The former principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has claimed that he didn't know that a final decision was made in September not to proceed with a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin.
"We learned last week that the director of public prosecutions made her decision not to pursue a remediation agreement on September 4th, and that the attorney general was out of the country until September 12th," Gerald Butts told the Commons justice committee. "In that version of events, the attorney general made the final decision after weighing all of the public interest matters involved in just twelve days.
"Imagine for a moment that on September 16th, the day the former attorney general told this committee the decision was made, firmly and finally, that she made a public announcement to inform Canadians of that decision. What would be the rationale?" he continued.
"There's another important point here. I learned for the first time while watching the former attorney general's testimony that she made a final decision on the 16th of September."
On February 27, Wilson-Raybould testified that she told Trudeau to his face on September 17 that she wasn't going to override the decision by the director of public prosecutions not to do this.
Butts, however, said there is no record in writing of Wilson-Raybould communicating that a final decision had been made.
He asked why this wouldn't have occurred.
"Minister Wilson-Raybould's preferred method of communicating complex or important matters is in writing, which I appreciate," he said. "I have studied lengthy memos from the minister on subjects as diverse as the appointment of a Supreme Court justice, the TMX pipeline process, and the work of the Cabinet committee on reconciliation."
Butts also testified that he felt Wilson-Raybould was "obliged" to look at new evidence presented by the Montreal-based construction-services giant in October.
And he insisted that the January cabinet shuffle was unrelated to SNC-Lavalin, which was facing charges of bribery in relation to its dealings in Libya.
Butts opened his statement by saying that he was going to tell the truth.
"I am not here to quarrel with the former attorney general or to say a single negative word about her personally," he said. "What I am here to do is to give evidence what happened last fall is very different from the version of events you heard last week."
He also stated that everyone working on the SNC-Lavalin file knew that it was Wilson-Raybould's decision whether to direct the director of public prosecutions to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin.
"We also knew that that decision would have an impact on thousands of people and we took our responsibility to these people seriously," he said.
In addition, Butts said that the prime minister and former attorney general did their jobs to the best of their ability.
However, he indicated that a breakdown in trust occurred.
"As the point person in PMO for the attorney general, I take responsibility for that breakdown," Butts said.More