A timeline of events in the SNC-Lavalin affair

By The Canadian Press
March 25, 2019 - 3:30pm

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 are linked to people no longer with the company. A conviction could bar the company from bidding on federal contracts for up to 10 years.

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 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 speaks with Wilson-Raybould about the decision and agrees to provide the minister with advice on the powers of the attorney general around remediation agreements, which the department does three days later.

Sept. 6 - 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. 12 - Finance Department officials tell Drouin that SNC-Lavalin is in discussions with the prosecution service about a remediation deal, suggesting to Drouin the decision not to pursue a deal isn't set in stone.

Sept. 16 - PMO officials tell Prince 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 - Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould discuss SNC-Lavalin. Wilson-Raybould says Trudeau asks her to "find a solution" for SNC-Lavalin to avoid job losses, talks about the Quebec election and notes he is a Quebec MP. She said she asked him if he was interfering politically in her role as attorney-general and he said no.

Trudeau later 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 Wilson-Raybould to reconsider her decision and she agreed.

Sept. 18 - Drouin meets with Wilson-Raybould to debrief about the meeting with Trudeau, and Wilson-Raybould expresses unease with the content of the conversation.

Sept. 19 - Wilson-Raybould tells Drouin at a meeting it will be the last time the two discuss the SNC-Lavalin case, and instructs the deputy minister 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 - Wernick 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 sends Trudeau a letter outlining SNC-Lavalin's concerns about the implications of a conviction and asks for a meeting.

Oct. 26 - PMO official Mathieu Bouchard muses to Prince about getting outside legal advice on a deal for SNC-Lavalin. Wilson-Raybould later says Bouchard also brought 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 in Canada before.

Dec. 19 - According to Wilson-Raybould, Wernick warns her she is on a collision course with Trudeau, who wants to get a deal done. Wernick later testifies he doesn't recall saying that.

Jan. 6, 2019 - Trudeau talks with Jane Philpott about becoming Treasury Board president and having her help convince Wilson-Raybould to take over Indigenous Services. Trudeau later says Philpott asks him if the move is related to SNC-Lavalin, which he denies.

Jan. 7 - 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 refused Indigenous services, 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. 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 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.

The same day, Oshawa, Ont., Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes tells Trudeau she won't seek re-election. Trudeau's office later says it was an "emotional" conversation; Caesar-Chavannes claims he yelled at her through the phone. The details emerge later as Caesar-Chavannes becomes publicly critical of Trudeau, and more supportive of Wilson-Raybould.

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.

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 addresses a cabinet meeting. Cabinet confidentiality means nothing can be revealed about what was said or why.

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 - Appearing before the justice committee, Wernick 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 the justice committee for an opportunity to testify.

March 1 - Trudeau makes longtime MP Lawrence MacAulay his new veterans affairs minister. 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 how the government has dealt with the ongoing affair.

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. 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 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 11 - The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development says it is "concerned" about allegations of political interference and will determine whether Canada is violating its commitment to an international anti-bribery convention.

March 12 - Dion's office says he is taking a prolonged leave from his job for health reasons, but says information will continue to be gathered in all ongoing cases in his absence.

March 13 - The Liberal majority on the justice committee ends the emergency meeting, and moves to reconvene on March 19 as originally planned.

March 15 - Wilson-Raybould tells her Vancouver constituents she intends to run for re-election as a Liberal. She writes in an open letter saying important questions haven't been answered about the affair and wants to stay in Parliament, and with the Liberals, to change a "culture of conflict, empty partisanship and cynical games" in federal politics.

Meanwhile, Quebec Premier Francois Legault says he has spoken with Trudeau on the need to find a way to save SNC-Lavalin and the jobs it creates.

March 18 - Trudeau appoints former leadership rival Joyce Murray to replace Philpott as Treasury Board president. Hours after being at the swearing-in ceremony, Wernick announces he will step down before the fall election, having concluded he has lost the trust of opposition parties.

Liberals on the justice committee write the chairman that "all rules and laws were followed" and Canadians "have the necessary information to arrive at a conclusion.''

In question period, Trudeau says former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan will explore the relationship between the government and the minister of justice, who plays a second role as attorney general.

According to Trudeau, he and Wilson-Raybould have a "cordial" conversation and discuss "next steps."

March 19 - Liberals on the justice committee vote to end the committee's probe. Conservatives protest later in the day by walking out of the House of Commons during Morneau's budget speech.

March 20 - SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce tells The Canadian Press he never cited the protection of 9,000 jobs as the reason the company should be granted a remediation agreement. He adds he doesn't expect an agreement to be offered in the current political climate.

In Ottawa, Philpott and Wilson-Raybould attend the Liberal caucus that followed a "frank and emotional" meeting Philpott had with her Ontario caucus colleagues.

Caesar-Chavannes quits the Liberal caucus, saying she has become a distraction.

The opposition parties trigger a marathon voting session after the Liberals use their majority to reject a motion calling on Trudeau to let Wilson-Raybould testify more fully about her allegations.

March 21 - In an interview published in Maclean's magazine, Philpott says there is "much more to the story" that should be told. She says she had concerns in January, before the controversy became public, but is prevented from discussing them through efforts by the Prime Minister's Office to "shut down the story."

At an event in Mississauga, Trudeau says the issue is about what happened while Wilson-Raybould was attorney general, "and she got to speak fully to that."

March 22 - Wilson-Raybould tells justice committee she will provide "copies of text messages and emails" along with a written statement that will "further clarify statements I made and elucidate the accuracy and nature of statements by witnesses in testimony that came after my committee appearance."

Her fellow Liberal MPs urge Wilson-Raybould and Philpott to publicly talk about what else they have to say on the issue.

March 25 - Trudeau says he looks forward to continuing to have Wilson-Raybould and Philpott in the Liberal caucus. Scheer calls on Trudeau to provide an extended waiver so Philpott and Wilson-Raybould can testify fully before a parliamentary committee.

Citing unnamed sources, The Canadian Press reports Wilson-Raybould and Trudeau clashed over her recommendation in 2017 for chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada — a conservative judge from Manitoba that Trudeau disagreed with. Wilson-Raybould says there was no conflict with the Trudeau, and raising concerns about the leak of information that could "compromise the integrity of the (judicial) appointments process and potentially sitting justices."

SNC-Lavalin issues a clarification to the March 20 interview that says, in part, that while "the Government of Canada was never threatened by SNC-Lavalin," the company "made it very clear" to the government that a remediation agreement "was the best way to protect and grow the almost 9,000 direct Canadian SNC-Lavalin jobs."

The Canadian Press

SNC-Lavalin backtracks on CEO's comments surrounding potential job losses