May 28, 2020

Winnipeg
9° C, Overcast

Full Forecast

Winnipeg Free Press

ABOVE THE FOLD

Help us deliver reliable news during this pandemic.

We are working tirelessly to bring you trusted information about COVID-19. Support our efforts by subscribing today.

No Thanks Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Liberals can't outrun SNC-Lavalin

Editorial

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/8/2019 (286 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It has long been a staple of the scary-movie genre for the final few frames to feature an image of a gravesite, where the innocents terrorized throughout the previous 90 minutes believe "the thing" that brought their nightmares to life has finally, mercifully been laid to rest.

And then... from the still-moist gravetop soil, out shoots a mangled, menacing and meant-to-make-you-scream hand, suggesting even after the credits roll, those unwitting onscreen townsfolk are in for much more mayhem.

Ethics report reveals new details in SNC affair

Click to Expand
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould take part in the grand entrance as the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation commission is released in Ottawa on December 15, 2015. After months of unrelenting news coverage, hours of oral testimony and reams of written submissions to a House of Commons committee on the SNC-Lavalin affair, the federal ethics watchdog has still managed to unearth some details that give new life to the controversy on the eve of an election campaign. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould take part in the grand entrance as the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation commission is released in Ottawa on December 15, 2015. After months of unrelenting news coverage, hours of oral testimony and reams of written submissions to a House of Commons committee on the SNC-Lavalin affair, the federal ethics watchdog has still managed to unearth some details that give new life to the controversy on the eve of an election campaign. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Posted: 15/08/2019 3:00 AM

OTTAWA - After months of unrelenting news coverage, hours of oral testimony and reams of written submissions to a House of Commons committee on the SNC-Lavalin affair, the federal ethics watchdog has still managed to unearth some details that give new life to the controversy on the eve of an election campaign.

Ethics commissioner Mario Dion's report released Wednesday concludes that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated ethics law by improperly pressuring former attorney general Jody-Wilson Raybould to halt criminal prosecution of the Montreal engineering giant.

Read Full Story

It’s an apt political metaphor for this week in Canadian politics — except in the horror show that has been Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s past 12 months, the horrifying hand has arrived clutching the federal Ethics Commissioner’s report on the Liberal government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Mr. Trudeau probably thought — after being pilloried for months in Parliament and the press over his reported attempts to coerce former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould into intervening in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin on fraud and bribery charges related to its overseas business dealings — the issue had run its course and the scandal was finally behind him, leaving plenty of time to focus on other policy issues and pre-election posturing.

However... like the cinematic spectre attached to the frightening final-frame fingers, it’s back.

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s 63-page report offered blunt condemnation, concluding that Mr. Trudeau broke conflict-of-interest laws by repeatedly seeking to pressure Ms. Wilson-Raybould into forcing the director of public prosecutions to grant SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement and by abusing the power of his high office to further the private interests of a third party.

"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," Mr. Dion wrote.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau probably thought the issue had run its course and the scandal was finally behind him. (Peter Power / The Canadian Press files)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau probably thought the issue had run its course and the scandal was finally behind him. (Peter Power / The Canadian Press files)

The report, to borrow an adjective from its author, is troubling; so, too, is Mr. Trudeau’s rather Janus-faced response. The PM on Wednesday made rather a grand gesture of declaring that he takes full responsibility for what occurred, but then effectively walked it back by stating he won’t apologize for his actions because he doesn’t believe he did anything wrong.

On one hand, the PM offered: "The buck stops with the prime minister. I assume responsibility for everything that happened in my office. This is important because I truly feel what happened over the past year shouldn’t have happened."

On the other hand: "Taking responsibility means recognizing that what we did over the past year wasn’t good enough. But at the same time, I can’t apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs, because that’s part of what Canadians expect me to do."

The PM on Wednesday made rather a grand gesture of declaring that he takes full responsibility for what occurred, but then effectively walked it back by stating he won’t apologize for his actions because he doesn’t believe he did anything wrong.

When the SNC-Lavalin scandal first broke last spring, the Liberal government’s polling numbers took a body-blow hit, with the PM’s approval rating dropping from 44 per cent at the end of 2018 to 32 per cent by last April.

Mr. Trudeau appeared to have weathered the early 2019 storm, however, and had recovered some of the support that was lost during the first SNC-Lavalin wave.

With two months until election day, however, the hand of scandal has re-emerged. What remains to be seen is whether the Liberals can once again escape its grip, or if this time they’ll be dragged down once and for all.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press would like to thank our readers for their patience while comments were not available on our site. We're continuing to work with our commenting software provider on issues with the platform. In the meantime, if you're not able to see comments after logging in to our site, please try refreshing the page.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.