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Trudeau broke ethics rules by trying to exert influence in SNC-Lavalin scandal: report - National


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke the federal Conflict of Interest Act by trying to exert influence over former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould in what came to be known as the SNC-Lavalin scandal, according to a new report.

Ethics commissioner Mario Dion released the hotly anticipated findings of his report into allegations that Trudeau improperly pressured Wilson-Raybould to override the decision of the director of public prosecutions not to offer the Quebec engineering giant a deal to avoid criminal prosecution on charges of corruption and bribery.

READ MORE: Trudeau won’t release former Liberal minister’s SNC-Lavalin report until ethics probe wraps

The prime minister, directly and through his senior officials, used various means to exert influence over Ms. Wilson‑Raybould,” said Dion.

“The authority of the prime minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the director of public prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson‑Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer.”

WATCH: Trudeau broke ethics rules by trying to exert influence in SNC-Lavalin scandal: report

 

Dion specifically looked at Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act, which bars public office holders from “using their position to seek to influence a decision to improperly further the private interests of a third party, either by acting outside the scope of their legislative authority, or contrary to a rule, a convention or an established process.”

As Dion noted in his report, it was not enough just to seek to influence someone else for an action to break the rules.

There had to be a specific desire to “improperly further the interests of SNC-Lavalin.”

And Dion said that’s exactly what he found was the case.

“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 in the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision,” wrote Dion.

“The actions that sought to further these interests were improper since they were contrary to the Shawcross doctrine and the principles of prosecutorial independence and the rule of law.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is set to respond to the report at 1:30 EST.

Charlie Angus, one of the two NDP MPs who initially asked Dion to investigate, called the findings “an absolute political bombshell.”

“We have more and more evidence of the collusion that went on in the prime minister’s office to interfere with an independent prosecution,” Angus said.

“This shows a complete disregard for the rule of law in this country. ”

WATCH BELOW: Trudeau plays down SNC-Lavalin as ‘internal disagreement’

SNC-Lavalin faces up to a decade of being ineligible for bidding on government contracts if it is found guilty of the corruption and bribery allegations against it over its business activities in Libya from 2001 to 2011.

Last year, the Liberals changed the law to introduce a legal mechanism called a deferred prosecution agreement after heavy lobbying from SNC-Lavalin.

READ MORE: Here’s how Wilson-Raybould’s version of the SNC-Lavalin affair differs from Trudeau, Wernick

A deferred prosecution agreement would let a company admit wrongdoing and face a fine or other administrative or financial penalties rather than a criminal conviction, if invited to negotiate such a deal by the director of public prosecutions.

Such decisions were subject to strict conditions including that the national economic interest not be considered.

ANALYSIS: An absurd, fascinating, partisan and remarkably helpful tale on Trudeau and SNC-Lavalin

Kathleen Roussel, the director of public prosecutions, declined to offer SNC-Lavalin a deal.

Wilson-Raybould testified before the House of Commons justice committee this spring that she then faced a campaign of inappropriate pressure from Trudeau and 10 of his most senior officials between September and December 2018 to override that decision by Roussel and offer a deal to SNC-Lavalin.

Wilson-Raybould refused and was shuffled out of her portfolio in January 2019 before quitting cabinet entirely the following month.

Trudeau initially billed the Globe and Mail report that there had been pressure on Wilson-Raybould to intervene as “false.”

He later changed his stance, saying he regretted how the affair unfolded but refused to apologize, billing the affair as an “internal disagreement” before kicking both Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, the former president of the Treasury Board, out of the Liberal caucus.

Philpott had been vocal in expressing concerns that Trudeau was not taking the allegations seriously enough.

Both are now running as Independent candidates in the fall election.

Wilson-Raybould told Global News she will not be commenting on the 60-page report until she has read it all the way through.

Dion’s report lays out exactly how he went about conducting his investigation, which began on February 8 and resulted in Dion receiving documents from Trudeau’s legal counsel on March 29, a written submission from Trudeau on May 2, an interview with Trudeau on May 3, a second set of documents from his legal counsel on June 27 and supplemental written submissions by those lawyers on July 16.

Dion also interviewed or received written submissions from 14 witnesses:

  • Former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould
  • Finance Minister Bill Morneau
  • Former Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick
  • Former President of the Treasury Board Scott Brison
  • Mathieu Bouchard, senior adviser to the prime minister
  • Elder Marques, senior adviser to the prime minister
  • Katie Telford, chief of staff to the prime minister
  • Gerald Butts, former principal secretary to the prime minister
  • Neil Bruce, former CEO of SNC-Lavalin
  • Nathalie Drouin, deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general
  • Ben Chin, chief of staff to the minister of finance
  • Jessica Prince, former chief of staff to the former attorney general
  • Paul Shuttle, counsel to the Clerk of the Privy Council
  • Justin To, deputy chief of staff to the minister of finance

Dion also said some of the witnesses cited cabinet confidentiality as limiting them from speaking fully about what actually happened and while Dion asked Trudeau to waive this, Trudeau directed the decision to the Clerk of the Privy Council, Ian Shuggart, who denied the request for access.

Dion slammed that refusal in his report, saying that although he was able to gather enough evidence to come to a decision, he should have had access to all of the records in order to “fully discharge” his investigative duties.

Trudeau appointed Shuggart after Wernick, the former Clerk, resigned following outcry over what critics called inflammatory and partisan testimony about his own view on the scandal this spring.

The report says Trudeau testified that after he learned that Roussel would not offer a deal to SNC-Lavalin, “he asked his staff for existing options to move the file forward,” Dion states in his report.

“He also testified that, at the time, he would have told his staff that it was important that Ms. Wilson-Raybould take into account the potentially negative consequences on Canadians as she made a determination whether or not to intervene in the matter.”

 

More to come.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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