Trudeau broke rules in SNC-Lavalin affair

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.Image copyright
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau violated federal conflict of interest rules in the handling of a corruption inquiry, the federal ethics csar has found.

The ethics commissioner says Mr Trudeau improperly tried to influence a former minister in the SNC-Lavalin affair.

The prime minister has denied political meddling to shield engineering firm SNC-Lavalin from a criminal trial.

The findings could be an issue for Mr Trudeau in advance of October’s general election.

Earlier this year, former justice minister and attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, accused Mr Trudeau and his staff of spending months trying to convince her that taking SNC-Lavalin to trial would cost Canadians jobs, and their party votes.

On Wednesday, independent ethics commissioner Mario Dion said in a statement that an investigation into the matter found that Mr Trudeau “directly and through his senior officials, used various means to exert influence over Ms Wilson‑Raybould”.

“The authority of the Prime Minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms Wilson‑Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer.”

The commissioner’s role is to help appointed and elected officials prevent and avoid conflicts between their public duties and private interests.

SNC-Lavalin is facing allegations that former executives paid bribes to win contracts in Libya under Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, which fell in 2011.

The firm had argued it should be allowed to avoid a trial because it has changed following the federal charges and it has “worked tirelessly to achieve excellence in governance and integrity”.

It had hoped that it could come to a remediation agreement with prosecutors that would be an alternative to trial. The attorney general must consent to the negotiation of the agreement.

“Because SNC-Lavalin overwhelmingly stood to benefit from Ms Wilson-Raybould’s intervention, I have no doubt that the result of Mr Trudeau’s influence would have furthered SNC-Lavalin’s interests,” Mr Dion said in his 63-page report.

“The actions that sought to further these interests were improper since the actions were contrary to the constitutional principles of prosecutorial independence and the rule of law.”

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Jody Wilson-Raybould is running as an independent after being expelled from the Liberal caucus.

Ms Wilson-Raybould and her colleague Jane Philpott resigned from Mr Trudeau’s cabinet citing their concerns over the SNC-Lavalin affair and are now running for re-election as independent candidates.

This is not Mr Trudeau’s first ethics violation.

In December 2017, the federal ethics commissioner office found that Mr Trudeau’s luxury trips to the Aga Khan’s island in the Bahamas violated four conflict of interest rules.

Mr Trudeau, his family, and some senior members of the Liberal Party vacationed on the island owned by the philanthropist and spiritual leader in 2016.

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