Earlier this month, Canada’s ethics commissioner, Mario Dion, released his report that found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act through his actions of trying to influence then attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the decision of the director of public prosecutions’ decision regarding SNC Lavalin.
SNC Lavalin is a well-established Quebec construction company that has had many federal government infrastructure contracts, employing thousands of people, mainly from Quebec, inclusive of Justin Trudeau’s riding.
The company was charged in 2015 with criminal actions related to bribery and fraud going back to a period between 2001 and 2011 and a conviction would prevent the company from being eligible for any federal contracts for 10 years.
Prime Minister Trudeau was apparently concerned for the loss of jobs, which, according to him, propelled him to take the actions that were outlined in the report.
Regardless of his reasons for supporting his staff pursuing a proposed remedy, his actions placed him, once again, in the sights of the ethics commissioner.
However, unlike the last time he was investigated by the ethics commissioner for taking a gift, whereby he apologized for his indiscretion, this time he is offering no apologies for his actions, as apparently he sees himself as being on the moral high ground, because of the fact he was trying to save jobs.
To put his actions into context, the following excerpt from Dion’s report captures the crux of what our prime minister did in the name of saving jobs.
“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.”
The report went on to outline how the lobbying for a remedy to SNC Lavalin’s criminal situation started as early as 2016, and the lobbying eventually paid off, as the government landed on a tool used in other countries, called a deferred prosecution agreement.
The required legislative changes were then hastily slipped into the 2018 budget, through the use of an omnibus bill, by-passing all of the usual committee oversight and allowing the necessary changes to the Criminal Code to proceed quickly, so the proposed remedy would be available for use by SNC Lavalin.
Unfortunately, for the orchestrators of this rushed piece of legislation, they neglected to ensure the legislation actually would give SNC Lavalin the “out” they were looking for, which it didn’t, so when it reached the office of the director of prosecutions, she deemed they did not meet the criteria for a deferred prosecution agreement and the attorney general agreed with that decision, which was then tipped off to the staff of the Prime Minister’s Office, kicking off the ensuing mess.
In the onslaught of the now confirmed interference by the prime minister, two highly respected ministers, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, were thrown to the curb by Trudeau for daring to point out that the actions of the prime minister were in contravention of the rule of law, which they were standing up for as a foundation of our democracy.
Both women faced severe criticism from party faithful and their cabinet colleagues in the ensuing months and were then ejected from the party with much fanfare by the prime minister who spoke with a tone of indignation when announcing, “The trust that previously existed between these two individuals and our team has been broken,” Trudeau said.
He went on to state in a tone best used when explaining to the kids why the family cat who pees on the bed must go, “It’s become clear that Ms. Wilson-Raybould and Dr. Philpott can no longer remain part of our Liberal team.”
Apparently, to remain part of that team you must be willing to break the rule of law and principles of good governance, or at least be willing to turn a blind eye to such, which every Liberal MP seems willing to do.
Trudeau has stated in response to the report, “I can’t apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs.”
OK then, how about apologizing for participating in trashing the reputations of two women who were standing up for the foundations of our democracy?
How about apologizing to the Canadian people for treating the rule of law as if it were something that can be tucked away when it gets in the way of being re-elected?
How about apologizing to the veterans who were willing to die for the foundations of democracy that the prime minister ignored? How about apologizing to immigrants who have fled countries that do not adhere to the rule of law?
There are many reasons Justin Trudeau should apologize to the Canadian people for his actions in this disgraceful situation. And if he can’t see why an apology is necessary, then he is not fit for the office.
Cheryl Ashlie is a former Maple Ridge school trustee, city councillor, constituency assistant and citizen of the year and is president of ARMS.