‘Complicit in coverup’ – ‘PM thinks he’s above law’: opposition reacts after Liberals prevent ethics commissioner’s testimony
As Canada’s Ethics Commissioner waited in the wings to testify, Liberal MPs used their majority to quash a motion for Mario Dion to appear before Parliament and explain why he found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau guilty of breaking federal conflict of interest law.
“They are complicit in (Trudeau’s) attempt at obstruction of justice,” Conservative MP Peter Kent told reporters after the Ethics committee meeting adjourned, and gave a nod to lone Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith who dissented.
“(He) had the independent courage to support my motion. But the other four members who didn’t speak and followed the direction of a hitman, a stranger…(Steve) McKinnon obviously directed (them) to sit silently, to abdicate their responsibilities.”
A week ago, Dion released his Trudeau II report that found the Prime Minister’s failed attempt to pressure ex-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to defer SNC-Lavalin’s prosecution for bribery and corruption charges, violated the Conflict of Interest Act.
This prompted Kent and New Democrat MP Charlie Angus to request Wednesday’s emergency meeting at which Kent accused the PM of dispatching Gatineau Liberal MP Steve MacKinnon – Liberal Party of Canada’s former national director – who trotted out Trudeau’s “saving jobs” rationale.
“The opposition seeks to prolong this for reasons of politics, reasons of partisan games,” MacKinnon told the committee, before he and Liberal MPs Frank Baylis, Karen McCrimmon, Anita Vandenbeld and Mona Fortier rejected Dion’s appearance.
After the meeting MacKinnon told reporters that Parliament, along with Dion had examined the matter enough and suggested citizens were inundated with the SNC-Lavalin conjecture.
“This has been an exhaustively analyzed situation and I know that Canadians have a lot of information to take on board,” MacKinnon said. “Look, we’ve had 13 hours of testimony, we’ve had ten witnesses, we had five weeks of hearings, 63 page report. We’ve had a lot of information for Canadians to digest.”
But Conservative MP Lisa Raitt, who’s not a regular committee member but a speaker at today’s deliberations, dismissed MacKinnon’s take.
“The Prime Minister of Canada has come out to say that number one, he cooperated fully…and number two, that he disagrees with some of the conclusions of the Ethics Commissioner,” Raitt told reporters
“The Ethics Commissioner has said clearly that there were nine witnesses that he wanted to hear from and he didn’t get a chance…and secondly, the Prime Minister has never really been clear on what aspects of the commissioner’s report that he actually is in disagreement with.”
When Angus faced the media with his take, he asked what the governing party MPs were “so frightened of that they shut down the Ethics Commissioner from presenting his report to our committee?”
“I’ve sat many years on the Ethics committee, under the wild and woolly days of Stephen Harper, throughout the years of Justin Trudeau – I have never seen an effort to restrict the ability of an officer of parliament from reporting to the ethics committee,” said Angus.
“And who did it? Well, the former director of the Liberal Party was brought in to shut this down. This is about damage
SNC-Lavalin and two of its subsidiaries stand accused of paying $48-million in bribes to Libyan officials to win contracts there between 2001 and 2011.
If convicted, the company is subject to a 10-year ban on bidding for federal contracts. On the other hand, the spectre of such a ban would be lifted via a deferred prosecution agreement—new criminal code contingencies included in 2018’s omnibus budget bill.
Otherwise known as a DPA, its negotiation would allow for fines and corporate accountability undertakings to supplant the criminal prosecution, currently proceeding through a Québec provincial court.
Dion’s Trudeau II report concludes that Trudeau violated conflict of interest rules by pressuring ex-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to divert SNC-Lavalin’s trial to remediation.
And the Ethics Commissioner caged Trudeau’s attempt to sway Wilson-Raybould — who refused to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin — as running “contrary to the constitutional principles of prosecutorial independence and the rule of law.”
Wilson-Raybould, a lawyer and the country’s first indigenous Attorney General, would resign from cabinet over the scandal and was turfed from the Liberal caucus in April by Trudeau for blowing the whistle.
The SNC-Lavalin scandal has dogged the Trudeau government since the February 7, 2019, Globe and Mail story reported Wilson-Raybould was pushed out as attorney general for denying SNC-Lavalin a DPA.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he’s willing to help bridge the current divide between Western Canada and the federal government. However, he says that no job has been offered and that speculation over the possibility of his being appointed as a representative of Alberta in a federal cabinet is “silly.”
“No job has been offered, nor no job has been contemplated,” Nenshi told CTV’s Question Period in an interview aired Sunday. “Probably it’s wrong, but I am enjoying all this speculation because it’s so silly.”
Following the election, concern over Western representation in government has been steadily growing, as Conservative candidates, with the exception of one NDP candidate, swept both Alberta and Saskatchewan. This means that the Liberals lack a seat in parliament to represent either of the provinces and their interests.
Recently, Nenshi said he spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling #Wexit and separatist sentiment in Alberta “very real.”
“Of course the (Trans Mountain) pipeline has to get built, of course we need to re-examine Bill C-69 which my premier calls the No More Pipelines Bill, but is actually much more dangerous than that,” Nenshi said.
Neshi says that Bill C-69 will not only stifle the oil industry’s growth but will also make other infrastructure projects significantly more difficult in the province.
According to The Canadian Press, speculation over whether Nenshi will represent Western Canada was triggered by comments made by Trudeau following the election.
These comments came Thursday when Trudeau said he has no intention of forming a coalition government but does need to be more collaborative to bridge the regional gaps between Canadians.
Along with Nenshi, former Alberta premier Alison Redford has also been pegged as a possible Trudeau confidant and representative. In a CTV Question Period, she says that she would be happy to assist the Liberals in addressing Western representation at the federal level. However, like Nenshi, she has yet to be asked.
“I haven’t been asked. I am happy to help in any way,” she told CTV’s Question Period.
“This is something Canadians have been thinking about for a long time and I think the key is that there has to be a lot of voices at the table.”
On October 24, Alvin Tedjo, a hopeful candidate vying for leadership of the Ontario Liberals, announced his campaign promise to merge the Catholic and public school boards in Ontario according to the Toronto Star. To achieve this, Tedio says that it is necessary to eliminate all public funding to a separate Catholic school board.
“For students, this change means the convenience of attending their closest school, less time on the bus and access to an optional religious curriculum,” Tedjo said Thursday.
“For teachers and early childhood educators, it means smaller class sizes, availability of more resources and the freedom to teach in any publicly funded school.”
Despite being Catholic himself, Tedjo says his move makes fiscal sense and that it’s necessary to have all four school boards merged into secular French and English schools.
“As a Catholic, I have a choice, but others don’t have that choice.”
Tedjo says that by merging Catholic school boards with the public, Ontario could save between $1.2 and $1.6 billion, citing a 2012 Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods study.
Tedjo has entitled his plan “Learning Together,” and has drawn inspiration from Quebec, Manitoba, and Newfoundland which have done the same.
“For students, this change means the convenience of attending their closest school, less time on the bus and access to an optional religious curriculum. For teachers and early childhood educators, it means smaller class sizes, availability of more resources and the freedom to teach in any publicly funded school,” said Tedjo in a news release.
“Learning Together would also see more class offerings in STEM and the arts, as well as improved mental health resources and supports for students with special needs.”
Despite the controversy, and the fact Tedjo has three children enrolled in Catholic education right now, he says that Learning Together will allow the merged school board to incorporate the strengths of both and provide a better education and school experience for all kids in the province.
In response to increasing criticism and outrage from Western Canada, the new Liberal minority government has decided that it’s in their (and the rest of Canada’s) best interests to push through with the Trans Mountain pipeline.
After losing every single seat in both Alberta and Saskatchewan, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has dialled back his climate policy rhetoric and opted for a more nuanced approach to balance the green push with realistic economic policies.
On October 23, he told a press conference that he will begin his second term as prime minister by working to ensure that oil producers can sell their product abroad at fair prices by moving forward with the pipeline. When asked why his parliament failed to win seats and represent Western Canada, he said that why isn’t the central question but how can the federal government mend the disconnect between West and East.
“We made a decision to move forward on the pipeline because it was in the interest of Canada to do so because the environment and the economy need to go together. We will be continuing with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion,” Trudeau said.
“Albertans and people in Saskatchewan have faced very difficult years over these past few years because of the global commodity prices, because of the challenges they are facing. For a long time, they weren’t able to get their resources to markets other than the U.S. We are moving forward to solve those challenges.”
According to CBC, the 1,150-kilometre pipeline expansion would roughly “triple the existing pipeline’s capacity to 890,000 barrels a day,” and would allow Alberta to ship oil through B.C. to international markets such as Asia.
The Liberal government has also stated its plans to use the additional oil revenues to transition to cleaner sources of energy, predicting up to $500 million for green energy projects.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said that the plan to extend the pipeline isn’t merely a ploy to mollify Alberta and assist negotiations between the minority government and the provinces. Rather, Morneau says that balancing the economy with green energy initiatives is a crucial part of the Liberal’s transitionary measures.
“We purchased [the pipeline] for a reason,” said Morneau. “We now see how it can help us accelerate our clean energy transition by putting any revenues that we get from it into a transition to clean energy. We think that is the best way we can move forward in our current context.”
According to CTV News, construction for the expansion is expected to be complete by the middle of 2022. The Liberal government has forecasted taking up to $125 million in revenue from Trans Mountain Canada each year up to the expansion’s completion and the $500 million each year after.
“My expectation is that we have much common ground between the other parties that have been elected to the next Parliament,” said Morneau.
“We will be seeking consensus on how we can move forward on that common ground. This project we’ve already moved forward on. It’s one that we’ve said that we’re moving forward on, we’ve actually already gone through that process.”
Stocks for the scandal-ridden Quebec-based engineering and construction company SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. surged by nearly 15 percent on the morning after Justin Trudeau’s re-election to a Liberal minority government.
Currently, SNC-Lavalin is facing corruption charges for bribing officials while conducting business in Libya, including bribes to the son of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
The company was at the heart of an election interference scandal that plagued the Trudeau government and resulted in the ejection of former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and MP Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus.
Wilson-Raybould has since been re-elected as an independent candidate for Vancouver Granville.
Trudeau was eventually found to have broken the law and had attempted to politically interfere in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin by the ethics commissioner.
Prior to Trudeau’s re-election, SNC-Lavalin stocks had faced a downturn, falling more than 60 percent over the last year.