Liberal-dominated committee votes to limit investigation into allegations of improper political influence on Wilson-Raybould


OTTAWA— Liberal MPs have voted to restrict an investigation into allegations of improper political influence on former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, blocking opposition efforts to have her and the prime minister’s top aides testify before a Commons committee.

The vote came after a Liberal MP said the Conservatives were embarking on a “fishing expedition” and a “witch hunt” in their bid to hold hearings and summon witnesses — including senior PMO, justice department and Privy Council officials — to tell their stories under oath.

Conservative Deputy Leader Lisa Raitt speaks with the media in the Foyer of the House of Commons in Ottawa on Feb. 13, 2019. Raitt said that Jody Wilson-Raybould’s surprise resignation from Justin Trudeau’s cabinet underscores the need for an investigation into the affair.
Conservative Deputy Leader Lisa Raitt speaks with the media in the Foyer of the House of Commons in Ottawa on Feb. 13, 2019. Raitt said that Jody Wilson-Raybould’s surprise resignation from Justin Trudeau’s cabinet underscores the need for an investigation into the affair.  (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Liberals used their majority on the justice committee Wednesday to shut down a bid by Conservatives and New Democrats to summon Wilson-Raybould and Trudeau aides Gerald Butts and Mathieu Bouchard to testify.

The Liberals also blocked a motion that called on the prime minister to lift solicitor-client privilege to allow Wilson-Raybould to speak freely about the allegations that have rocked the government.

“That is not an investigation. That is simply going through the motions,” NDP MP Nathan Cullen said after the meeting, charging that the Liberals sought to “batten down the hatches today and not allow any truth to come to light.”

She was shuffled out of the justice portfolio to veterans affairs in January. On Monday night, she told Trudeau she was quitting her cabinet post — a move Trudeau said “surprised and disappointed” him. Her resignation was tendered hours after the prime minister had publicly suggested that her continued presence in cabinet showed nothing egregious had occurred.

Conservative Michael Cooper charged Wednesday that Liberal MPs on the committee were “acting as agents of a broader cover-up on the part of the PMO.

“It’s very clear they are not serious about getting to the bottom of what happens,” Cooper said.

Instead, Liberal MPs voted to hear from just three officials: current Justice Minister David Lametti, his deputy minister Nathalie Drouin, and the Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, who serves as Trudeau’s top public servant and deputy minister.

The committee will also take a broad look at the legal rules and standards that apply to how an attorney general interacts with political colleagues, and hear legal opinions on how their work could impact current court proceedings involving SNC-Lavalin.

Conservative public safety critic Pierre Paul-Hus scoffed at the Liberals’ move to change the focus of discussions, saying “We don’t need a law class here.”

The committee meets again next week and will consider the possibility of expanding the witness list, but Liberal MPs — who have a majority on the committee — voted 5-4 to support a motion by Liberal Randy Boissonault, to shift the debate away from Wilson-Raybould’s as-yet untold version of events.

Deputy Conservative Leader Lisa Raitt isn’t holding out any hope that the committee will hear from additional witnesses.

The Conservatives are piling pressure on five Liberal MPs who will determine today whether a House of Commons committee will investigate an allegation that former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was pressured to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution. (The Canadian Press)

During a protracted afternoon meeting that was testy at times, Liberals pushed back on the Opposition’s desire to broaden the inquiry’s scope into allegations that are already the subject of an investigation by the federal ethics commissioner.

At the committee meeting, the Liberals sought to downplay the controversy. Mississauga MP Iqra Khalid accused the opposition of “political posturing” and making hay “out of nothing.”

B.C. MP Ron McKinnon justified his vote opposing a broader investigation, saying, “we don’t have any real evidence of wrongdoing.”

The Liberals used their majority on the justice committee Wednesday to shut down a bid by Conservatives and New Democrats to summon Wilson-Raybould and Trudeau aides Gerald Butts, left, and Mathieu Bouchard, right, to testify.
The Liberals used their majority on the justice committee Wednesday to shut down a bid by Conservatives and New Democrats to summon Wilson-Raybould and Trudeau aides Gerald Butts, left, and Mathieu Bouchard, right, to testify.  (The Canadian Press file photo/Office of the Prime Minister)

Boissonault, MP for Edmonton Centre, accused Conservative MPs of trying to conduct a “fishing expedition” and a “witch hunt” into the SNC-Lavalin affair as the prime minister insisted publicly his government had broken no rules in its dealings with Wilson-Raybould.

As three-hour drama at committee was unfolding, the prime minister was on the defensive in Sudbury, where he again insisted his office had done no wrong.

Trudeau said his officials followed all the “norms and the principles of the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law” in discussions with Wilson-Raybould about SNC-Lavalin’s fate.

Trudeau indicated the topic — which he cast as discussions about ways “to create jobs and economic growth” — was a pressing concern, saying “this is a constant conversation in cabinet.”

“And all those conversations…have always been carried out based on well-established rules,” said the prime minister.

Trudeau again blamed Wilson-Raybould for failing to come forward with any concerns about improper influence before her sudden resignation Tuesday. He pointed to her acceptance of another cabinet post just last month as evidence she had no real concerns.

“If anyone, any minister, including the former attorney general, felt that there was — that we were not living up to that standard — it was her responsibility to come and speak to me directly about that. She did not do that in the fall, and she accepted another position in this government when I made the cabinet shuffle.”

But at committee, Conservative Pierre Poilievre lashed into Trudeau’s reasoning, saying Wilson-Raybould is unable to respond to the prime minister’s “attack” because she is bound by solicitor-client privilege.

“He directly attacked her, saying it was her job to stop wrongdoing from happening in his office,” Poilievre said.

“But what is most despicable and cowardly about this attack is that he was attacking someone who is legally incapable of defending herself. She can’t fight back. She can’t speak,” he said.

“It’s time that we let her speak,” he said.

After the meeting, Boissonault said there’s nothing preventing Wilson-Raybould from speaking out now, even as he acknowledged she is bound by solicitor-client privilege.

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“I think it’s important for Ms. Wilson-Raybould to speak to Canadians on her own terms. It’s not something we need to do here at the justice committee,” he said.

But the Conservatives and the NDP say others needed to be called including the director of public prosecutions Kathleen Roussel; chief of staff to the prime minister Katie Telford; senior PMO advisers Mathieu Bouchard and Elder Marques who were lobbied by SNC-Lavalin, and Wilson-Raybould’s former chief of staff Jessica Prince.

The Liberal MP denounced Opposition suggestions that SNC-Lavalin had gotten the Liberal government to change the law to allow deferred prosecutions for companies like the Quebec engineering giant facing fraud charges.

In the closest thing to an explanation anyone on the government benches has offered for the change since the scandal broke last week, Boissonault said Canada adopted the legal change to allow deferred prosecutions for companies facing fraud charges to align with its trading allies and called Opposition allegations of political favouritism “specious.”

Cameron Ahmad, Trudeau’s director of communications, said in an interview the prime minister spoke with Wilson-Raybould about SNC-Lavalin once last fall, on Sept. 17, some three weeks before the public prosecutor’s office declined, on Oct. 9, SNC-Lavalin’s pleas to negotiate a deal.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau again blamed Jody Wilson-Raybould for failing to come forward with any concerns about improper influence before her sudden resignation Tuesday. He pointed to her acceptance of another cabinet post just last month as evidence she had no real concerns.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau again blamed Jody Wilson-Raybould for failing to come forward with any concerns about improper influence before her sudden resignation Tuesday. He pointed to her acceptance of another cabinet post just last month as evidence she had no real concerns.  (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian PRess file photo)

Ahmad said Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould discussed “a variety of things including this issue” but declined to provide further details, saying only what Trudeau told reporters: that the government had conducted itself appropriately. Ahmad said that goes for all the prime minister’s team.

Ahmad said Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford had no conversations with Wilson-Raybould about the matter.

The government had previously confirmed that Butts also met with the former justice minister on Dec. 5, that she had raised SNC-Lavalin, and he told her to speak to Wernick about it.

The lobby registry shows SNC-Lavalin lobbied Trudeau’s office 18 times on the subject of “justice and law enforcement” since February 2016, with 15 of the 18 contacts involving Bouchard. Two of SNC-Lavalin’s lobbying contacts were with senior adviser Elder Marques. Trudeau’s Principal Secretary Gerald Butts and former senior adviser Cyrus Reporter were each lobbied once by the company, the registry shows.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer did not rule out referring it to the RCMP saying “all options are on the table” and again called on Trudeau to waive “whatever privilege he thinks he may have.”

With files from Alex Ballingall

Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier

Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc

Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga


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Yorkton, Sask. men fined, suspended for hunting under the influence


Two Yorkton, Sask., men have been fined and handed suspensions for hunting while under the influence of marijuana.

Saskatchewan conservation officers said the men were found in a vehicle parked on Wildlife Development Funds lands near Calder, Sask., in September 2018.

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Signs in the area state the lands are “foot access only.”

2 American hunters face Saskatchewan poaching charges

Officers said there was a strong smell of burning marijuana when they approached the vehicle.

An unspecified amount of marijuana and a loaded firearm were found in the vehicle during a hunter compliance check, Environment Ministry officials said.

Timothy Eashappie, 37, and Colby Barnhardt-Peepeetch, 20, were charged with hunting under the influence of a narcotic and possession of marijuana.

Both pleaded guilty recently in Yorkton provincial court.

Five men from Quebec fined for illegally hunting in Sask.

Eashappie was also charged with driving with a suspended licence and operating a vehicle on wildlife lands. He was fined a total of $1,250.

Barnhardt-Peepeetch was also charged with having a loaded firearm in a vehicle and fined a total of $1,480.

They also received two-year hunting suspensions.

Officials said hunting under the influence of alcohol or narcotics is not only illegal, but extremely dangerous.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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John McCallum fell victim to Beijing’s ‘influence campaign,’ say former ambassadors


VANCOUVER—Former ambassador John McCallum’s break from Ottawa’s official messaging suggests Beijing was employing strategies from a “well-honed playbook” designed to sway ambassadors into representing state-friendly perspectives, say experts in foreign affairs.

While not illegal or necessarily sinister, the practice of “gaming” envoys and businessmen by playing to their egos with the illusion of “special access” is a tried-and-true method to subtly draw foreigners into alignment with the political aims of the Communist Party of China, said James Palmer, editor of Foreign Policy Magazine.

“China has a habit of singling out individuals … for its own influence campaigns,” Palmer said in an interview.

Palmer lived in China for 15 years, during which time he worked as a journalist and historian.

“They attempt to basically woo them, and they have a very good playbook for wooing them … And it’s not even about ideological or financial compromise, it’s about playing psychologically to these guys.”

Meng, who is currently on bail in Vancouver, appeared in B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday following a formal extradition request from the United States the day before.

The U.S. government announced nearly two dozen criminal charges against Huawei Technologies on Monday, accusing the company of technology theft, bank fraud, obstruction of justice and money laundering. Allegations of “bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracies to commit bank and wire fraud” were levelled against Meng personally for statements provided to one of Huawei’s major banking partners about the company’s operations in Iran.

McCallum had initially been forced to walk back comments that Meng’s legal counsel had good reason to argue the charges against her were politically motivated. The message was a stark break from the line previously held by Canadian officials, who almost unanimously stood by the legal process as legitimate and independent.

He announced his resignation on Saturday after repeating the comments a second time, following his initial retraction, to The Star.

Missives in the Global Times and China Daily — news organizations with ties to the Chinese state — depicting McCallum’s exit as confirmation of the illegitimacy of Canada’s legal process are a further indication the former ambassador was viewed as an ally by Beijing, said Palmer.

“They clearly saw McCallum as an asset, as somebody who they very successfully wooed through this program,” said Palmer, who worked for Global Times for seven years.

Jorge Guajardo, who served for six years as Mexico’s ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, agrees. The same strategies described by Palmer, he said, were used against him during his time in Beijing.

Guajardo emphasized he doesn’t know McCallum or have any special window into his motivations in this case. But when he first heard McCallum’s comments, Guajardo reports having immediately recognized the earmarks of a campaign of influence by Beijing.

“Having been there, (I thought), ‘I know why he’s saying those things,’” he said. “Because they game you, in a sense.”

Whereas newly posted foreign ambassadors in Western countries are typically put in touch with government officials of all stripes, when a foreign ambassador first arrives in Beijing, they are given zero access, said Guajardo.

Then slowly, over time, ambassadors are told particular, high-ranking Communist Party officials wish to meet with them because they’re “special” and “obviously” have a unique understanding of the nuance and delicacy of the party’s position, he said.

“And they keep playing up this idea that you’re special (by granting the same access) any ambassador would get in any other capital,” Guajardo said in an interview.

The mind-game of cultivating an envoy as a “special friend” to China who believes he has singular access to — and understanding of — the country’s political inner-workings is key to ensuring the diplomat will become an ally in Beijing’s efforts to see its interests taken up abroad, he said. And this relationship becomes especially useful during periods of dispute between China and an ambassador’s home country.

“This is typical Chinese playbook: to convince the ambassador from a foreign country that his country is not acting correctly, and that ‘of course’ he understands that they’re not acting correctly, and, ‘I’m telling you as a friend because I like you and I don’t meet any other ambassadors,’” he said. “And they start getting into your head that way.”

McCallum was the first elected official appointed as a head of mission to China — a post that dates back to the establishment of a Canadian embassy in Beijing in 1971. Previous to his appointment in 2017, McCallum was a Liberal member of Parliament for over a decade-and-a-half, serving as a federal minister under three different prime ministers.

Without commenting on McCallum’s situation specifically, former Canadian ambassador to China David Mulroney confirmed Guajardo’s account.

“China is amazingly successful at convincing people, including seasoned diplomats, that the most important thing in the world is maintaining good relations with China,” Mulroney said in an email. “By this they generally mean not commenting or otherwise reacting to something egregious that China has done.

“They persuade people by playing to their vanity, making them believe that their unique understanding of China is evidenced by their ability to keep things calm and untroubled. They do this because it works — for China.”

Mulroney’s analysis echoes Guajardo’s summary of the underlying issue: that Beijing views foreign diplomats as outgoing communication channels, rather than resources to develop an understanding of foreign countries.

What the world lacks, Guajardo recounts being told by officials in Beijing, is a nuanced understanding of China. And developing that understanding for the world is what Communist Party officials believe the work of a foreign ambassador should be, he said.

Every diplomat wants to contribute to better relations between capitals, he said. And no one wants to pick a fight with foreign officials. But operating as a conduit for messaging from a foreign capital is antithetical to the purpose of ambassadorial work, he said.

“You want to have the Chinese ambassador to Mexico explaining China to the Mexicans, and you want the Mexican ambassador to Beijing explaining China to the Mexicans? Who is supposed to explain Mexico to China?” he said.

“They are so invested in explaining themselves to the outside world that they have no energy left to understand the outside world … and they don’t care.”

With files from Michael Mui and Tonda MacCharles

Perrin Grauer is a Vancouver-based reporter covering community issues and Canada’s drug policies. Follow him on Twitter: @perringrauer


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Boggi, un dressing sous influence italienne


La marque classique décontracte son style et passe à l’offensive sur le marché français.

Hormis sur la couverture du Gentleman’s Chronicles édité par Boggi pour présenter la collection automne-hiver à ses clients, il faut feuilleter jusqu’à la 29e page de ce journal promotionnel pour découvrir l’image d’un pantalon et d’une veste taillés dans une même flanelle à fines rayures. La suite ne s’attarde guère plus sur les complets traditionnels bien qu’ils aient fait la renommée de cette marque classique à prix abordables.

La grande nouveauté de la saison, ce sont des pièces plus décontractées, des vestons à la deuxième encolure escamotable en tissu matelassé réchauffant le cou, des pull-overs en guise de chemises, des liquettes en maille coupée-cousue, des pantalons confortables à taille coulissée, des cartables, des sacoches, des sacs de voyage et, bien sûr, des sneakers de ville à l’épaisse semelle blanche qui ont déjà un pied en week-end. «65 % de notre offre n’est plus du costume», insiste Claudia Lunati, la porte-parole de la firme venue à Paris à l’occasion de son passage à l’offensive sur le marché français.

«Nous sommes appréciés pour un style précis, un choix de matières, une expérience particulière d’achat en magasin»

Claudia Lunati, porte-parole de Boggi

En effet, d’ici à la fin de l’année, quatre boutiques à l’enseigne ouvriront leurs portes à Lille, Marseille, Strasbourg et Parly 2. Une cinquième inauguration est programmée début 2019 dans le Triangle d’or parisien, rue Marbeuf. Quant au premier magasin français de l’enseigne, sis depuis 2013 au 38, boulevard des Italiens (Paris IXe), il sera rénové de fond en comble selon un concept moins formel.

«Cette année est celle du changement, reprend Claudia Lunati qui a rejoint l’entreprise basée à Mendrisio (Suisse), il y a huit mois, pour muscler son marketing. Les propriétaires de Boggi ont pris conscience qu’ils avaient un diamant brut entre les mains. Dans n’importe quel pays où la marque s’installait, les bons résultats étaient immédiats et, surtout, les clients devenaient rapidement fidèles. Jusqu’alors, ces implantations à l’export ont été sporadiques – nous sommes présents dans une trentaine de pays avec quelque 90 boutiques. L’idée est de commencer à renforcer notre implantation sur des marchés étrangers comme la France ou l’Allemagne, sachant que nous atteignons 70 magasins rien qu’en Italie.»

Légèreté industrielle et absence d’intermédiaires

La péninsule et, plus précisément à Milan, où en 1939, pour la première fois est apparu le nom Boggi dans le paysage local du commerce d’habillement masculin. S’agit-il alors d’un atelier de tailleur ou d’un habilleur multimarque? Nul ne le sait précisément. Les actuels actionnaires (la famille Zaccardi depuis 2003) cultivent peu de liens avec le passé. Excepté un style classique à l’italienne et, sur le plan structurel, un mode de distribution qui a été novateur et porteur à partir des années 1980. À savoir, ouvrir des échoppes en nom propre plutôt que d’être distribué via des grands magasins aux côtés de concurrents. Cette absence d’intermédiaires a toujours une incidence favorable sur les prix de vente au public (à partir de 700 euros un costume).

À cela s’ajoute une légèreté industrielle de l’entreprise qui lui permet de rogner sur les tarifs en vitrine. Boggi n’est pas tisseur mais s’approvisionne chez des grands drapiers transalpins. Il n’est pas non plus confectionneur mais fait appel à des façonniers de la botte pour ses costumes en demi-mesure, le sportswear, la maroquinerie et les souliers, tandis que le prêt-à-porter traditionnel est fabriqué en Roumanie ou en Chine par des partenaires selon des standards rigoureux.

«Nous avons réalisé une grande étude de notre clientèle, ajoute Claudia Lunati. Nous sommes appréciés pour un style précis, un choix de matières, une expérience particulière d’achat en magasin que nous veillons à maintenir au fil de notre expansion. Tout vendeur qui rejoint l’entreprise suit une formation à la Boggi Academy. Il ressort de nos enquêtes auprès des consommateurs que la notion de qualité pèse beaucoup sur leur décision d’achat. Une valeur à laquelle nous demeurons attachés.»


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