I Accept Report, Responsibility, but Don’t Agree, Trudeau Says

August 14, 2019 Updated: August 14, 2019

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is accepting the findings of the ethics commissioner’s report on the SNC-Lavalin affair and takes responsibility “for everything that happened.”

But he says he disagrees with a number of Mario Dion’s conclusions, including any suggestion that he shouldn’t have had any contact with his attorney general on the criminal prosecution facing the Montreal engineering firm.

In his report, Dion found Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by improperly pressuring former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to halt the criminal proceeding.

Trudeau has denied for months that either he or anyone in his office acted improperly, but says he was simply acting in the best interests of Canadians—although he acknowledges that he and others made mistakes, and that “what happened should not have happened.”

Wilson-Raybould says she was improperly pressured to step in and allow the Quebec engineering firm to negotiate an agreement to avoid criminal penalties for bribery in relation to its overseas operations.

In his report, which comes just weeks before the start of a federal election campaign, Dion sides entirely with Wilson-Raybould.

Mario Dion waits to appear before the Commons estimates committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, December 13, 2011. Ethics commissioner Dion says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau contravened a section of the Conflict of Interest Act during the so-called SNC-Lavalin affair. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Mario Dion waits to appear before the Commons estimates committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, December 13, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Scheer excoriates Trudeau, calls on RCMP to investigate SNC Lavalin affair

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says there’s now more than enough evidence of misconduct by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the SNC-Lavalin affair to warrant an investigation by the RCMP.

Scheer was responding to a new report by ethics commissioner Mario Dion, who says Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by improperly pressuring former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to halt the criminal prosecution of the Montreal engineering giant.

The Conservative leader calls Trudeau’s conduct “unforgivable” and says Canadians can no longer believe anything the prime minister says, and that they will hold him responsible when they go to the polls Oct. 21.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer addresses the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations in Montreal on May 7, 2019. (The Canadian Press/Ryan Remiorz)
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer addresses the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations in Montreal on May 7, 2019. (The Canadian Press/Ryan Remiorz)

Dion concluded Trudeau’s attempts to influence Wilson-Raybould contravened section 9 of the act, which prohibits public office holders from using their position to try to influence a decision that would improperly further the private interests of a third party.

He says SNC-Lavalin’s financial interests would have been furthered had the decision by the director of public prosecutions—who refused to offer the Montreal engineering giant a remediation agreement in order to avoid a criminal prosecution on fraud charges related to contracts in Libya—been reversed.

The report also says Trudeau improperly pushed Wilson-Raybould to consider partisan political interests in the matter, contrary to constitutional principles on prosecutorial independence and the rule of law.

“He may never face a court of law, but he will have to face the Canadian people over the next few weeks,” Scheer told a news conference in Regina. “We just can’t believe anything this guy says anymore.”

Wilson-Raybould quit Trudeau’s cabinet in February over the affair; friend and cabinet ally Jane Philpott resigned soon after.

Trudeau subsequently kicked both women out of the Liberal caucus; they are running for re-election as independent candidates. Both said Wednesday they were still reading the report and would not comment until they’ve read it in its entirety.

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