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'Everyone's going to use this,' political scientist says of findings into SNC-Lavalin affair

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Wednesday June 19, 2019 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Summary

Political expert says ethics commissioner's findings likely won't decide the outcome of the federal election

Ethics commissioner found Justin Trudeau broke the rules in the SNC-Lavalin affair

David Moscrop says findings likely won't convert many Trudeau fans or haters

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been found to have broken the rules in the SNC-Lavalin affair, according to the country’s ethics commissioner, but it turns out Mario Dion’s findings may not have much of an impact on the upcoming federal election, a political scientist says.

The news comes just two months ahead of the fall election, and David Moscrop with the University of Ottawa says while the controversy did cost the Liberals in the polls before, the party eventually managed to bounce back.

“I’m sure it’ll affect their numbers,” Moscrop explained of the ruling. “It just means that what was going to be a close race will be an even closer race.”

He adds most Canadians probably didn’t even know the country had an ethics commissioner before now, and that Dion’s findings likely won’t convert many Trudeau fans or haters.

However, he notes there will likely be some attention.

“Everyone’s going to use this to some political advantage,” Moscrop said. “On the other hand, when people hear ‘ethics commissioner,’ they’re going to assume that it’s significant, and that person has some credibility. So it’s going to be on the radar, and it’s going to be salient. So I suspect people will take it fairly seriously.”

In his report, Dion concluded that the prime minister “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 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 Quebec engineering firm went ahead.

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.