On August 14th, the Canadian Ethics Commissioner found the Prime Minister guilty of a conflict of interest in his actions related to the SNC Lavalin (SNC) affair.
The Commissioner’s conclusion was blunt:
I find that Mr. Trudeau used his position of authority over Ms. Wilson-Raybould to seek to influence her decision on whether she should overrule the Director of Public Prosecution’s decision not to invite SNC-Lavalin to enter into negotiations towards a remediation agreement.
Because SNC-Lavalin overwhelmingly stood to benefit from Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s intervention, 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.
The report describes a concerted effort by the Prime Minister and his office (PMO) to pressure the Attorney General to let SNC off the hook with a fine. And they kept a back channel open to SNC, emailing them on the progress of the pressure campaign.
The report’s findings make it clear that the Prime Minister lied about his involvement when the story first broke. And the PMO blocked the Commissioner’s efforts to do a complete investigation.
It should be concerning that the alleged crimes against SNC are being brushed under the carpet. In 2015, the RCMP charged SNC and two of its subsidiaries with corruption by paying $48 million in bribes and defrauding Libya of $130 million. Somehow in the interests of protecting SNC, the Canadian government has lost its self-proclaimed international moral compass.
The Ethics Commissioner cannot punish the Prime Minister, because it turns out only the Prime Minister can impose sanctions for ethics violations. So, not even lashes with a wet noodle!
Trudeau is in the midst of an election campaign, so he feels he can’t afford to admit wrongdoing. He at once, “takes responsibility,” “accepts the Ethics Commissioner’s report,” and “disagrees with the report’s conclusion”!
Wrapping himself in the flag; he says he will not apologize; claiming he was protecting Canadian jobs. But this jobs defense is weak. The problem for SNC is if they are convicted of fraud and corruption, they cannot get government of Canada contracts. Thus, the contracts and jobs will go to other firms. There might not be any real loss of jobs at all.
The Liberals took a hit in the polls in the aftermath of the scandal but have clawed back lost ground in recent months. Recent polls give them the edge to form a minority government.
The CBC poll tracker notes that the popularity of the Conservative and Liberals are about the same nationwide. But the likelihood of the Liberals forming a majority government is higher (about 37%) compared to the Conservatives at about 12%.
If the Liberals fail to win a majority, the most probable scenario is a minority government with the Liberals propped up by the NDP or Greens. This may prove to be the worst case scenario for Alberta’s energy economy.