Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged his government made mistakes in its handling of SNC-Lavalin’s request for a settlement on charges of bribery and fraud, but rejected the Conservative Party’s claim that the actions may have been criminal.
Mr. Trudeau has come under fire for refusing to apologize to Canadians after Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion found that he violated the Conflict of Interest Act. In a report released this past week, Mr. Dion said the Prime Minister wrongly used his position of authority over then-attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould in an attempt to get her to override the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision to proceed with a criminal trial against the firm.
On Monday, Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer called on the RCMP to “take another look” at the information contained in Mr. Dion’s report.
“We know that Justin Trudeau has broken the law. Now we need to know if he has committed a crime,” he said.
Mr. Scheer said that the Ethics Commissioner’s report showed that Ms. Wilson-Raybould was “relentlessly and directly pressured by Trudeau and senior officials in his office to stop SNC’s criminal trial.” As a result, he said, there are “significant grounds” for an investigation into whether Mr. Trudeau’s action constituted obstructing of justice.
Speaking later in the day in Quebec City, Mr. Trudeau said his government would do things differently in the future, pointing to recommendations by former Liberal minister Anne McLellan to reform the way federal officials handle communications with the attorney-general.
“We recognize that things should have been done differently,” he said, adding Ms. McLellan’s report will help the current and future governments “to avoid the mistakes that were made over the last year.”
When asked about Mr. Scheer’s statements, Mr. Trudeau said the Prime Minister’s role is to defend the interests of Canadians and jobs across the country, while protecting the independence of the judicial system and the rule of law.
“This is exactly what I have done,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Last week, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said in an e-mail that she was contacted by the Mounties in the spring “regarding matters that first came to the public’s attention on February 7, 2019, in a Globe and Mail article." She declined to comment on the content of her discussions with the police force.
The RCMP said in a statement that it is “examining this matter carefully with all available information and will take appropriate actions as required. It would be inappropriate for us to provide any more comments on this matter at this time.”
Ms. McLellan’s report, which was made public on the same day as the Ethics Commissioner’s findings, said there is no need to separate the roles of attorney-general and minister of justice in order to prevent political interference in federal prosecutions.
Still, she said there should be more formal rules about how ministers and their staff take part in discussions and consultations of prosecutions, adding the final decision is always the sole purview of the attorney-general.
The Conservative and NDP parties have joined forces to call a meeting of the ethics committee of the House on Wednesday to hear from Mr. Dion. It is not known whether the Liberal MPs on the committee will allow the meeting or whether they will use their majority to shut it down.