Opposition parties push for emergency meeting on SNC-Lavalin case

Cristina Cross
February 10, 2019

"If the Prime Minister truly believes there is no wrongdoing here, he should invite the Ethics Commissioner to investigate his office's dealings with SNC-Lavalin and whether or not that was a factor in the removal of Ms. Wilson-Raybould from her position as Attorney General".

The Globe and Mail says the Prime Minister's Office put pressure on then-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to broker a deal in a case involving fraud allegations against engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

"Neither the current nor the previous attorney general was ever directed by me or by anyone in my office to take a decision in this matter, " the prime minister told reporters Thursday after a transit announcement in Vaughan, north of Toronto.

SNC-Lavalin faces legal trouble over allegations it paid millions of dollars in bribes to obtain government business in Libya, which would be a crime under Canadian law.

Months later, Wilson-Raybould was moved to the veterans affairs post in a January cabinet shuffle, and Montrealer David Lametti took over as attorney general and justice minister.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada is created to make decisions independently, but it is still accountable to the attorney general and can be directed by the attorney general as long that direction is made public.

In its October 19 submission to the Federal Court, SNC-Lavalin said while the public prosecutor has discretion to decide whether to open negotiations on a remediation agreement, this discretion "is not unfettered and must be exercised reasonably" under the law. Quebec Premier Francois Legault has also pressured Trudeau directly to intervene on the company's behalf. And even in her role as attorney general, she was not precluded from consulting her colleagues on whether to instruct the public prosecutor to negotiate a remediation agreement.

Under the law, the attorney general may issue a directive to the director of public prosecutions on how to handle a specific case, provided the directive is in writing and made public.

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Four years later as an election looms, the Globe and Mail story is a torpedo honing in on the PMO.

Tory Leader Andrew Scheer also suggested Friday morning that his party is looking at pursuing unspecified "legal avenues" if the governing Liberals "continue to cover this up".

"The director of public prosecutions has independence in the sense that the attorney general can not give a direction, whether it is a broad policy direction or a specific direction on any given case, without that direction being in writing and Gazetted", Wild said.

"On one hand, it was meant to enhance integrity in government by statutorily ensuring independence of the prosecution decision-making function from inappropriate political control, direction and influence", the book says.

In an email to CTV News, former ethics czar Mary Dawson said that while the time it takes to complete an investigation can vary based on the circumstances, "it usually, but not always, takes more time than six or seven months" for an investigation to be completed. If either the PMO or Wilson-Raybould had tried to direct the prosecutor's office without making that instruction public, that would violate the law.

Singh similarly argued that the prime minister should have nothing to fear from an independent investigation by the federal ethics commissioner.

"All this cries out for some serious investigation", he said in a telephone interview from Burnaby, B.C., where he's campaigning for a seat in the House of Commons in a February 25 byelection. "This is not what we are seeing here", Mr. Scheer said.

"Canadians deserve a government that is on their side, not on the side of a massive multinational corporation with deep ties to the Liberal Party", said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

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