POLITICS
02/21/2019 12:04 EST | Updated 02/21/2019 12:04 EST

Justin Trudeau Says He Still Doesn't Understand Why Jody Wilson-Raybould Quit Cabinet

The SNC-Lavalin controversy shows no signs of slowing down for the government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers remarks to Liberal supporters in Halifax on Feb. 20, 2019.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers remarks to Liberal supporters in Halifax on Feb. 20, 2019.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he doesn't understand Jody Wilson-Raybould's resignation from cabinet despite her explanations this week to government ministers and the Liberal caucus.

"This is not a decision that remains clear to me,'' Trudeau said to reporters in Halifax this morning.

The prime minister is trying to manage fallout from anonymous allegations made to the Globe and Mail newspaper that Wilson-Raybould was pressured to allow Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin to negotiate a remediation agreement and avoid criminal prosecution for fraud and bribery.

After Wilson-Raybould spoke to cabinet Tuesday and the Liberals dropped objections to calling her as a witness at the justice committee, speculation grew that Trudeau and his former star minister had come to some sort of agreement about what had taken place, but given the prime minister's comments today that may not be the case.

Wilson-Raybould resigned Feb. 12, several days after publication of the allegations, and Trudeau's most trusted adviser, Gerald Butts, resigned as his principal secretary Feb. 18. Butts denied he had done anything improper but felt he had become a distraction to the government amid the swirling allegations.

Wilson-Raybould hasn't said anything publicly about the substance of the matter. Although she addressed both cabinet and the Liberal caucus this week, comments at both meetings are confidential, and there are limits on what she and the prime minister can say openly about the issue due to cabinet secrecy and solicitor-client privilege.

PM, Wilson-Raybould seeking legal advice

Wilson-Raybould said Wednesday she would like to tell what she knows, but a decision to waive confidentiality is not hers to make.

Trudeau has said there were conversations with Wilson-Raybould about the SNC-Lavalin prosecution but that he told her the decision was hers alone to make and that she wasn't being directed to do anything.

Both she and Trudeau are seeking legal advice on solicitor-client privilege. The prime minister, meantime, will not disclose what Wilson-Raybould said at the cabinet meeting.

"It is a central tenet of our parliamentary system that cabinet confidence applies,'' Trudeau said today.