OTTAWA - The leader of Canada’s main opposition party Wednesday demanded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau quit after a former justice minister said government officials inappropriately pressured her to help a major firm avoid a bribery trial.
The allegations by Jody Wilson-Raybould dramatically deepened the biggest crisis of Trudeau’s tenure just months ahead of an October election in which his Liberals face a tough fight.
Wilson-Raybould told the House of Commons justice committee that she had confronted Trudeau over what she called inappropriate pressure to help construction firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. evade a corruption trial on charges of bribing Libyan officials.
Andrew Scheer, leader of the official opposition Conservative Party, demanded the resignation of what he called a disgraced prime minister.
“He can no longer, with a clear conscience, continue to lead this nation,” Scheer told reporters, calling for police to immediately probe the matter. Trudeau was to address reporters later Wednesday.
Wilson-Raybould said officials imposed “consistent and sustained pressure” on her from September to December last year to ensure SNC-Lavalin pay a large fine rather than go to trial.
“In my view, these events constituted pressure to intervene in a matter and that this pressure, or political interference to intervene, was not appropriate,” she told the committee.
Wilson-Raybould, who named several senior officials in the offices of Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, said under questioning from Liberal legislators that she did not feel the pressure on her had been illegal.
A Morneau spokesman denied the minister or his staff had ever pressured Wilson-Raybould when she was justice minister.
Trudeau and other officials deny inappropriate pressure was put on Wilson-Raybould. But the case forced the resignation of Trudeau’s principal private secretary, Gerald Butts, earlier this month.
Opinion polls show the affair is starting to hurt the Liberals ahead of what looks set to be a tightly contested federal election in October.