Federal ethics czar launching inquiry into PMO after SNC-Lavalin allegations

Galtero Lara
Febrero 12, 2019

Federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said Monday that, in response to requests from NDP MPs Nathan Cullen and Charlie Angus, he has launched an inquiry into allegations reported by the Globe and Mail last week that the PMO improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to stand down an ongoing criminal prosecution of Quebec engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin, on bribery charges.

The Montreal-based engineering and construction company is facing criminal charges for allegedly paying millions in bribes to secure government contracts in Libya.

Since Thursday, Wilson-Raybould has refused to comment on the allegations, citing solicitor-client privilege.

The prime minister said Wilson-Raybould reminded him of a conversation they had in the fall where he told her that "any decisions on matters involving the director of public prosecutions were hers alone".

The ethics commissioner's office has found rules violations in two of the four investigations into the Trudeau cabinet it has completed.

The newspaper said Wilson-Raybould was shuffled to the veterans-affairs portfolio after she refused to get the public prosecutor to negotiate a remediation deal with the company, a means of acknowledging wrongdoing without a criminal conviction. "In our system of government, of course, her presence in cabinet should actually speak for itself", he said. The NDP had asked Dion to look into the matter.

Word of the probe came shortly after a Liberal MP joined opposition calls for a parliamentary investigation into the matter.

New Brunswick MP Wayne Long says in a statement posted to social media that he was "extremely troubled" when the allegation surfaced last week and nothing he has heard since has made him feel less unsettled.

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"How the law treats individuals or corporations in our society is not, and should never be, incumbent upon the political pressure they can exert upon politicians", he says.

"I also am seeking answers that will clear the air regarding exactly what happened here, and, because I was raised to believe that full transparency is always the best approach to addressing such uncertainty, I believe that a full and transparent investigation is necessary to ensure that my constituents, and all Canadians, can be confident in (the) veracity of those answers", he said in a statement. Over the weekend, the Toronto Star reported that the majority-Liberal committee is likely to block the opposition's attempt to launch a study of the allegations.

Conservatives and New Democrats on the justice committee joined forces to get an emergency meeting of the committee on Wednesday to consider a motion calling on nine high-ranking government officials to testify, including Wilson-Raybould herself.

Current Justice Minister David Lametti is not saying much about this development.

After speaking to a Canadian Bar Association meeting Monday, Lametti emphasized it would be inappropriate to comment on an issue before the courts.

"It is important to remember that while the attorney general sits at a certain distance from his cabinet colleagues, in Canada - unlike in other countries - he does not work in isolation from them, or the important experiences or considerations that those colleagues bring to the table".

"There is a line that can not be crossed: telling the attorney general what a decision ought to be. And at the end of the day, I abide by the long-standing principle that when acting as attorney general, I will apply my judicial mind to a decision, and not my political mind".

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