made her decision and she said no I’m not going to intervene on that. Not only is it insulting to her abilities, but it’s also improper because that is not for the prime minister or the political side of the spectrum to say to the attorney general. She really is in her own world. She really does have all of this power to wield. That’s the way it was set up — and it was set up for the reason that’s coming out today which is you cannot have political partisan issues bleed into decisions around prosecution of criminal matters.
CO: But also is it not the case that she has a responsibility as the A.G. to consider new information to be looking at this up and until there is a verdict?
LR: So I’ve heard that. I heard that from Mr. Butts yesterday — but as he pointed out he’s not a lawyer. I have consulted with friends of mine who are lawyers on that issue and it’s a bit of a conflation by Mr. Butts because the truth is while a prosecutor does have that responsibility to continuously test and look at the freshness of the evidence to make a determination if they should go ahead. That’s not the attorney general. The attorney general is very different from the prosecutor. The attorney general receives information from the lead of the public prosecution service when there is a public interest. But to think and say that the attorney general is responsible for the minutiae of every single criminal case in this country is absurd. And that is exactly what Mr. Butts and the prime minister think that Canadians should believe. And that is not the case. That is not how our system works.
CO: How would you have handled this? I mean if you were in a situation where you had SNC-Lavalin as your file and that there was a criminal prosecution — but at the same time a lot of innocent people were going to be seriously affected by it. Would you not have considered it? Would you not have said well maybe we need a deferred prosecution here in order to protect these other stakeholders?
LR: I will tell you that if I were lucky enough to ever be the minister of justice and attorney general I would take the advice of my director of public prosecutions and I would read carefully the memo that she and her crown prosecutors put together that nobody knows what’s in it. So Jody Wilson-Raybould had a complete different set of information than anyone has ever seen. So we don’t know what she based her decision upon. And it could be very compelling. It could be far more compelling than the number of jobs that the prime minister says are at risk. The second piece I would do if I were the minister or the attorney general is I would ask for proof of the loss of jobs. And we’ve asked for that at committee, and it was asked this morning in the Prime Minister’s press conference. And in both cases nobody can point to a report, nobody can point to any kind of memo that came out of any department of the Canadian government. But they do point to the fact that this is what SNC-Lavalin said through their lobbyists would happen. That is not acceptable — in order to cause an attorney general to overturn a decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
CO: You didn’t take the bait yesterday when Gerald Butts was trying to lure you out as a fellow Cape Bretoner. But what he was saying to you — what he was asking you to consider — was that would you not have a hard time, given that you come from Cape Breton, what can happen to a community when they lose that many jobs. When they say to you, what did you do before this corporation went down — if it should go down as you point out we don’t know — but you want to be able to say that you tried everything, right?
LR: It wasn’t about bait. I know I didn’t have enough time to speak to it clearly. But this is what I’ll tell you — yeah I grew up in Cape Breton like Gerry did at a time of great loss but I also fundamentally believe in the rule of law and I believe that rules are meant to be followed. And coming from Cape Breton I will tell you one thing Carol, the one thing I hate is when people get ahead in life because of who they know and how much money they put into different efforts to get their way. That does not work for me as a Cape Bretoner.
CO: Do you think that Mr. Trudeau should have apologised to her this morning?
LR: He should apologize for a couple of things. He should apologize for the way this was handled. I mean it’s been a month — and certainly the first way of dealing with this was to say the allegations were false and the second way was to minimise Jody Wilson-Raybould’s contribution to the government and to put seeds in the audience as to whether or not she really was a good minister and that continued. You know I don’t appreciate Mr. Butts’ testimony yesterday that she only took 12 days to decide. I’m comfortable with her taking 12 days to decide. I’m very comfortable with it. I’m very comfortable with the work that was probably done by the Justice Department and the Public Prosecution Service to get there. And I’m comfortable that she did do her due diligence and I believe her. So do I think he should have apologized? I think he should apologize for interfering politically with a matter that is clearly within the four corners of a public prosecution — and he did it and he isn’t apologising to anybody. There is no contrition. He doesn’t understand if he did anything wrong. And therein lies the rub. He doesn’t understand that it was wrong.
CO: And he says he has nothing to apologize for.
LR: And that just seems to me — well if he’s okay with telling the attorney general what to do on criminal prosecutions, what else is happening in that office? And who else is being asked to do things that make them uncomfortable as ministers?