Picture Ottawa Citizen
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has found himself in yet another scandal. A Cabinet Minister has resigned. Gerry Butts - Chief PMO Advisor has had to resign. The cover-up is now as bad as the original transgression. They should have admitted all in the beginning, that the PMO had clearly said what they wanted from the Justice Minister, even though in the end she declined. Harder to explain, is her later demotion in Cabinet, which sounded vindictive. (tough to explain that one).
The Liberals had tried to make a path for a corporate offender to negotiate their way out of Court by making a deal. That was a major political miscalculation. Then trying to fudge the system further to make it happen, was awful. Finally, dumping the Justice Minister at the first opportunity, was just one too far for most. Now they have two resignations. We wait for the Prime Minister to resign, as he has lied inside the House of Commons.
Problems have been brewing since the sensational story broke about SNC-Lavalin. From the Office of the Prime Minister (PMO), came inappropriate levels of pressure to the Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, to give SNC-Lavalin (a big financial contributor to the Liberal Party) a break from prosecution, and allow them to bargain their way out of Court consequences for their offenses. The Quebec company was charged in 2015 with bribing Libyan officials between 2001 and 2011 in exchange for construction contracts.
From the Loyal Opposition view, “Justin Trudeau’s ethical lapses and his handling of this latest scandal have thrown his government into chaos,” said Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. “Justin Trudeau is trying to hide the truth,” he said, adding, “Yesterday, he said that her presence (in cabinet) speaks for itself. Well today, her resignation speaks for itself.” The Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion confirmed that he also has launched an investigation of the matter, based on the violation of the Conflict of Interest Act.
The Government had recently amended the law to enable an insider deal. The Liberals introduced “deferred prosecution agreements” in the last budget bill, but in October the director of the public prosecution service told SNC-Lavalin, it would be inappropriate to negotiate such an agreement in this case; the Justice Minister had made a decision. The company then asked for a judicial review of that decision. If SNC-Lavalin is convicted in a criminal trial, it could be barred from government contracts in Canada for 10 years. The Justice Minister reviewed the deal and exercised her independent discretion to say “no”. Then, instead of taking their lumps and carrying on, at the first opportunity the Prime Minister replaced the Justice Minister. It also was a signal to other Cabinet Ministers that they better play along with the PMO political game. Sadly, this is no way to lead a country.
The SNC-Lavalin affair continues to engulf the government, and it becomes important for the Prime Minister to waive solicitor-client privilege, so Canadians can get answers about the true sequence of events. I am sure the Minister kept careful notes. The government’s story keeps changing, and Canadians are no closer to knowing the truth, than they were four days ago when this story broke. That’s why it’s imperative Mr. Trudeau waive “privilege” and allow the former Justice Minister to speak. Liberal Committee Members voted down such a motion.
The Justice Committee of Parliament must be allowed to do its work while the Ethics Commissioner investigates, because Canadians deserve answers in full public view. The matter is more than just an issue of ethics. There is potential criminality, and there must be multiple investigations to get resolution. Sadly, the Prime Minister decided to stonewall at the Justice Committee, which has the power to summon and call evidence under oath. It appears the Liberal coverup is in full force. The Liberals have the most votes at the Justice Committee. The Liberal Committee Members were ordered to vote for very limited hearings. These Members came into the Committee Room with a plan for damage control. An overt shutdown was calculated as too obvious. Therefore, the Liberals passed a motion to allow a very limited witness list, to shut down this topic. First, there is the matter of the political maneuvering to help their miscreant corporate friend, then there is the cover-up of it, which doubles the stink of the affair. The national political outrage escalates.
On Tuesday, a report in La Presse revealed that Quebec prosecutors are working with the RCMP on new criminal charges against SNC-Lavalin, related to a contract for the refurbishment of the Jacques-Cartier bridge in Montreal. The political problem of workers in the Lavalin company, possibly not getting government contracts for 10 years, arises from ongoing bad Company behaviour, and is not the problem of the Justice Minister that said “no deal”.
Sources - multiple media files.