Canada PM's chief secretary resigns amid SNC controversy

  19 February 2019    Read: 1734
Canada PM

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerald Butts resigned on Monday amid allegations Trudeau’s office had pressured the former justice minister to help construction firm SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution, Reuters reports. 

Trudeau has faced criticism since Jody Wilson-Raybould quit Trudeau’s cabinet unexpectedly. Her departure followed a Globe and Mail newspaper report this month saying officials in Trudeau’s office had urged her to allow SNC-Lavalin to avoid a corruption trial on charges of bribing Libyan officials, and to escape with a fine instead.

That pressure was said to have come last year when Wilson-Raybould was justice minister and attorney general.

Any accusation that “I or the staff put pressure on the Attorney General (Wilson-Raybould) is not true,” Butts said in a statement on Monday.

Trudeau, who faces a re-election bid in October, accepted Butts’ resignation and said he had served the country with “integrity, sage advice and devotion.”

“I want to thank him for his service and continued friendship,” Trudeau said in a post on Twitter.

SNC-Lavalin has said previously that it had sought to avoid a corruption trial because the executives accused of wrongdoing had left the company and it had overhauled its ethics and compliance systems.

The allegation was distracting from the “vital work” Trudeau was doing and it was in the best interest of the Prime Minister’s Office for him to step aside, Butts said in his statement.

Wilson-Raybould has not commented on the matter, citing solicitor-client privilege.

Wilson-Raybould was shuffled to Veteran Affairs in January, a move widely seen as a demotion for one of Canada’s most prominent indigenous federal politicians.

Last week, a Canadian parliamentary committee rejected an opposition bid to question senior officials about the allegations of political interference.

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