Election result signals the need for continued grassroots activism

The interim House of Commons on January 16, 2019. Image: Leafsfan67/Wikimedia Commons

What are some of the observations that can be made about the results of this federal election from a grassroots activist perspective?

1. The electoral system is broken.

As we all know, the seat count would have looked very different under proportional representation. For instance, the NDP would have won 54 seats (rather than 24) and the Greens would have won 22 seats (rather than 3).

2. The Conservatives were stopped, but won the vote.

We’ll need to contend with the fact that the Conservatives beat the Liberals in terms of the popular share of the vote as well as winning almost 250,000 more votes than the Liberals.

3. It doesn’t spell the end of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Could the NDP and the Greens make cancelling the pipeline a condition of their support in the House? It doesn’t appear that way right now, plus as was pointed out by other observers, the Conservatives would likely back the Liberals in any vote that might come up in the House on this. We’ll need to be on the land to win this.

4. The SNC-Lavalin scandal isn’t going away.

Given that Jody Wilson-Raybould won her seat as an Independent and a minority government means the opposition parties control the standing committees (and call witnesses, etc.), this story is likely to continue.

5. Highs and lows.

It was great to see NDP candidate Leah Gazan elected in Manitoba and a new Green MP in New Brunswick. It was disappointing that Svend Robinson didn’t win in Burnaby and that (even had the NDP and Green votes been combined in Ottawa Centre) that Catherine McKenna still won even after she approved a tar sands pipeline.

6. Opportunities for a Green New Deal.

The outcome of the election doesn’t suggest that the stage has been set to win a bold Green New Deal, but hopefully the “balance of power” equation suggests we could maybe carve out a few important gains on this front, ideally pushing harder on the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies.

7. Colonial violence continues.

Just days before the election, Tiny House Warriors Kanahus Manuel and Isha Jules were arrested for defending Secwepemc territory against the Trans Mountain pipeline. Kanahus’ wrist was reportedly broken by the RCMP and she was transported 200 kilometres in the back of a police wagon without medical attention.

8. The average lifespan of a minority government.

The average lifespan of a minority government is generally 18 to 24 months. We’ll see how that pans out, but it is at least conceivable/likely that there will be another election within four years. How do we better prepare for that fight two years down the road as the climate crisis further intensifies?

In the meantime, here’s to continued activism!

As the great progressive Howard Zinn wrote, “Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.” SOURCE

The SNC-Lavalin Scandal Is a Sideshow Distracting from the Real Issue: Corporate Control

Conservatives and Liberals can both breathe easier as media fixate on the story as if it was an aberration. It’s not.

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Both Conservatives and Liberals benefit from how the SNC-Lavalin scandal is being framed. Photo by Marc Grandmaison, the Canadian Press.

The SNC-Lavalin frenzy is a distraction.

The media fixation on the scandal keeps the election debate within status quo-friendly parameters, which benefits the Canadian elite and their two main parliamentary representatives: the Conservatives and — with important caveats — the Liberals as well.

The mainstream media version of events involves a seductively simple cast of characters: the apolitical justice system and ethics commissioner, a “stubborn and wilful” prime minister who crossed the line, and a noble Antigone-like figure — Jody Wilson-Raybould — who defied state power.

The dominant media narrative puts the spotlight on individual personalities and an arcane bureaucratic dispute — how many people are prepared to study the Shawcross Doctrine governing prosecutorial independence? And it largely ignores the broader social or economic context.

This packaging of the scandal fits the Conservatives’ agenda perfectly. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer likes to maintain an anti-establishment aura. But as a party of big business, the Conservatives can’t be “radical” in any substantive manner.

With the SNC-Lavalin affair, the Conservatives can have their cake and eat it too. They and their media allies get their chance to bash the Liberals as an entitled elite.

“Justin Trudeau,” Scheer said after the release of the ethics commissioner’s report, “is using his office to help a very select group of his very rich and powerful friends.”

And because of the scandal’s narrow focus on legal issues, the Conservatives can fixate on Trudeau’s alleged moral depravity, or make vague (and therefore meaningless) proclamations about a Liberal oligarchy.

This puts the election debate exactly where the Conservatives want it. Obsessing over the SNC-Lavalin affair means more urgent questions about the entirely legal ways that the federal government is at the beck and call of business are ignored.

For example, what about the climate crisis that’s threatening the existence of humanity? Both federal and provincial governments are waging an insane war to preserve the fossil fuel industry and protect corporate interests. (And Scheer has made it clear he would do the same.)

But instead of the climate emergency, the hot election issue at the moment remains whether or not Trudeau stood up for jobs in the SNC-Lavalin affair — a triviality compared to what could be up for discussion.

That’s why, in a somewhat backhanded way, the Liberal party benefits from the SNC-Lavalin shenanigans too (although to be sure, scandals are obviously best avoided).

The idea that the SNC-Lavalin affair represents a scandalous aberration is based on the false premise that the federal government doesn’t always act at the behest of big business.

But let’s be clear: for the past four years, the Liberals have continued the Harper-era consolidation of corporate power, largely without discussion or debate. The Trudeau government uses free trade agreements to lock future governments into free market policies, limits union bargaining rights with back-to-work legislation, purchases the occasional pipeline and keeps the exploitative temporary foreign worker program running.

“Because it’s 2019,” I guess.

By channeling all its outrage towards a few unruly bureaucrats and an engineering firm, the mainstream media has implicitly condoned the federal government’s shrewder and fully legal instances of business favouritism.

The discussion leading up to the election shouldn’t be focused on whether the Trudeau government has transgressed the rules of the game, but rather the game itself. MORE

RELATED:
An RCMP Investigation Could Sink Trudeau. Here’s Why It Won’t Happen

 

 

The Sad Reality of Liberal Partisans’ Response to Trudeau’s Scandal

‘Vote for us — we’ll screw you over in favour of cronies less often’ is hardly a pro-democracy campaign slogan.COVER.Trudeau-Two.jpg
Justin Trudeau promised a new way of doing politics. But his response to the ethics commissioner’s report on the SNC-Lavalin scandal was sadly familiar. Photo via Justin Trudeau Flickr.

The ethics commissioner’s report into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s abuse of power is depressing on many levels, from the sordid facts to the confirmation of the government’s past dishonesty to Trudeau’s attempt to dodge guilt.

But the saddest thing was the response of Liberal partisans.

The report is a litany of serious wrongdoing. Commissioner Mario Dion found 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 [Jody] Wilson‑Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer.”

Trudeau and his team were working to advance SNC-Lavalin’s “significant financial interests in deferring prosecution” on bribery and corruption charges. “The evidence showed that private political interests were also put before Ms. Wilson‑Raybould, directly or indirectly, on at least four separate occasions,” the report found. (Which the government had repeatedly and falsely denied.)

And the report also found Trudeau and company continued to push Wilson-Raybould to let SNC-Lavalin avoid prosecution long after she made it clear that the actions were improper.

The findings leave the Liberals’ past denials of wrongdoing in tatters.

Trudeau’s response was the kind of political slipperiness that leaves voters dispirited.

He said Wednesday he accepts the report and takes responsibility “for everything that happened.”

But at the same time he said he disagrees with many of the findings, as if the report of the independent ethics commissioner was some sort of opinion, rather than a careful finding of fact.

And in the next breath Trudeau effectively denied wrongdoing. “I can’t apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs,” he said.

How many jobs? If SNC-Lavalin is convicted, it will be barred from bidding on federal government contracts for 10 years. But the work would go ahead. Other companies would bid, and would hire people to fill the jobs.

The company employs about 8,800 people in Canada. Not all of them work on federal projects. But say one-third of the jobs would be lost — that’s about 2,900 people. (Who still might be hired by the companies that do win the work.)

Some 3,900 workers have lost their jobs in the B.C. forest industry this year. Where is Trudeau’s willingness to stand up for their jobs? MORE

RELATED:

Gormley: SNC-Lavalin scandal is back and will haunt PM

 

Critics call for new rules for retired judges in wake of SNC-Lavalin affair

Judges judged: Former Justice John Major, left; former Justice Frank Iacobucci, and former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.

OTTAWA—The jury’s out on the judges.

As Justin Trudeau again refused to apologize Thursday after ethics commissioner Mario Dion found the prime minister violated the conflict of interest law by attempting to interfere in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, some critics turned their attention to the role played in the affair by three former Supreme Court of Canada judges.

Dion’s damning report put the blame squarely on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s shoulders for pressuring his former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to cut a deal to allow the Quebec engineering firm to escape criminal conviction.

But the report released Wednesday also shone a harsh light on the conduct of retired justices Frank Iacobucci and John Major and former chief justice Beverley McLachlin, who got involved to differing extents at the company’s behest.

And it has prompted new calls for tougher guidelines for former judges. MORE

RELATED:

Ethics Report Shows How Ex-Supreme Court Justices Got Involved In SNC-Lavalin Affair
Canadians want limits on post-retirement work for judges, survey finds
SNC-Lavalin report puts new focus on activities of retired Supreme Court of Canada judges

 

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

The secretive role of SNC-Lavalin in the Site C dam

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Site C dam costs likely over $10 billion, completion date in doubt. Photo by Bob Fedderly.

The embattled company is reaping millions in public money from no-bid contracts for British Columbia’s third hydro dam on the Peace River — a project that is already billions of dollars over budget

SNC-Lavalin has received approximately $120 million in direct award Site C dam contracts, obscuring the embattled engineering firm’s role in building the largest publicly funded infrastructure project in B.C.’s history.

For one contract, SNC-Lavalin provided BC Hydro with a “shadow estimate” — number-crunching to confirm BC Hydro’s figure — for its forecasted $8.335 billion price tag for the dam, The Narwhal found after reviewing Site C documents.

The estimate proved to be wildly wrong, missing the mark by $2 billion.

But that hasn’t stopped SNC-Lavalin — which has been banned from World Bank infrastructure contracts for 10 years following allegations of bribery schemes in Bangladesh — from reaping years of no-bid work on the Site C dam for engineering design services.

Direct award contracts allow BC Hydro and other public bodies to decide which companies or consultants get contracts, instead of going through a more transparent and competitive tender process.

On Wednesday, a Quebec judge ruled that SNC-Lavalin must stand trial on charges of fraud and corruption for allegedly paying $47.7 million in bribes to public officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011. The RCMP has also charged SNC-Lavalin, its construction division and a subsidiary with one charge each of fraud and corruption for allegedly swindling almost $130 million from various Libyan organizations.

SNC-Lavalin also grossly underestimated cost of Muskrat Falls dam

SNC-Lavalin also played a major role in the cost estimate for the hugely over-budget Muskrat Falls dam on the lower Churchill River in Labrador, now the subject of a two-year inquiry to determine why the project proceeded. MORE

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Nine things B.C. can learn from the Muskrat Falls dam inquiry

SNC-Lavalin will stand trial on criminal corruption charges, Quebec judge rules

VIDEO: The Conservatives accused the Liberals on Tuesday of “rewriting the rules” over reported illegal campaign contributions, stating they “sat on the information.”

SNC-Lavalin will stand trial on criminal corruption charges linked to its alleged business activities in Libya under former dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

A Quebec judge ruled Wednesday morning that prosecutors have enough evidence to sustain a trial of the Montreal engineering giant, which stands accused of fraud and bribing Libyan officials between 2001 and 2011 to get contracts.

The evidence is under a publication ban.

READ MORE: SNC-Lavalin executives look at breaking up company ahead of potential criminal conviction

If convicted, the company could face being barred for up to 10 years from bidding on government contracts. MORE