Published: Tue, February 12, 2019

Trudeau 'welcomes' ethics commissioner probe in SNC case

Trudeau 'welcomes' ethics commissioner probe in SNC case

On Monday, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Mario Dion, agreed to a request from New Democrats to begin an investigation into the attempts by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his office to provide SNC-Lavalin with a reduced punishment stemming from serious corruption charges.

Monday, he said in Vancouver that he'd told Wilson-Raybould that any decision on the subject was hers alone. "That is a really big question for SNC-Lavalin and for the government of Canada".

Her departure comes one day after Mr. Trudeau said Ms. Wilson-Raybould's continued membership in his cabinet as an indicator to Canadians that she is not unhappy with his government.

The federal ethics commissioner has now officially launched an investigation into the political interference controversy involving the Prime Minister's Office and Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

The Globe story claims that Wilson-Raybould resisted pressure to intervene with the Public Prosecution Service's decision to proceed with a trial.

Wilson-Raybould, who was shuffled to the Veterans Affairs portfolio in January, has been under intense scrutiny since the Globe and Mail published a report last week that alleged the PMO wanted her to direct federal prosecutors to make a "deferred prosecution agreement" (DPA) - a mechanism similar to a plea bargain - to avoid taking SNC-Lavalin to trial on bribery and fraud charges.

"Justin Trudeau promised Canadians he would change the way politics worked in Ottawa, but instead his Liberal government continues to prioritize helping insiders and the rich get ahead".

He also added that he had "full confidence" in Wilson-Raybould and appeared to suggest she would have resigned from cabinet if she felt any inappropriate pressure had been applied by officials.

That report referenced unspecified "insiders" and suggested Wilson-Raybould was shuffled from the high-profile portfolio last month because "she had become a thorn in the side of the cabinet, someone insiders say was hard to get along with, known to berate fellow cabinet ministers openly at the table".

"In our system of government, of course, her presence in cabinet should actually speak for itself".

Trudeau said the issue of solicitor-client privilege is complicated and he has asked David Lametti, who replaced Wilson-Raybould as justice minister and attorney general, for advice on the matter.

New Brunswick MP Wayne Long said in a statement posted to social media Monday that he was "extremely troubled" when the allegation surfaced last week and nothing he has heard since has made him feel less unsettled.

Notwithstanding the ethics commissioner's probe, Scheer said the House of Commons justice committee also needs to launch an investigation.

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