Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre took to his feet Monday in the House of Commons in an effort to filibuster the government’s budget until the Liberals agree to further investigation of the SNC-Lavalin affair.
“The debate will begin on Justin Trudeau’s coverup budget _ you’ll recall that he introduced a budget that splashed around billions of dollars to distract Canadians from the SNC-Lavalin scandal,” Poilievre told a news conference Monday on Parliament Hill.
“I will be responding on behalf of the opposition to that budget. I have the ability to speak an unlimited period of time and I will be using that ability to demand the government end the coverup (and) agree to a parliamentary investigation into the SNC-Lavalin scandal.”
Following the news conference, Poilievre headed into the House of Commons chamber to begin his speech.
House of Commons rules say the finance minister and the Opposition’s finance critic can speak as long as they want about the budget, but only within the time allotted for government business. That means Poilievre’s plan won’t disrupt most other activities in the House of Commons and he has to speak for only a few hours at a time. Debate on the budget is also restricted to four sitting days.
The Ottawa-area MP said he wants senior members of Trudeau’s staff, as well as the prime minister himself, to testify before the Commons justice committee about the pressure former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould came under to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution over its allegedly corrupt dealings in Libya.
“When they agree to that, I’ll stop speaking.”
The Commons justice committee has heard testimony from Wilson-Raybould, Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick and Trudeau’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts, among others.
Wilson-Raybould said she endured a months-long campaign of PMO pressure, including from Wernick and Butts, to arrange a so-called remediation agreement for SNC-Lavalin, which is facing criminal charges that it used bribery and fraud to get business in Libya. Conviction could include a 10-year ban on bidding on federal contracts in Canada.
She alleges that her refusal is why Trudeau shuffled her out of the prestigious justice portfolio and into Veterans Affairs. She resigned from cabinet a month later, followed shortly by fellow senior minister Jane Philpott. The resignations have shaken the Liberal party and led to the suggestion from some of their fellow MPs that if they don’t believe in Trudeau’s leadership, they don’t belong in the Liberal caucus.
Poilievre said the witnesses who have already testified before the justice committee haven’t yet told the full story.
The Conservatives used procedural tactics two weeks ago to force more than 250 separate votes on spending plans, using the round-the-clock session in the Commons to draw more attention to the SNC-Lavalin affair as well.