Fri, Aug 16, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Ethics watchdog rules against Trudeau

Bloomberg

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was plunged back into the biggest scandal of his term just two months before elections, after the nation’s ethics watchdog ruled he inappropriately interfered in a judicial matter.

In a report released on Wednesday, Canadian Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said Trudeau sought to pressure his former attorney general last year to help SNC-Lavalin Group settle corruption charges out of court, partly for political reasons.

Since the Montreal-based engineering firm would have benefited financially from Trudeau’s efforts, the prime minister’s actions contravened conflict of interest laws, the watchdog concluded.

“The authority of the prime minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit” the attorney general’s authority, Dion said.

The reprimand is a blow to Trudeau, just 10 weeks ahead of an October election.

The ruling effectively undermines Trudeau’s argument that he did nothing wrong and was only seeking to stave off job losses, chalking up the disagreement with his attorney general to the normal operations of government.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Trudeau accepted responsibility “for everything that happened,” even though he said he disagreed with some of the conclusions.

“My job as a prime minister is to stand up for Canadians and defend their interests, and yes, it is essential we do that in a way that defends our institutions, that upholds prosecutorial independence, but we need to be able to talk about the impacts on Canadians right across the country of decisions being made,” Trudeau said.

He said he would implement new measures to reinforce the independence of the attorney general’s office.

The controversy centers around conversations Trudeau and aides had with then-Canadian minister of justice Jody Wilson-Raybould and her staff over whether to help SNC-Lavalin settle a fraud and corruption case dating back to its work in Libya during then-leader Muammar Qaddafi’s rule.

However, the ethics watchdog found the pressure on Wilson-Raybould “troubling,” and said the evidence showed on at least four separate occasions that political interests to back SNC were put before the attorney general, directly or indirectly.

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