OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he takes full responsibility after Canada’s ethics commissioner ruled he broke the rules in the SNC-Lavalin affair, but disputes some of the findings.
In his report, Commissioner Mario Dion concluded Trudeau “contravened” Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act by “using his position of authority over Ms. Jody Wilson-Raybould to seek to influence her decision.”
The Prime Minister says he doesn’t fully agree with the finding.
The Trudeau government has been accused of improperly pressuring the then-attorney general to end a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. The prime minister has insisted his government balanced the need to respect the independence of the judicial system with its concern about the potential loss of 9,000 jobs if the prosecution of the engineering firm went ahead.
Dion’s report also concluded “other senior officials within the Prime Minister’s Office” were directed by Trudeau to “find a solution in a desire to use the newly adopted remediation agreement tool, also called a deferred prosecution agreement, in the criminal matter involving SNC-Lavalin.”
— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) August 14, 2019
Dion calls the case troubling and says the authority of the Prime Minister and his office was used to “circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson‑Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer.”
The commissioner says there’s little doubt that SNC-Lavalin’s financial interests would have been furthered had Trudeau succeeded in convincing Wilson-Raybould to overturn a decision by the director of public prosecutions, who had refused to invite the Montreal engineering giant to negotiate a remediation agreement in order to avoid a criminal prosecution on fraud charges related to contracts in Libya.
The controversy, which has been going on for several months, led Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott to quit the cabinet, before both women were ousted as Liberal MPs.
The SNC-Lavalin affair has cost Trudeau and his party at the polls, and while there are questions about whether this ruling will shake up the upcoming federal election campaign, a political scientist says it likely won’t sway the vote.
Jody Wilson-Raybould calls report vindicating
In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, the now independent Vancouver Granville MP called the report vindicating, but says the people who need to be accountable waited too long to acknowledge their failures.
“The Report confirms critical facts, consistent with what I shared with all Canadians, and affirms the position I have taken from the outset,” Wilson Raybould wrote.
She says the report “represents a vindication of the independent role of the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions in criminal prosecutions – and reinforces for Canadians how essential it is to our democracy to uphold the rule of law and prosecutorial independence.”
Federal leaders respond
In a tweet, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer blasted the Prime Minister following the ethics commissioner’s report.
“Justin Trudeau said he would be accountable and ethical,” Scheer said on Twitter. “Instead he used the power of his office to reward his supporters and punish his critics. He is now the only PM in history to be found guilty of breaking federal ethics law not once, but twice. Trudeau is not as advertised.”
The Tory leader calls Trudeau’s conduct “unforgivable” and says Canadians can no longer believe anything the prime minister says, and that they will hold him responsible when they go to the polls Oct. 21.
Meantime, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says Trudeau can’t be the prime minister following the release of these findings. He did not waste a moment to urge voters to vote for the New Democrats this fall.
“We know the Conservatives and Liberals have both consistently chosen to help out their powerful friends,” Singh said. “We know that the Conservatives have the Duffy scandal, they help out their powerful friends, they help out those at the very, very top, instead of helping out people. Our focus is very different.”
Related video: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh responds to Ethics Commissioner’s report