Trudeau broke ethics rules by trying to exert influence in SNC-Lavalin scandal: report
By Amanda Connolly, Global News, Aug. 14, 2019
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he “can’t apologize” for what the federal ethics commissioner has now ruled improper political influence in the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
That’s because he maintains he was trying to protect Canadian jobs, despite the commissioner finding Trudeau and his staff broke the rules repeatedly over the course of several months in which they pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help the Quebec firm avoid a criminal trial.
“I can’t apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs,” he said when asked about the report on Wednesday.
Trudeau also said that while he accepts the report put out by ethics commissioner Mario Dion, which found Trudeau broke the Conflict of Interest Act, he disagreed with the conclusion Dion drew that Trudeau should not have been putting forward any considerations he wanted Wilson-Raybould to evaluate.
Trudeau said he believed he had the responsibility to raise the potential for job losses at the company if it was forced to go through criminal prosecution.
Dion, though, had said because any potential public interest in the case was intrinsically linked to the private interests of the company, Trudeau should not have waded in at all to argue for any particular considerations to be given more study.
Dion specifically looked at Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act, which bars public office holders from “using their position to seek to influence a decision to improperly further the private interests of a third party, either by acting outside the scope of their legislative authority, or contrary to a rule, a convention or an established process.”
As Dion noted in his report, it was not enough just to seek to influence someone else for an action to break the rules.
There had to be a specific desire to “improperly further the interests of SNC-Lavalin.”
And Dion said that’s exactly what he found to be the case.
“The evidence showed that SNC-Lavalin had significant financial interests in deferring prosecution. These interests would likely have been furthered had Mr. Trudeau successfully influenced the attorney general to intervene in the director of public prosecutions’ decision,” wrote Dion.
“The actions that sought to further these interests were improper since they were contrary to the Shawcross doctrine and the principles of prosecutorial independence and the rule of law.”
He added: “There is no doubt that SNC-Lavalin’s considerable financial interests would have been furthered had Mr. Trudeau successfully influenced Ms. Wilson-Raybould to issue a directive that SNC‑Lavalin be invited to negotiate a remediation agreement.”
Wilson-Raybould issued a statement on Wednesday saying the report represented a “vindication” for the independence of the role of attorney general and director of public prosecutions and validated critical concerns she had raised, but Wilson-Raybould also said she felt “sadness” seeing how the affair has played out.
“In a country as great as Canada, essential values and principles that are the foundation for our freedoms and system of government should be actively upheld by all, especially those in positions of public trust,” she wrote.
“We should not struggle to do this; and we should not struggle to acknowledge when we have acted in ways that do not meet those standards.”