OTTAWA — A chronology of the SNC-Lavalin controversy, according to public documents, reports and testimony to the House of Commons justice committee:
Feb. 19, 2015 – The RCMP lays corruption and fraud charges against Montreal-based engineering and construction firm SNC-Lavalin, over business dealings in Libya. SNC-Lavalin says the charges are without merit and the allegations linked to people no longer with the company. A conviction could bar the company from bidding on federal contracts.
Oct. 19 – The Liberals win a federal election. Two weeks later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau names Jody Wilson-Raybould minister of justice and attorney general of Canada. She is the first Indigenous person to hold the post.
March 27, 2018 – The Liberals table a budget bill allowing for “remediation agreements,” plea-bargain-like deals for corporations to avoid criminal proceedings by making reparations for bad behaviour. SNC-Lavalin had lobbied for such a provision in Canadian law.
Sept. 4 – The Public Prosecution Service rejects SNC-Lavalin’s request to negotiate a remediation agreement. Wilson-Raybould is told about the decision. No public announcement is made.
Sept. 5 – Justice Department deputy minister Nathalie Drouin testified she first spoke with Wilson-Raybould about the decision during a late afternoon phone call while the minister was in Fiji. The department agrees to provide Wilson-Raybould with advice on the powers of the attorney general.
Sept. 6 – According to Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s chief of staff, Ben Chin, warns his counterpart in Wilson-Raybould’s office, Jessica Prince, of job losses during a Quebec provincial election absent a deal for SNC-Lavalin.
Sept. 8 – Justice Department deputy minister Nathalie Drouin provides Wilson-Raybould with a briefing note on the attorney general’s powers on remediation agreements.
Sept. 12 – Drouin testified that on this day, the Finance Department tells her that SNC-Lavalin is still in discussions with the prosecution service about a remediation deal, suggesting to Drouin that the decision not to pursue a deal isn’t set in stone.
Sept. 16 – According to Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, officials in the PMO call Prince. They say the Crown prosecutor wants to negotiate an agreement, unlike the director of prosecutions, and suggest a solution before the company’s board meets in four days.
Sept. 17 – According to Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, Trudeau asks Wilson-Raybould to “find a solution” for SNC-Lavalin to avoid job losses, talks about the Quebec election and notes that he is a Quebec MP.
“Are you politically interfering with my role, my decision as the attorney general? I would strongly advise against it,” Wilson-Raybould says, according to her justice committee testimony. Trudeau says, “No. We just need to find a solution.”
Wernick raises the election as well, but he later testifies that he did so to highlight the long-standing convention for the federal government to stay out of provincial campaigns.
In Trudeau’s version of events, he says mentioning he was a Quebec MP was not in a partisan context, adding it is up to MPs to advocate for their constituents, and that concern for job losses in Quebec and elsewhere were top of his mind. He says he asked to reconsider her decision and she agreed.
Sept. 18 – Drouin meets with Wilson-Raybould to debrief about the meeting with Trudeau. Drouin testified Wilson-Raybould expressed unease with the content of the conversation.
Sept. 19 – Drouin meets with Wilson-Raybould on SNC-Lavalin. Drouin testified Wilson-Raybould told her this would be the last time the two are going to discuss the matter, and that Wilson-Raybould instructs her not to talk with the director of prosecutions.
Sept. 21 – The remediation-agreement provisions come into force.
Oct. 9 – The prosecution service confirms it will not negotiate an agreement with SNC-Lavalin. The company challenges the decision in Federal Court.
Oct. 15 – According to Wernick’s testimony, he takes a call from Kevin Lynch, the chairman of the board of SNC-Lavalin and a former clerk of the Privy Council. Lynch asks about a remediation agreement and what can be done. He tells Lynch the decision is up to Wilson-Raybould.
The president of the company also sends Trudeau a letter outlining the SNC-Lavalin’s concerns about the implications of a conviction and asks to meet the prime minister about it.
Oct. 26 – According to Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, official Mathieu Bouchard muses to Prince about getting outside legal advice on a deal for SNC-Lavalin. Wilson-Raybould later recounts that Bouchard brings up the need for the Liberals to get re-elected in 2019.
Dec. 5 – Wilson-Raybould and Gerry Butts, Trudeau’s principal secretary, meet for dinner at the Chateau Laurier. SNC-Lavalin is discussed, but the two later give differing accounts of the tone of the conversation.
Dec. 18 – Prince meets with Butts and Katie Telford, Trudeau’s chief of staff. Afterwards, Prince texts Wilson-Raybould, citing Butts as saying, “there is no solution here that does not involve some interference” after being told what is being proposed is political interference in a prosecution. She cites Telford as saying “we don’t want to debate legalities anymore.”
Butts later tells the justice committee that he didn’t — or wouldn’t — have used the word “solution” and denies anything nefarious in his comments. The point of the meeting, and anything said, was about getting a second opinion from someone like a former Supreme Court justice because the law had never been applied before.
Dec. 19 – According to Wilson-Raybould, Wernick warns her she is on a collision course with the prime minister and Trudeau wants to get a deal done. Wernick later testifies that he doesn’t recall saying that.
Jan. 7, 2019 – Trudeau tells Wilson-Raybould she is being shuffled out of the justice portfolio. Wilson-Raybould says the PMO denies the move is over the SNC-Lavalin file. Butts testified Wilson-Raybould was originally offered to be minister of Indigenous services, but she refused, citing her opposition to the Indian Act.
Jan. 14 – Trudeau shuffles his cabinet. David Lametti, a Montreal MP and former law professor, becomes justice minister. Jane Philpott becomes Treasury Board president. Wilson-Raybould becomes veterans-affairs minister.
Feb. 7 – Citing unnamed sources, the Globe and Mail newspaper reports that Trudeau’s aides pressed Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin case. Trudeau calls the allegations false.
Feb. 11 – Trudeau says Wilson-Raybould’s continued presence in his cabinet speaks for itself and that he told her any decision on SNC-Lavalin was hers alone. Meanwhile, ethics commissioner Mario Dion launches an investigation.
Feb. 12 – Wilson-Raybould resigns from cabinet. Trudeau says she had a duty to tell him about any undue pressure applied to her in her role as attorney general.
Feb. 13 – The House of Commons justice committee debates its own probe. Liberals use their majority to push for a narrow hearing that doesn’t include Wilson-Raybould. The Liberals call it a first step in a cautious investigation. The opposition calls it a coverup.
Feb. 15 – Trudeau says Wilson-Raybould asked him in September whether he would direct her on SNC-Lavalin. He says he told her he would not.
Feb. 18 – Butts resigns. He denies any impropriety but says his presence in the PMO has become a distraction.
Feb. 19 – Wilson-Raybould stuns observers by addressing a cabinet meeting. Cabinet confidentiality means nothing can be revealed about why or what was said.
Feb. 20 – Trudeau says he is confident probes by Dion and the justice committee will provide an airing of the facts. The Liberals use their majority to defeat an opposition motion calling for a public inquiry.
Feb. 21 – Wernick testifies for the first time before the justice committee. He calls allegations of political interference false and even defamatory and says none of his conversations crossed any lines.
Feb. 25 – Trudeau partly waives solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality so Wilson-Raybould can speak publicly, but not about communication with Kathleen Roussel, the director of public prosecutions.
Feb. 27 – Wilson-Raybould tells the justice committee she came under “consistent and sustained” pressure — including veiled threats — from the PMO, the Privy Council Office and Morneau’s office to halt the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. Trudeau rejects her characterization of events. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer calls on Trudeau to resign. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for a public inquiry.
Feb. 28 – Butts asks to testify before the justice committee.
March 1 – Trudeau makes longtime MP Lawrence MacAulay his new veterans-affairs minister, replacing Wilson-Raybould. Marie-Claude Bibeau replaces MacAulay as agriculture minister and Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef takes on the additional portfolio of international development. All three express support for Trudeau.
March 4 – Philpott quits cabinet, saying she has lost confidence in the way the government has dealt with the ongoing affair and citing her obligation to defend the cabinet as long as she is a part of it. Trudeau names Carla Qualtrough interim Treasury Board president.
At a rally in Toronto, Trudeau says the ongoing affair “has generated an important discussion” about how ministers, staff and officials conduct themselves. “Concerns of this nature,” he says, “must be taken very seriously and I can assure you that I am.”
March 6 – Butts tells the justice committee that Wilson-Raybould never complained about improper pressure to halt the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin until Trudeau decided to move her out of her coveted cabinet role as justice minister and attorney general. Wernick disputes parts of her testimony as well. Drouin provides more details about the timeline.
March 7 – Trudeau holds a press conference where he says he should have been aware that trust had eroded between his office and Wilson-Raybould but denies anything inappropriate took place. He talks about learning from the events; he does not specifically apologize.
Opposition MPs on the justice committee ask for an emergency meeting to discuss calling further witnesses to testify. They want to recall Wilson-Raybould as well as several officials from the Prime Minister’s Office.
March 8 – The Federal Court strikes down SNC-Lavalin’s request for judicial review of the prosecution service’s decision not to negotiate a remediation agreement.
March 19 – The justice committee’s next scheduled meeting, which is also federal budget day.
The Canadian Press