- The federal Ethics Commissioner has judged that Justin Trudeau broke rules to influence a decision as part of the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
- Trudeau's political opponents have been quick to take advantage of this damning report.
- Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from Cabinet earlier this year as a result of the scandal.
The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, already in a battle for polls and for votes with the Conservatives and other political parties, was dealt a stunning blow this morning after a report from the Ethics Commissioner found that he broke conflict-of-interest rules during the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
Mario Dion, Canada's Ethics Commissioner writes in his report that "Mr. Trudeau contravened section 9 of the Act." Section 9 "prohibits public office holders from using their position to seek to influence a decision of another person so as to further their own private interests or those of their relatives or friends, or to improperly further another person's private interests."
If you recall, Trudeau was under fire this year because Attorney General Jody-Wilson Raybould pursued a criminal case against SNC-Lavalin, a Montreal-based engineering firm. The company was charged with criminal offences, dating from 2001 to 2011.
This morning's report finds that Trudeau used his influence to try to encourage Wilson-Raybould to drop the case against this company. The full report from the Ethics Commissioner is available here.
One of the more damning revelations of the report is that 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." Even in Canadian politics, it seems money talks.
SNC-Lavalin was seeking a remediation agreement in light of the criminal charges against them. Company officials met with Trudeau and his cabinet members to discuss those agreements. Wilson-Raybould was concerned that these agreements were being rushed.
In 2018, Trudeau allegedly made his first attempt to influence the process, highlighting the importance of hurrying up because of SNC's board meetings and Quebec's provincial election.
According to the report, "senior staff in the Prime Minister's Office made at least three attempts—on November 22, December 5, and December 18, 2018—to persuade Ms. Wilson‑Raybould, directly and through her Chief of Staff, to re-examine the idea of seeking external advice on the matter."
Trudeau and his officials used various tactics attempting to influence the former Attorney General. "It is evident from the audio recording that Mr. Wernick was making an appeal, on behalf of Mr. Trudeau, to have the Attorney General reconsider her decision to not intervene in the criminal prosecution [...] the message remained the same: a solution was needed to prevent the economic consequences of SNC-Lavalin not entering into negotiations for a remediation agreement."
Commissioner Dion concludes that "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."
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was quick to condemn the prime minister following the release of the report.
More updates to come.