Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he accepts and takes full responsibility after the Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said he violated the Conflict of Interest Act by attempting to influence the then Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to repeal the decision not to postpone Quebec Prosecutor's Agreement – SNC-Lavalin engineering company.
In his report published on Wednesday, Dion wrote: "Evidence suggests that there are many ways in which Mr. Trudeau, directly or through actions under his direction, tried to influence the Prosecutor General."
"The Prime Minister, directly and through senior officials, used various means to influence Mrs. Wilson-Raybould. The authority of the prime minister and his office was used to circumvent, challenge and ultimately discredit the decision of the director of the Prosecutor's Office, as well as the authority of Wilson-Raybould as the main legal officer of the Crown – said Dion.
Dion discovered that Trudeau violated Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act by a series of "gross attempts to influence" Wilson-Raybould to reach an agreement with SNC-Lavalin to avoid criminal proceedings. This section of the code prohibits any high-level government officials in the government from trying to influence another person's decision in order to "improperly promote another person's private interests."
In a conversation with journalists in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Trudeau said, although he disagrees with some of Diona's findings, accepts the report and takes full responsibility for everything that happened.
"We realize that this has not happened. I take responsibility for the mistakes I made, "said Trudeau.
"I disagree with the Commissioner when he says that any contact with the Attorney General in this case was inappropriate," he said, referring to one of Dion's conclusions that Trudeau should not have presented the lawyer with any arguments for or against the data protection authority general.
Dion said that in criminal matters there is no room for debate between the Attorney General and colleagues in the Cabinet.
"My task as prime minister is to stand up for Canadians and defend their interests. Yes, we must do it in a way that protects our institutions and protects the independence of prosecutors, but we need to talk about the impact of Canadians across the country in the country in which decisions are made, "said Trudeau.
While Dion stated that Trudeau had violated this act, the conflict of interest and Ethics Commissioner is not entitled to sanction such violation.
The Commissioner may impose fines on government officials for failing to meet certain reporting requirements – such as a gift declaration – but these penalties do not apply in this case, spokesman Dion said in a statement to CBC News.
In an interview with Dion as part of the investigation, Trudeau denied that he had attempted to influence Wilson-Raybould in the wrong way, but rather thought that the former Justice Minister had not properly considered the possibility of negotiating a deferred prosecutor's agreement (DPA) with SNC-Lavalin – something that he considered to be in the public interest and should be reminded of alternatives to criminal prosecution for alleged corporate offenses.
Trudeau said he was concerned that criminal proceedings could have widespread consequences for employees, shareholders, customers and suppliers of SNC-Lavalin and could threaten the continued profitability of a large company. He also said that major infrastructure projects such as the Champlain Bridge in Montreal and the light rail system, built partly by SNC-Lavalin, would be at risk if the company was convicted of corruption allegations related to alleged payments of millions of dollars to public officials in Libya in the years 2001–2011 to secure government contracts.
See: Singh says Trudeau cannot be prime minister
In Trudeau's lawyer submitted to Dion, the prime minister told Dion that even before the SNC-Lavalin case became public in the media, he was worried about Wilson-Raybould's competence as a justice minister and was worried by the "significant friction" between the BC minister and her other cabinet colleagues.
"Mr Trudeau's legal counsel further stated that Ms Wilson-Raybould had not fulfilled her duty, as the Attorney General, to know all the relevant facts. Instead of making her own meaningful independent decision, Mrs. Wilson-Raybould has postponed the postponement to the prosecutor's office's decision, Dion said.
On the basis of the testimony presented in the Justice Committee of the Commons, Wilson-Raybould only wondered whether to conduct a DPA for 12 days before he referred the case to Kathleen Roussel, director of the prosecutor's office.
Political opponents react
Political opponents of the liberal government spoke on a Dion report on curses on Wednesday, saying that the commissioner's findings show that Trudeau is unfit to lead the country. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said the RCMP should be called to investigate potential crime by the prime minister.
"What we have now is a clear picture of who Justin Trudeau is, and this is not what he promised he would be. He promised to be responsible and ethical. Instead, he used the power of his office from time to time to get rich, reward friends and punish critics, Scheer told reporters.
Justin Trudeau said he would be responsible and ethical. Instead, he used the power of his office to reward his supporters and punish critics. He is now the only prime minister in history to be found guilty of violating federal ethics law not once, but twice. Trudeau is not as advertised. pic.twitter.com/R9kQcUomqN
"He promised to be open and honest. Let us remember, however, that the day this story fell apart, Justin Trudeau denied it completely. He said this story is false. He then said he never pressed Jody Wilson-Raybould. We now know that this is not true – said the conservative leader.
"This is a bomb report. There is no precedent that the Ethics Commissioner has now discovered two violations of the Conflict of Interest Act. Two violations, "said NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, citing another ethical report that stated that Trudeau had violated the conflict of interest rules by accepting a free vacation on the private island of Aga Khan. "And this particular deep worry is that Prime Minister Trudeau worked in favor of a multimillion corporation and acted in his own interest to be re-elected."
"Mr. Trudeau cannot be the Prime Minister of Canada," said Singh.
As part of the investigation, Dion stated that former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, who was acting as SNC-Lavalin's lawyer at the time, prepared a report to be forwarded to Wilson-Raybould, which stated "the legitimacy of her criminal intervention after the federal government liberal introduced changes to the penal code allowing data protection authorities or agreements on remedies in February 2018.
Another retired Supreme Court judge, John Major, prepared a supplementary report on whether the refusal to conclude a DPA with SNC-Lavalin was "unlawful." Both reports were delivered to the prime minister's office.
Wilson-Raybould told Dion that she had never looked at the reports. Trudeau said he also did not see the content of the reports, but their legal opinions confirmed his belief that Wilson-Raybould could have instructed prosecutors to consider alternative legal options.
However, the alternative legal option for corporate offenses – a data protection or repair contract – was only implemented after the aggressive lobbying of SNC-Lavalin and its affiliates, Dion said.
Beginning in 2016, the management of the company met in person with Trudeau and other senior employees to push for "timely implementation of the regime through a federal budget." Trudeau told Dion he did not know this legal path before meeting the engineering firm.
After some public consultations, data protection authorities were quietly added to the Budget Implementation Act in February 2018, which was welcomed by SNC-Lavalin, who considered it a way to "increase the likelihood of resolving a criminal company dispute."
The Ethics Commissioner said his review of the SNC-Lavalin case revealed other "worrying tactics" and the behavior of some of the country's highest-ranking government officials – including the inadequate consideration of guerilla political interests when discussing whether to continue the criminal trial.
Dion said that discussions between Trudeau, a former secret council official, Michał Wernick, his senior staff, and Wilson-Raybould about a political disaster in Quebec, if the federal government does not agree with the company with the company, is "inappropriate."
During a meeting on legal issues on September 17, 2018, Trudeau reminded Wilson-Raybould that he was a "Quebec MP – Papineau," Diona's statement interpreted as an attempt by the Prime Minister to recall "major political repercussions in Quebec for both federal and provincial government procurement. "
He said further talks about the 2019 federal election were proof that Wilson-Raybould felt considerable pressure from the prime minister to come to a conclusion favorable to the "ruling party" of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Dion said the prime minister and his staff see the SNC-Lavalin case "primarily through a political prism," which should be managed to protect guerrilla reasons, and not as a legal issue best left to the Canadian prosecutor's office, an independent body that prosecutes federal crime.
"The repeated interventions of the prime minister, his highest-ranking ministerial staff and public officials to find the prosecutor general, even in the face of refusing to intervene in this case, led me to the conclusion that these actions were synonymous with political direction," said Dion.
While the prime minister only had one direct interaction with Wilson-Raybould, during which SNC-Lavalin was discussed, the Ethics Commissioner said he would not investigate other players in PMO or the office of Finance Minister Bill Morneau who wanted to influence the former minister because "They acted in accordance with the general direction set out by Mr Trudeau in September 2018 and did not receive instructions to stop communication, even after the commencement of related court proceedings."