Resigned cabinet minister Philpott expresses concerns over SNC-Lavalin investigation

The remarks from Trudeau’s former President of the Treasury Board come one day after a report was released by Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion.
The remarks from Trudeau’s former President of the Treasury Board come one day after a report was released by Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion.

Independent MP and former cabinet minister to the Trudeau administration, Jane Philpott, released a statement today. Philpott took the opportunity to express her disappointment in the Privy Council that restricted access to the ethics watchdog investigating the SNC-Lavalin affair.

The remarks from Trudeau’s former President of the Treasury Board come one day after a report was released by Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion.

The report not only damned Trudeau for his violation of the Conflict of Interest Act, but contained a section titled “Confidences of the Privy Council,” detailing Commissioner Dion’s struggle in obtaining information relevant to his investigation.

The Commissioner had obtained an Order from the Governor General permitting the Privy Council to release information or communication “directly discussed” with Jody Wilson-Raybould. At the time she was Attorney General, the report confirmed that Wilson-Raybould was pressured into allowing SNC-Lavalin’s criminal charges to be deferred or suspended.

However, Dion soon received information from members of the Privy Council that although they had evidence to produce, they had been instructed to withhold that information, as it would apparently reveal a degree of confidence outside of the Commissioner’s jurisdiction. Despite exchanges between legal representatives, for weeks the Commissioner and the Privy Council remained at an impasse.

Dion eventually contacted the clerk of the Privy Council to explain the legal framework that would allow him access to internal documents. The Clerk then finally denied Dion his request.

In his report, Dion speaks with disappointment of the Privy Council’s decision to set parameters on his ability to fully examine the evidence. He concludes that his “ability to receive evidence” should be made by Parliament, and not by “the very same public office holders” under investigation.

In Philpott’s statement, she echoes a similar tenor of discontent. She “note[s] with regret” that “Commissioner Dion was not granted ‘unfettered access to all information that could have been relevant to the exercise of his mandate.’”

“I am saddened by the impact of these events on our country. At the same time, I trust that Canada can emerge from this stronger than ever,” writes Philpott. “We live in a country where elected officials can and must defend the public institutions that underpin our democracy.”

Philpott resigned over the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair. She said at the time that her decision to leave cabinet was motivated by her need to “abide by my core values, my ethical responsibilities and constitutional obligations.”