How the prime minister can seal — or reveal — cabinet secrets

Justin Trudeau is under pressure to lift cabinet confidence on SNC-Lavalin to allow RCMP examination


Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he wants Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to lift cabinet confidence to allow the RCMP to fully examine the SNC-Lavalin matter. (Sean Kilpatrick, Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Since the day the election campaign kicked off, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has been dogged by questions about why he won’t waive cabinet confidence to assist the RCMP’s probe into the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

Trudeau maintains he granted an unprecedented waiver — what he called “the largest and most expansive waiver of cabinet confidence in Canada’s history” — to allow the parliamentary committee and the ethics commissioner to dig into the matter, unshackling former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould and others.

But when it comes to a potential RCMP probe, Trudeau has said it was the Privy Council clerk who made the decision not to broaden the waiver: “We respect the decisions made by our professional public servants. We respect the decision made by the clerk,” he said.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer doesn’t buy it. He says Trudeau has authority to lift cabinet confidence — that the Liberal leader is lying to Canadians and using “bogus” excuses to cover up the affair.

“He’s hiding behind the clerk of the Privy Council (Ian Shugart). I actually think it’s shameful to use the public service in this way. An official who is meant to be the head of the non-partisan civil service, to be used this way, is reprehensible on the part of Justin Trudeau,” Scheer said Friday.

Scheer’s accusation was prompted by a story in The Globe and Mail, published late Tuesday evening, that suggested the RCMP were being frustrated in their attempts to interview potential witnesses because their knowledge of the SNC-Lavalin affair was covered by cabinet confidence.

The newspaper published another story late Wednesday, quoting former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould saying she was interviewed by the Mounties on Tuesday, a day before the election was called.

Wilson-Raybould told the newspaper that the formal interview took place at the request of the RCMP, but she would not reveal what was said by either party.  The former minister did, however, say she had concerns about cabinet confidences shielding witnesses from answering RCMP questions. MORE

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Andrew Coyne: The question of what is Trudeau hiding is not going to go away

 

Andrew Coyne: The question of what is Trudeau hiding is not going to go away

The issues involved in the SNC-Lavalin affair are too important to be treated flippantly. This isn’t some question of policy on which people of goodwill can differ

Another campaign begun in the shadow of scandal. The first weeks of the 2015 election campaign were dominated by the trial of Sen. Mike Duffy, at much subsequent cost to Stephen Harper’s re-election chances. Whether or not the latest revelations in the SNC-Lavalin affair prove to be as consequential to the current campaign, the implications are deeply troubling.

Not only is the RCMP reported to have been inquiring into the affair, in which the prime minister and other government officials attempted to interfere in a criminal prosecution, as a possible case of obstruction of justice, but investigators have apparently been prevented from gathering evidence from key witnesses — obstructed, if you will — by the government’s continuing refusal to release them from the bonds of cabinet confidentiality.

No, it’s not yet a formal criminal investigation, and yes, whatever else you want to call it has been “paused” until after the election — a protocol installed after the 2006 campaign, which was knocked sideways by the revelation that the RCMP was investigating the then minister of finance. No doubt that will be of some relief to the Liberal campaign, but it does leave the public in a bind: it would be a hell of a thing to re-elect the government only to have its top officials charged afterward with serious crimes.

And the questions — the first from a reporter, immediately after Justin Trudeau’s opening statement: “what is your government trying to hide?” — are not going to go away. Seven months after the scandal first came to light, they boil down to one: why not lift the obligation to keep cabinet conversations secret if it will help police get to the bottom of the matter?

This is not, after all, the first time the subject has come up. While the prime minister made a great show of waiving cabinet confidentiality earlier this year with regard to his former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, the waiver applied only to discussions that took place while she was still in the job, and only to those in which she took part. The ethics commissioner reported last month that nine witnesses with evidence relevant to his inquiry had been kept silent by the same restriction.

Cabinet confidentiality is an important principle — ministers could not otherwise speak frankly on sensitive matters — that ought not to be taken lightly. But it is not as important as the rule of law. It might be invoked for reasons of state — or, more often, to spare governments political embarrassment — but it cannot be extended to cover discussions of potential crimes.

Or at any rate it should not. Maybe Trudeau, as he insists, did nothing wrong, legally or ethically. If so, the witnesses will presumably exonerate him. But if not, all the more reason why they should be allowed to tell police what they know.

Former Canadian Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould arrives to give her testimony about the SNC-LAVALIN affair before a justice committee hearing on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 27, 2019. LARS HAGBERG / AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Certainly it is within his power to do so. The explanation, offered both to the ethics commissioner and the RCMP, that it was a decision of the clerk of the privy council, even if true, will not wash. The clerk works for the prime minister, not the other way around. Whatever power the prime minister chooses to delegate he can also choose to take back.

The prime minister, in any event, long ago undermined any principled defence of his position by his readiness to go public with his side of the same conversations. It is no part of the doctrine of cabinet confidentiality that it should be strictly applied to material that might incriminate government officials, but may be relaxed where it shows them in a better light.

I say all this in the vain hope that the question will be considered on its merits, and not merely as a matter of optics, or polling, or tactics. We have an unfortunate tendency in our trade to cover the campaign, rather than the election — who’s up, who’s down, how the parties are or should be positioning themselves on a given issue, as opposed to what’s right, what’s wrong, and which party’s position is closest to the truth.

Cabinet confidentiality is an important principle. But it is not as important as the rule of law

But the issues involved in the SNC-Lavalin affair are too important to be treated so flippantly. This isn’t about whether to raise or lower taxes or some other question of policy on which people of goodwill can differ, but whether we are to have an impartial system of justice, or one in which powerful corporations can wriggle out of prosecution by lobbying the right politicians. MORE

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Why Justin Trudeau’s main foe in 2019 is the Justin Trudeau of 2015

A leader who frames every issue around ideals can expect blowback when he can’t – or won’t – live up to them


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a Liberal Party fundraising event alongside Liberal MP Marco Mendicino in Toronto on Wednesday, September 4, 2019. (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Justin Trudeau of 2019 — the leader who is now seeking re-election — is not the Justin Trudeau of 2015, the young politician who became Canada’s 23rd prime minister on a sunny day in November four years ago.

For one thing, the Trudeau of 2019 now knows exactly how much trouble can result when you make an open-ended, but absolute, promise to implement electoral reform.

The promises of 2015 (simple and aspirational) have become an actual record of governing (messy and imperfect). Not everything went according to plan. Some things didn’t get done. There is now a list of missteps and controversies for Trudeau’s political opponents to recite and dwell upon, from a vacation on the Aga Khan’s island to the SNC-Lavalin affair. If Trudeau was a different kind of politician in 2015, he is now some degree closer to being just another politician in 2019.

He has campaigned and governed using the language of ideals: change, reconciliation, diversity, feminism and gender equality, transparency and openness, “sunny ways,” “we’re back,” supporting the middle class, fighting climate change. He has been heralded (particularly in the pages of American magazines) as the right sort of leader for this perilous moment.

The price of pursuing the ‘vision thing’

Harper tended to downplay his vision of a smaller government and a more conservative country. Instead, he favoured a transactional, incremental politics that worked hard to seem unthreatening. Other than plastering the country with “Economic Action Plan” billboards, Harper tried to avoid attracting any more attention than was absolutely necessary.

Trudeau’s approach has been nearly the opposite. He has been prominent and loud. He has embraced “the vision thing.” As much as he has promised to do specific things, he has done so using broader appeals to ideas and ideals.

As a consequence, he’s given voters ample opportunities to measure reality against his own words.

Consider that stated commitment to gender equality and feminism. Trudeau’s government has passed pay equity legislation, uses gender-based analysis to assess the design of its own policies and made a deliberate effort to achieve gender parity in its public appointments.

But his cabinet also has refused to block the sale of light-armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a country where women are subjected to official oppression. And Trudeau’s most damaging crisis came when he ran afoul of two strong, independent-minded women: Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is embraced by Jody Wilson-Raybould, then the minister of justice, after delivering a speech on the recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights in in the House of Commons Feb. 14, 2018. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

For nearly every one of Trudeau stated ideals, there have been similar complications and compromises.

The prime minister who enthuses about the power and purpose of diversity has welcomed 40,000 Syrian refugees and increased annual immigration — but his government sent emissaries to the United States to discourage asylum seekers from walking across Canada’s southern border. A leader who invokes his children to explain his commitment to combat climate change is still being pressed to explain how he could approve the Trans Mountain expansion — even if neither of the Greens nor the NDP can quite bring themselves to argue that the oilsands should be shut down in the near future.

The politician who condemned the Harper government’s attempt to ban the niqab during citizenship ceremonies could be heard again earlier this year when the prime minister spoke about the Christchurch massacre and the threat of white supremacists — but he has been criticized for not doing more to fight Quebec’s Bill 21. After promising a more collaborative approach to federalism, Trudeau has found himself fighting openly with the premier of Canada’s largest province. The nice young man who promised sunny ways found himself accused of trampling all over the Shawcross doctrine.

In their defence, the Liberals might argue that governing is hard and nobody’s perfect, that compromises are both necessary and unavoidable, and that ideals — even if they’re imperfectly lived — still matter. But any space between words and actions allows room for cynicism to grow. MORE

Chris Selley: Somehow, the missing and murdered Indigenous women inquiry just got worse

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau literally copped to Canada committing genocide under his watch. And then, somehow, nothing happened

Back in June, the debate over whether Indigenous Canadian women are victims of genocide drowned out many concerns and criticisms that had been levelled against the inquiry that concluded they are. Those came not least from the families of victims, who alleged a lack of empathy compounded by endless staff turnover, a glacial pace of evidence-gathering and a lack of transparency. This week CBC reported the inquiry also made some very basic factual errors.

The final report alleges “Indigenous women and girls now make up almost 25 per cent of homicide victims,” when of course it’s 25 per cent of female homicide victims. In her preface, commissioner Michèle Audette claims “statistics show … Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or missing than any other women in Canada.” Statistics Canada pegs it at around 2.7 times more likely.

“We were on the ground, we were with the families,” Audette explained. “Sometimes we were able to see that numbers don’t connect to the reality on the ground.”

This validated widespread concerns that the inquiry was disastrously uninterested in collecting actual data about victims, perpetrators and circumstances, but it gets worse: Corrections made to the report in light of CBC’s inquiries are not annotated, nor have they been included in all versions — including the official one filed with the government.

Some are understandably worried the inquiry’s useful findings might be overshadowed by such blunders. But if anything I think it could be a useful reminder, because the discussion following the report’s release came nowhere near running its course. At one point, amid much waffling, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau literally copped to Canada committing genocide under his watch: “We accept the finding that this was genocide, and we will move forward to end this ongoing national tragedy.”

And then … nothing. We are about to have an election campaign in which a head of government has admitted at the very least to failing to prevent genocide — itself a breach of international law, putting Trudeau’s Canada in the same league as Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia. A lot of perfectly mainstream jurists and commentators said they agreed with this. And now, bupkes.

I suspect a lot of people who claim to support the inquiry’s findings are rolling their eyes at this point. It’s not, you know, GENOCIDE-genocide. Justin Trudeau’s not going to wind up in The Hague, for heaven’s sake.

All I can say is read the report. Its legal analysis concedes “there is little precedent in international law for situations where the state is the perpetrator of genocide through structural violence, such as colonialism,” but it very much implicates Canada in GENOCIDE-genocide, “in breach of (its) international obligations, triggering its responsibility under international law.”

It’s not, you know, GENOCIDE-genocide

Most ridiculous were the folks who ostensibly supported the report’s findings but accused skeptics of getting too hung up on the genocide thing….Just because you’re accusing a person or entity of a novel kind of genocide doesn’t mean you aren’t accusing them of something that needs answering for. It’s a big word for a reason. MORE

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How Trudeau’s Broken Promises Fuel the Growth of Canada’s Right

Martin Lukacs’ book ‘The Trudeau Formula’ finds the Liberals talk a good game, but don’t deliver.

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‘The Liberals effectively act as a kind of shock absorber of discontent and anger towards the elite,’ says Martin Lukacs, a journalist and author of the new book, The Trudeau Formula. Photo by EJ Hersom, Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0.

Talk a good game about transforming society on behalf of the 99 per cent, while secretly assuring the one per cent that they have nothing to worry about.

That’s the political strategy that defines Canada’s Liberal party, according to Martin Lukacs, a long-time investigative journalist and Guardian contributor whose new book The Trudeau Formula is being released this month. Activist and author Naomi Klein calls it “a must-read that brilliantly maps the inner logic of the Trudeau years.”

Lukacs told The Tyee that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approach to politics serves the powerful.

“The Liberals effectively act as a kind of shock absorber of discontent and anger towards the elite,” he said. In his book, Lukacs describes sneaking into a private fundraising event for the Liberals in Halifax in April 2018. Corporate lobbyists circled federal ministers “like teenagers at a high school dance,” he writes.

Lukacs shared ideas with The Tyee on why Trudeau’s main strength is progressive marketing, how his broken promises are creating an opening for the scapegoating politics of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, why the NDP is failing to take advantage of this political moment, and what it will take for ordinary Canadians to create transformative solutions for the climate emergency and extreme inequality….

Ultimately politicians won’t do anything unless their feet are put to the fire by a social movement.

On why a Green New Deal is political kryptonite to Trudeau

A Green New Deal is basically a clear, distinct roadmap to accomplish everything that Trudeau claimed he champions. It makes very clear that we have to learn to say no to opening new fossil fuel frontiers. Which of course is precisely what the Trudeau government has tried to tell Canadians can’t be done. A Green New Deal tells us that we actually have to engage in reparations and land restitution with Indigenous people.

That’s a frontal challenge to the establishment centrist politics of the Liberal party. And it’s precisely the kind of politics that could massively improve people’s material lives. You’d potentially create hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of good green jobs, unionized jobs. That raises people’s standard of living. That improves the deteriorating public services that we have. That also is the best way to defeat the rise of ugly right-wing scapegoating, which I don’t think the Liberals are capable of doing. If anything, the kind of policies that the Liberal government has put forward are going to feed and pave the way for the right wing to take power. MORE

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Unions Should Go Big on a Green New Deal for Canada

On climate change, workers shouldn’t be left behind — they should lead the way.

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The Green New Deal, catching fire in America, is the kind of policy plan that Canadian unions could loudly champion. Photo via the Sunrise Movement.

MORE

ILO celebrates 100 years of fighting for fair labour practices

Members of the Union for Hospitality workers Local 75 walk in Toronto’s annual Labour Day Parade on Sept. 3 last year. The International Labour Organization, 100 years old this year, continues to fight globally for social justice and an inclusive future for work, Adelle Blackett writes.

A good anniversary should not go to waste. Yet how many Canadians know, in this moment of inequality and discontent, that we helped found a century-old international organization whose constitution proclaims that “universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based on social justice?”

Established under the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the International Labour Organization outlived the beleaguered League of Nations to become the first United Nations specialized agency. Its staff barely escaped the rise of fascism in Europe, settling into a wartime home at McGill University from 1940–1948.

At McGill, the ILO prepared its post-war future, anticipating decolonization. It drafted the 1944 constitutional text, the Declaration of Philadelphia, declaring that “Labour is not a commodity;” “Freedom of expression and of association are essential to sustained progress;” “Poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere;” and “All human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity.”

Beyond adopting paper standards, the ILO has assumed an active yet largely forgotten role in democratization, including ending political apartheid in South Africa. It insists on playing a role in international economic policy-making, calling for a fair globalization. On its 50th anniversary in 1969, it won the Nobel Peace Prize for its relentless social justice action.

The ILO has realized that this centennial moment is too weighty to wrap itself in self-congratulation: it has emphasized the need for an inclusive future of work. Canadian celebrations have picked up on this theme. MORE

Federal party leaders focus on wooing union heartland on Labour Day

Riding of Hamilton Centre expected to be closely fought between the NDP, Liberals this fall election


NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, left, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, centre, and Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were scheduled to be in Hamilton on Labour Day. (Canadian Press)

Wooing workers in Canada’s union heartland was the focus for federal party leaders this Labour Day, with Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh all in Hamilton, Ont.

Trudeau participated in the annual Labour Day parade there, Singh was to catch up with the participants at the annual Labour Day picnic, and Scheer was expected at the Labour Day classic football game between the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger Cats.

Hamilton has a long-standing connection to Canada’s union movement as the historic epicentre of the steel industry and related businesses. It was there in the 1870s that workers first agitated for the government to legislate shorter work days, an effort that eventually led to the first national union, albeit a short lived one.

Hamilton is also home to five federal ridings: the Liberals hold two, the NDP two and the Conservatives one, with the vote bouncing between all three parties in recent elections.

The riding of Hamilton Centre is expected to be closely fought between the NDP and the Liberals this election. David Christopherson, the NDP MP who has represented the area for over a decade, has retired, leaving his seat vulnerable.

Meanwhile, the NDP are hoping to take the riding of Hamilton East-Stoney Creek away from the Liberals by counting on support from steelworkers who have complained about their treatment at the hands of the current local Liberal MP.

NDP pitching to union workers

Singh made a pitch to union workers Monday, promising that if his party forms government, they’d bring in legislation to end the ability of companies to replace striking workers with temporary employment. He also promised to immediately raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and ensure better protections for contract workers.

“This is what you get when you get a New Democrat,” Singh said during an event Monday morning in Toronto before he headed to Hamilton. “You get someone on your side.”

Singh was joining Labour Day events in Hamilton at the invitation of the local labour council, while Trudeau was invited by the local chapter of the Labourers International Union of North America, which represents construction workers, among other industries. MORE

Ottawa, B.C. to push electrification of gas industry to cut carbon emissions


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen prior to making an announcement at BC Hydro Trades Training Centre in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, August, 29, 2019. Photo by The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward

As part of an agreement announced Thursday, the two governments and BC Hydro are forming a committee to push projects that increase power transmission.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the agreement is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the natural gas industry, which produces about 18 per cent of the carbon pollution in the province.

“We’re taking another major step forward in the fight against climate change,” he said, adding that electrification will also create jobs.

B.C. Premier John Horgan joined Trudeau in making the announcement at a BC Hydro training centre in Surrey, saying the two governments are working to make the economy more environmentally sustainable.

Horgan said the agreement also takes advantage of BC Hydro’s ability to provide clean energy for industry in the province.

“Our governments are working collaboratively to electrify industries and reduce emissions as we put B.C. on a path to a cleaner, better future,” he said in a statement.

Environmental groups have criticized Horgan’s NDP government for its backing of the liquefied natural gas industry in B.C., arguing changes to the province’s tax structure and subsidies are helping a sector that increases carbon pollution.

The federal and provincial governments have boosted LNG Canada’s plans for a $40-billion project in Kitimat, which is expected to create 10,000 construction jobs and up to 950 permanent positions in the processing terminal on the coast of B.C.

Trudeau said Thursday’s agreement builds on that project.

The three-page agreement says $680 million in “near-term” electrification projects are being considered for possible funding.

B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver said the deal and the province’s financial commitment to it is a further subsidization of fossil fuel development, including for projects that have not yet been built.

“The NDP government is not only providing more subsidies for the growth of the fossil fuel sector but are also neglecting their responsibility to this province to be making the investments for an alternative future,” he said in a news release.

Weaver said he supports the electrification of industry, but it must go beyond providing help for the gas sector. MORE

Ecocide Law places Canadian politicians in jeopardy

“I began to realise that rights in isolation are not enough. If you have rights, there are corresponding duties and obligations – it’s like two sides of the coin. And what gives enforcement to your rights are the responsibilities that are put in place in criminal law.”— Polly Higgins

Image result for polly higgins

Polly Higgins, Earth’s lawyer, focused on making Ecocide the fifth crime against peace under the jurisdiction of  the International Criminal Court by 2020. Her untimely death has energized her followers to realize this goal.

Polly’s Ecocide act gives primacy of jurisdiction over national governments’ law. It also removes the defence of intent. Whether the intent of an action is to avoid ecocide is irrelevant.  The test is whether the principal actor knew or should have known that their actions would result in Ecocide.

The Ecocide Act focuses on bringing those with principal responsibility for acts of Ecocide, be they corporate directors, politicians, financiers, insurers or individuals, to justice for the destruction of our Earth. 

Several Canadian politicians could find themselves charged under this law.

Here are some possible future headlines: 

The International Criminal Court  charges Justin Trudeau with Ecocide

Image result for justin trudeau The Alberta tar sands and Ecocide are virtually synonymous. Using public money, Justin Trudeau has heavily subsidized  tar sands producers, ignoring the IPCC’s call to reduce climate-destroying emissions; he has encouraged the rapid  exploitation and expansion of Canada’s largest sacrifice zone; he has allowed the development of vast, toxic tailings ponds, ignoring their environmental legacy and threat to humanity and future generations; he has used public resources to buy a pipeline to triple tar sands bitumen transportation to offshore markets.

Trudeau’s defense,  that he was always protecting Canadian jobs, would be dismissed as irrelevant.

The International Criminal Court  charges Andrew Scheer with Ecocide

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Andrew Scheer is vulnerable to charges because he argues that Trudeau’s efforts to develop and exploit the tar sands are not happening fast enough. As a cheerleader for tar sands development as the lynchpin of the Canadian economy, Scheer would find himself vulnerable.

The International Criminal Court  charges Jason Kenney  with Ecocide

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Jason Kenney’s boosterism of the Alberta tar sands puts him in legal jeopardy. His oil and gas subsidies, his removal of environmental safeguards, and the support for fracked natural gas with its huge environmental footprint and  its serious contamination of water, all can be cited as evidence of his willingness to prioritize Alberta’s economy over his duty to protect the public’s right to a healthy environment. 

The International Criminal Court  charges John Horgan with Ecocide

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Allowing construction to continue on the Site C Dam and the flooding of rich farmland to provide cheap electricity to carbon intensive natural gas fracking operations cannot reconciled with Horgan’s duty to protect the environment.  John Horgan has offered subsidies and tax breaks to B.C.’s single largest carbon polluter, LNG Canada.  LNG development is notoriously carbon intensive. The LNG Canada project would emit 8.6 megatonnes of carbon per year in 2030, rising to 9.6 megatonnes in 2050. Fracking is associated with massive water use (the average frack uses between five million and 100 million litres of water), radioactive waste, earthquakes, dangerous air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Health impacts were removed from the purview of the scientific panel tasked with reviewing fracking.  His support for the Coastal Gaslink pipeline development on Wet’suwet’en territory continues to ignore First Nations’ rights and their opposition.


Declare yourself an Earth Protector on the website here.

Justin Trudeau broke ethics law in SNC-Lavalin affair: commissioner


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in Montreal on July 17, 2019. Photo by Josie Desmarais

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held firm to his belief that his actions in the SNC-Lavalin affair were justified, hours after Canada’s ethics watchdog slammed him for violating federal law.

“I can’t apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs,” Trudeau told reporters Wednesday afternoon in the southern Ontario town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Trudeau inappropriately pressured former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould to offer the Montreal-based engineering firm the option to avoid criminal prosecution on corruption charges, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion found.

Hours after Dion’s investigation was released, the Prime Minister’s Office put out a related, more favourable review, authored by a former Liberal cabinet member and dated late June.

“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,” Dion said in a statement.

Trudeau later told reporters in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where he was previously scheduled to make a different announcement, that he did “fully accept this (Dion’s) report and take responsibility for everything that happened,” but that he also disagreed with some of the commissioner’s conclusions.

The SNC-Lavalin affair rocked Canadian politics earlier this year, a drama that unfolded over several months and involved high-profile resignations, secretly recorded phone calls and explosive committee testimony.

Trudeau, along with senior advisors in his office and elsewhere in government, repeatedly asked Wilson-Raybould late last year and into 2019 about allowing SNC-Lavalin to avoid criminal prosecution.

This was after the public prosecution service had already determined that a so-called deferred prosecution agreement should not be offered to the company.

Dion said Trudeau’s actions were contrary to Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act, which bars government officials responsible for high-level decision-making from influencing the decision of another person to “improperly further another person’s private interests.”

Dion’s report was expected in early September, but released without warning Wednesday. Hours later, the PMO released a separate report by former attorney general Anne McLellan, who was appointed in March to look into whether the roles of justice minister and attorney general should be separated in light of the SNC-Lavalin affair. Trudeau revealed yesterday that the McLellan report would not be released before the ethics commissioner’s.

The commissioner’s report is titled Trudeau II, a reference to the fact that this is the second time Trudeau has been investigated by the office. In December 2017, the office found that Trudeau had violated conflict of interest rules when he and his family vacationed on the Aga Khan’s private island.

“I will be taking all precautions in the future,” Trudeau told media at the time.

The prime minister had already accepted responsibility in March for being blind to an “erosion of trust” between his office and Wilson-Raybould. “I was not aware of that erosion of trust. As prime minister and leader of the federal ministry, I should have been,” he said.

But at that time, as on Wednesday, he did not apologize for the affair, and continued to say there was “no inappropriate pressure” placed on the former justice minister. MORE

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Trudeau’s Ethics Violation Is ‘Political Dynamite’

The SNC-Lavalin scandal is back in the headlines. And that’s very bad news for the Liberals’ re-election hopes.

Is Trudeau in for another hit in the polls because of the SNC-Lavalin ethics report?

Liberal support dropped 7 points after controversy broke, and has yet to fully recover

Singh calls Trudeau’s withholding of SNC-Lavalin report ‘troubling’


NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks at the 2019 Climate Caucus Summit in Vancouver, B.C., on Aug. 13, 2019. Photo by Stephanie Wood

Justin Trudeau has decided not to release a report by former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan on the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Instead, the prime minister will wait until the federal ethics commissioner, Mario Dion, releases his report, expected in early September.

New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh called Trudeau’s decision a “cynical” and “troubling” move, in comments at an event in Vancouver on Aug. 13.

Singh told National Observer that Trudeau may be hoping to minimize the negative impact from Dion’s report by releasing McLellan’s at the same time. He also questioned the independence of the report, given that Trudeau’s government commissioned McLellan.

“The ethics commissioner is independent, and that report might be very scathing, and the timing to blunt the scathing report with one that’s paid for by the government is troubling,” he said.

National Observer requested comment from the Prime Minister’s Office but a spokesperson said they had nothing to add.

Trudeau’s withholding of McLellan’s SNC-Lavalin report ‘cynical’ and ‘troubling,’ says Jagmeet Singh.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trudeau revealed that the government had handed the report over to Dion. “We have provided that report to the ethics commissioner to allow the ethics commissioner to finish his own investigation,” he said when asked about the report at an event in Toronto.

“We will be releasing the report at the same time as the ethics commissioner makes his report public.”

The prime minister appointed McLellan in March to look into the SNC-Lavalin affair, and whether the roles of minister of justice and attorney general should be separated.

This issue became central after former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould said she was inappropriately pressured by the PMO to push a deferred prosecution for SNC-Lavalin, a Montreal engineering company facing charges of fraud.

Wilson-Raybould said pressure from the PMO she received as justice minister interfered with her position as attorney general.

In a phone call with former clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, Wilson-Raybould called pressure from the PMO “political interference” that could breach “prosecutorial independence.”

Singh said the scandal shows the Liberals’ priority is “covering themselves, and their wealthy and powerful and connected friends.” MORE