Published: Sat, August 17, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Canada's Trudeau rebuked on ethics ahead of election

Canada's Trudeau rebuked on ethics ahead of election

Wilson-Raybould says she was improperly pressured to step in and allow the Quebec engineering firm to negotiate an agreement to avoid criminal penalties for bribery in relation to its overseas operations. 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".

Furthermore, Ethics Commission Mario Dion wrote that "The Prime Minister, directly and through his senior officials, used various means to exert influence over Ms. Wilson-Raybould".

Ms. McLellan consulted various experts, including former attorneys-general and government officials, lawyers and academics in Canada, Britain and Australia, to weigh in on the question of dividing the two roles.

A conviction at trial would result in SNC-Lavalin being deprived of lucrative government contracts resulting in up to 9,000 jobs lost, according to the company.

Trudeau all the while maintained "that I and my staff always acted appropriately and professionally".

Given that amendments to the Criminal Code would be included in the budget bill, Dion says Trudeau stated that Wilson-Raybould likely would have been involved in the discussions too.

The commissioner received documents from all six witnesses, as well as former Treasury Board president Scott Brison, SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce, ex-principal secretary to the prime minister Gerald Butts, chief of staff to the finance minister Ben Chin, chief of staff to the prime minister Katie Telford, and Wilson-Raybould's former chief of staff Jessica Prince, among others. He wanted to read them himself in order to produce a full and fair report.

In a tweet, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer admonished Trudeau for being the first prime minister in history to be found guilty of breaking federal ethics laws.

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

Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, two prominent former Liberals with intimate knowledge of the SNC-Lavalin affair, are seeking re-election as Independent candidates in their respective ridings of Vancouver Granville, in British Columbia, and Markham-Stouffville, in Ontario.

At a news conference in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., Mr. Trudeau said he looks forward to "implementing the various recommendations she made because what happened over the past year shouldn't have happened".

Wilson-Raybould says she believes she was demoted because she didn't give in to pressure to reach a remediation agreement with a company accused of bribing officials in Libya. In a separate 2017 decision, the ethics commissioner found Trudeau broke rules when he and his family vacationed on an island owned by the Aga Khan. As Attorney General of England and Wales, Lord Shawcross explained to the UK House of Commons in 1951 that the Attorney General was "not obliged to, consult with any of his colleagues in the government" in making decisions pertinent to a prosecution.

The entire affair also prompted an examination request to the Ethics Commissioner by Charlie Angus, MP for Timmins-James Bay, and Nathan Cullen, MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley. The attorney general must consent to the negotiation of the agreement.

Wilson-Raybould said she welcomed the report, calling it a "vindication" of the independence of the attorney-general's office.

The ruling marks a major blow to Trudeau's governing Liberal party less than 10 weeks before a general election.

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