Ethics commissioner to probe Prime Minister's Office over SNC-Lavalin scandal

Cornelia Mascio
Febbraio 12, 2019

In a letter to NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus and his colleague B.C. NDP MP Nathan Cullen, Dion said he would investigate the prime minister personally for a possible contravention of Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act.

Canada's ethics watchdog has launched an investigation into allegations that the Prime Minister's Office pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help construction giant SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution.

The Montreal-based engineering and construction company is facing criminal charges for allegedly paying millions in bribes to secure government contracts in Libya.

He also wouldn't address calls from the Opposition for the government to waive solicitor-client privilege for his predecessor.

In the meantime, he said Wilson-Raybould "confirmed for me a conversation we had this fall where I told her directly that any decisions on matters involving the director of public prosecutions were hers alone".

In 2016, the Liberal Party of Canada was forced to return over $100,000 in illegal donations they received from SNC-Lavalin's political slush fund, and the NDP has requested the Ethics Commissioner to look into whether Trudeau was a recipient of illegal donations, according to a release.

Remediation agreements, otherwise known as a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, can include having the company accept responsibility, denounce the wrongdoing, vow to implement corrective measures, and pay financial penalties.

Wilson-Raybould was shuffled out of the justice portfolio last month, and is now the minister of veterans affairs, a move widely seen as a demotion.

Moreover, he appeared to suggest Wilson-Raybould would have resigned had she felt she'd been improperly pressured.

"We spoke about our shared goals for our country and for this government", he said, adding that her "presence in cabinet should actually speak for itself".

"Justin Trudeau promised Canadians he would change the way politics worked in Ottawa, but instead his Liberal government continues to prioritize helping insiders and the rich get ahead".

New Brunswick MP Wayne Long said in a statement posted to social media Monday that he was "extremely troubled" when the allegation surfaced last week and nothing he has heard since has made him feel less unsettled.

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"How the law treats individuals or corporations in our society is not, and should never be, incumbent upon the political pressure they can exert upon politicians", he said.

In his letter, Long stresses he's not "rushing to any judgment" in the matter, but believes "a full and transparent investigation" by the House of Commons justice committee is necessary to provide answers in the affair.

Therefore, surely Liberal MPs on Parliament's justice committee will agree on Wednesday with their Conservative and New Democrat counterparts to hold robust public hearings on the controversy, with a wide-ranging ability to call and examine all relevant witnesses, since the Liberals control the committee. Over the weekend, the Toronto Star reported that the majority-Liberal committee is likely to block the opposition's attempt to launch a study of the allegations.

Current Justice Minister David Lametti is not saying much about this development. However, he emphasized it would be inappropriate to comment on an issue before the courts. "These discussions can improve the quality of decision-making", Lametti said.

"But there is a line that can not be crossed - telling the attorney general what a decision ought to be". That would be interference.

"I'm the attorney general", he said.

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