Friday, 20 September, 2019

Justin Trudeau faces questions after report finds he broke ethics rules | FULL

Fallout from Ethics Ruling Hard to Say says Local Political Scientist Trudeau breached Conflict of Interest Act, says ethics commissioner
Patty Aguilar | 17 August, 2019, 01:42

Trudeau had previously stated that he would not apologize for how he handled the SNC-Lavalin affair, and that he believed that he did not do anything wrong. His treatment of Ms Wilson-Raybould, who accused him and members of his office of making "veiled threats", tarnished his reputation as a feminist prime minister who promised to restore Canada's relationship with its indigenous people.

According to Dion's report, SNC-Lavalin representatives met with senior officials in Finance and the Privy Council Office, the pinnacle of the federal public service, from mid-September to early October to "discuss submitting to the Prosecution Service public-interest considerations in support of a remediation agreement".

"These actions were tantamount to political direction", Dion wrote of Trudeau's attempt to get Wilson-Raybould to change her mind and drop prosecution.

What that dynamite may have blown apart is the personal brand of a single man who has become the face of a now seriously compromised Liberal party - staring down the barrel of a federal election in just a few months.

The report was made public shortly after Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion released his findings into the Prime Minister's actions.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday acknowledged ethics breaches highlighted by an investigation that found he arm-twisted his attorney general to settle a criminal case.

"The prime minister, directly and through his senior officials, used various means to exert influence over Ms Wilson-Raybould". According to Dion's report, Wilson-Raybould told then-privy council clerk Michael Wernick, the top bureaucrat, in a key meeting last September 19, that SNC-Lavalin should "write her a letter setting out their public interest arguments, which she could in turn submit to the Director of Public Prosecutions".

Mr Dion's findings carry no legal implications beyond a possible minimal fine, which his office says are not applicable in this case. It seems, very curiously, that SNC-Lavalin declined to take the most obvious available route to getting those points about job losses on the desk of the individual whose opinion might have mattered most. In 2015, the Canadian authorities charged SNC-Lavalin with paying 47.7 million Canadian dollars in bribes to officials in Libya to win contracts there, and of defrauding the Libyan government of 129.8 million Canadian dollars.

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A conviction would prevent SNC-Lavalin from bidding on federal government contracts for 10 years.

The Ethics Commissioner stops short of ascribing culpability to any other actor in the saga, placing responsibility exclusively in at the feet of the prime minister who directed the almost four-month effort to get Wilson-Raybould to change her mind.

Image caption: Jody Wilson-Raybould is running as an independent after being expelled from the Liberal caucus.

The deferred prosecution provision that Wilson-Raybould refused to offer SNC-Lavalin was included in the March 2018 omnibus budget bill.

What has been the reaction?

"The buck stops with the prime minister", said Trudeau on Wednesday, adding that he nevertheless disagreed with some of Dion's conclusions. Trudeau has been travelling the country this summer talking about how the Liberals plan to invest in Canadians, while warning that voting for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer would risk returning to the days of Harper.

Of course, even if Wilson-Raybould did fail here somehow, Trudeau and his advisers would still be responsible for respecting the Shawcross doctrine, which protects the independence of the attorney general from political pressure.

"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 said.

As Eric Sorensen reports, Trudeau's rivals couldn't have been handed a better political weapon.

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