Wernick likely to depart the Trudeau government as RCMP probes SNC Lavalin influence

Following intense criticism of Justice Committee testimony in the House of Commons that was widely seen as unduly partisan for Canada’s top government administrator, Michael Wernick is likely to depart his position as Clerk of the Privy Council in the next several days, sources close to Cabinet tell The Chronicle.  

Wernick admitted during hearings on Thursday to pressuring — and to conspiring with others in the Trudeau government to pressure — former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to offer a ‘Deferred Prosecution Agreement’ to one of the Liberal Party’s largest contributors.  Despite demands from opposition party members, Wernick did not offer his testimony under oath.

The Ottawa-based political operative inside the Trudeau government tells The Chronicle that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has reached out to Wernick to schedule questioning in the SNC-Lavalin matter.  The agency is actively investigating the matter and the PMO is ‘profoundly’ worried that former Treasury Board President Scott Brison may be questioned by the RCMP next week.

An open investigation has been ongoing since SNC-Lavalin’s indictment by Swiss prosecutors in 2012.  In recent days those investigators have been increasingly willing to assert the agency’s ‘independent and proper’ role, though the federal police do report to the PMO.

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Jody Wilson-Raybould is the heir apparent Leader of the Liberal Party in the increasingly likely event that Justin Trudeau will be forced to resign or face charges of public corruption in his dealings with SNC Lavalin.

Despite the Justice Ministry’s conclusion that SNC Lavalin did not qualify for a ‘Deferred Prosecution Agreement’ in early September, Wernick played a key role in coordinating ‘vigorous’ months-long lobbying of the Attorney General.  His objective was clear and readily admitted in his testimony: he wanted Wilson-Raybould to ignore the requirements of that law, and to direct career prosecutors to halt the criminal trial of a firm with a long history of public corruption and bribery.

Wernick also admitted that his motives, and the motives of his co-conspirators, were motivated by economic and political considerations.  The deferred prosecution law specifically rejects economic and political reasoning from being considered in determining eligibility.

Wernick reports directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and conspired to exert pressure on Wilson-Raybould with Trudeau’s top political operatives — including former Principle Secretary Gerald Butts, Chief of Staff Katie Telford, and Finance Minister Bill Morneau 

But repeated meetings and phone calls were only part of the pressure campaign.

Last December Wernick is said to have ‘threatened’ Wilson-Raybould’s senior staffer, Jessica Prince, with ominous warnings regarding the Cabinet’s displeasure with the Attorney General’s decision, less than a month before she was removed as Justice Minister.

The position of Clerk of the Privy Council is a historic one in the evolution of the British constitutional process, its origins dating back to the Magna Carta.  The position requires a non-partisan occupant who is expected to avoid politics and the appearance of bias in political matters.

Wernick’s emotive and, at times, accusatorial testimony seemed to violate every norm and sensibility surrounding his position and its place in the Parliamentary system.  Trudeau’s public references to the testimony only compounded concerns of partisanship.

In recent days, Wernick has been described as deeply regretful for the testimony, looking ‘visibly defeated’ and worried. Wernick holds a bachelors degree in economics from the University of Toronto.

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Justin Trudeau’s Chief of Staff Katie Telford with former Principle Secretary Gerald Butts.  Political operatives expect Telford to be questioned by the RCMP in the SNC Lavalin matter imminently.

Correction: An earlier version of this article states that Michael Wernick “refused to offer his testimony to the Justice Committee under oath”. He did not refuse. Instead, the Liberal majority on the committee voted against him taking an oath before the testimony. Lying to the committee would constitute Contempt of Parliament whether or not an oath was taken.

31 Comments

  1. The author of article should check the facts before putting them to print. Wernick was not sworn in , was not under oath , the Conservatives requested he be sworn in but the Liberal majority turned down the motion , the Liberal chairman stated they have never done in past and they won’t do it now.

  2. No loss if he leaves. Just another career politician who lost his way once getting his place at the trough.

    • I get the impression he’s the type that didn’t so much lose his way once getting power as one who fought tooth and nail to get power so he could facilitate his own corrupt intentions.

  3. Lets get this mess over with as soon as posible so that the people who were elected to run this great nation can get back to work.

  4. Here we go again, a lazy ‘journalist’. Research is important before you publish an article. Mr. Wearnick never admitted that he pressured our former AG or that he conspired with our government to save SNC-Lavalin. Your ‘journalist’ might want to listen to the tape.

    https://youtu.be/tXoffOVdd8U

    • Wearnick most certainly admit that he and others applied pressure on Wilson-Raybould.

      He claimed that no undue pressure was applied.

      Any concerted pressure in an attempt to change the ministers decision is undue and criminal

  5. There seems to be some confusion between Wernick’s public omments and (alleged) private testimony here. I believe the author is talking about both matters. Comments Wernick make under oath and comments in open house.

  6. This article is complete nonsense. It’s so bad I don’t even know where to start. Lets just say the RCMP are not involved at all. No one in the government has done anything wrong. Any an all allegations are based on gossip and speculation from unreliable sources. Michael Wernick is not in any trouble. The committee was impressed with his “clarity and candour.” Wernick said all discussions with the attorney General were “appropriate and ethical.” T

    • I read your note with amusement at best. It is obvious your are blindly in love with the Liberals, which is fine, however, that alone does not give you license to publicly present yourself as a complete nitwit as you managed to do with your writing above. Out of kindness I will refrain from saying more!

    • This article, well words not out on that yet. But your statement is complete bias nonsense. Wernick’s last testimony which wasn’t under oath was so ladden with damming evidence that it created his 2nd appearance, this time under oath.

    • b.hurley says “The committee was impressed with his “clarity and candour.” as tho this polyspeak is sincere. Too funny. Oh yeah, and Wernick resigned today, because ‘no in government has done anything wrong’ (perfection where you least expect it). I hope you are a shill, because if you are just an average voter, I very much fear for my country.. .

  7. Throw all these jerks in jail. That’s what would happen to you or me. Or can they bribe their ways out of this one. Canada is turning into a cess pool.

  8. RCMP need to stop being baggage boys at the border leave people alone for voicing an opinion and go after this Trudeau when are they going to get off their asses and do their job instead of harassing people or was the payoff that big no one’s supposed to be above the law

  9. The rcmp “looking” into things is just a diligence smoke screen. If Trudeau and his corrupt posse were concerned about an actual investigation they wouldn’t have their paid for media (CBC CTV) already testing the public waters on Snc dpa now being possible.

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