It's Time to Hold the Liberal Government Accountable for the SNC-Lavalin Affair

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On February 11, 2019, Mario Dion's office announced that it would investigate allegations of political interference and obstruction of justice by personnel in the Prime Minister's Office (dubbed the "SNC-Lavalin affair"), who allegedly attempted to pressure Jody Wilson-Raybould, the then Attorney General (and Minister of Justice), to intervene in an ongoing criminal prosecution case against construction firm SNC-Lavalin by granting them a deferred prosecution agreement. The charges had centred on allegations that the company paid nearly $48 million to public officials to influence government decisions under the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s regime between 2001 and 2011. SNC-Lavalin had also faced charges of fraud and corruption for allegedly defrauding various Libyan organizations of roughly $130 million.

In a letter to opposition NDP MPs Charlie Angus and Nathan Cullen, Dion stated that he believed section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act, which he stated "prohibits a public office holder from seeking to influence a decision of another person so as to improperly further another person’s private interests," had been breached, granting him the authority to investigate the matter.

February 26, 2020: The House of Commons ethics committee invited all four of the commissioners under its mandate to testify in the coming weeks. But the members deferred until their next meeting a vote on a Conservative motion to invite Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion to testify for two hours specifically on his report last year that found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke federal ethics rules in the SNC-Lavalin scandal. The Conservatives had said prior to the committee starting that they would make a second attempt to invite Dion to testify. An earlier attempt this week failed after the Liberal and Bloc Quebecois members blocked it.

The committee will vote on his motion at its next meeting but if the past is any indication, it may be unlikely to pass. Conservatives hold four of the voting seats on that committee, which is also chaired by a Conservative member who doesn’t vote unless there is a tie. The Liberals hold five voting seats while the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois hold one each. While the NDP voted with the Conservatives on the earlier attempt to call Dion on SNC-Lavalin, the Bloc Quebecois voted with the Liberals. Previous attempts by the opposition to call Dion on the matter were also blocked by Liberals during committee meetings on the scandal last year. The Liberals used their majority at the time to limit the number of witnesses called to committees and to block attempts to call Dion. His report in August 2019 marked the second time Trudeau has been found to have broken federal ethics rules during his time as prime minister. The first was when he accepted vacations for him and his family to the Aga Khan’s private Caribbean island. While Trudeau apologized for the Caribbean trip, he refused to do so when Dion deemed he had improperly interfered in the bid by SNC-Lavalin to get a deferred prosecution agreement or DPA. The DPA sought by SNC-Lavalin is a new tool created after heavy lobbying by the company. It enables commercial firms accused of crimes to avoid trials in certain circumstances.

On 10 September 2019, The Globe and Mail published a story claiming the Trudeau government was not co-operating with an RCMP inquiry into potential obstruction of justice. A waiver for confidentiality was not provided by the Clerk of the Privy Council nor did Trudeau override the Clerk which would allow RCMP access to both staffers and materials. According to the report, sources who spoke to The Globe and Mail were told to not discuss matters regarding the scandal with police officials. While Scheer said the RCMP were investigating the Prime Minister's Office there was no evidence as of 10 September 2019 that the RCMP has begun an investigation into anyone in the PMO.

We cannot have a political party in power that blatantly circumvents and hinders an investigation into obstruction of justice and conflict of interest laws where their own party is concerned. The Office of The Ethics Commission determined Justin Trudeau did in fact violate the trust of Canadians who voted for him, and this is the conclusion of Mario Dion's report: 

"I find that Mr. Trudeau used his position of authority over Ms. Wilson-Raybould to seek to influence her decision on whether she should overrule the Director of Public Prosecutions' decision not to invite SNC-Lavalin to enter into negotiations towards a remediation agreement. Because SNC‑Lavalin overwhelmingly stood to benefit from Ms. Wilson-Raybould's intervention, I have no doubt that the result of Mr. Trudeau's influence would have furthered SNC-Lavalin's interests. The actions that sought to further these interests were improper since the actions were contrary to the constitutional principles of prosecutorial independence and the rule of law. For these reasons, I find that Mr. Trudeau contravened section 9 of the Act."

This is corruption and a breach of trust in its worst form; Canadians deserve better than this. The honorable thing for Justin Trudeau to do would have been to step down, but he has chosen Not to do the honorable thing. Contact your MP and demand a full criminal investigation into the Liberal government's refusal to abide by ethics laws, as well as hindering a formal investigation into a serious breach of trust. Justin Trudeau has broken the law and he needs to be held accountable, as does the Liberal Party of Canada.

George Taylor