Canada's ethics commissioner launches investigation against Prime Minister's office

Sergio Conner
February 12, 2019

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday he welcomed an investigation by Canada's ethics commissioner into allegations officials in his office had tried to pressure then-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould a year ago to get public prosecutors to cut a deal with SNC-Lavalin to avoid a criminal trial.

In the meantime, he said Wilson-Raybould "confirmed for me a conversation we had this fall where I told her directly that any decisions on matters involving the director of public prosecutions were hers alone".

The investigation was launched after Canada's Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Mario Dion, agreed to the investigation request from the federal NDP.

Moreover, he appeared to suggest she would have resigned from cabinet had she felt she'd been improperly pressured.

"Her presence in cabinet should actually speak for itself", the prime minister had said Monday.

He also wouldn't address calls from the Opposition for the government to waive solicitor-client privilege for his predecessor.

The pressure to go easy on SNC-Lavalin may have resulted in the termination of Jody Wilson Raybould as Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the first Indigenous woman to ever hold the post.

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"I know the Justice Committee is looking at that", said Longfield.

Trudeau has repeatedly denied the allegations, but Wilson-Raybould has been unable to confirm or deny them due to what she says is solicitor-client privilege.

SNC-Lavalin was charged with paying out $48 million in bribes to Libyan officials in the decade leading up to the NATO-led overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi's government in 2011, payments meant to influence government decision-making, though the company was also charged with defrauding Libyan companies of about $130 million.

"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".

In the first ruling, Dion's predecessor Mary Dawson ruled that Trudeau breached federal ethics rules when he and his family vacationed with the Aga Khan on his private island in the Bahamas in 2016.

"Justin Trudeau promised Canadians he would change the way politics worked in Ottawa, but instead his Liberal government continues to prioritize helping insiders and the rich get ahead".

The second case investigation, completed in September 2018, found that Trudeau's close ally and then fisheries minister Dominic LeBlanc broke ethics rules when he approved a lucrative Arctic surf clam licence to a company linked to a family member.

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