Sheer dares Trudeau to follow through on threat of libel suit

April 7, 2019 2:31 pm

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer on Sunday dared Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to sue him for defamation for statements he made about Trudeau’s involvement in the SNC-Lavalin scandal, after receiving a letter from the prime minister’s lawyer that threatened legal action.

Scheer released a letter from Trudeau’s lawyer, Julian Porter, saying the opposition leader had issued a press release that went “beyond the pale of fair debate and is libellous” by claiming Trudeau interfered in the SNC criminal prosecution.

Porter said his letter, dated March 31, should be “treated as notice” of possible action under the Libel and Slander act of Ontario.

Scheer said he would welcome a battle in court after having Liberal-dominated parliamentary committees shut down hearings into the affair.

“I stand by every single criticism I have made of Trudeau’s conduct in regards to this scandal, including those Mr. Trudeau’s lawyer cites in his letter,” Scheer said. He urged the Prime Minister to follow through with his threatened lawsuit immediately. “This is an urgent matter of public interest and deserves to be heard in a legal setting where Liberals do not control the proceedings.”

Asked whether he was accusing Trudeau of committing a crime, Scheer said the Prime Minister “led a campaign to politically interfere in ongoing court proceedings," adding he had written the the RCMP to investigate. In his letter to Scheer, Porter said that allegation “is entirely false.”

The Globe and Mail reported on Feb. 7 that Trudeau’s office put pressure on Jody Wilson-Raybould when she was attorney-general to help SNC-Lavalin Group, which had tried unsuccessfully to win a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors over corruption charges. Trudeau initially called the story “false,” though he later acknowledged there had been ongoing conversations between himself, his officials and the then-attorney general.

At a committee hearing, Ms. Wilson-Raybould testified that she received several phone calls from senior staffers of the Prime Minister’s Office, including former principle secretary Gerald Butts, as well as Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, urging her to revisit her decision not to intervene in the prosecutors’ decision.

The ensuing controversy led to the resignations of Wilson-Raybould, Treasury Board president Jane Philpott and Gerald Butts, as well as the earlier than planned retirement of Wernick.