“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.”
– Mario Dion, Canada’s Ethics Commissioner
And now for the next scene in the SNC/Trudeau corruption scandal.
There has never been any doubt in my mind of the culpability of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the SNC-Lavalin affair and the decision of the attorney general not to interfere in the ruling of the director of public prosecutions who denied SNC-Lavalin a right to a Deferred Prosecution Agreement.
Dion's recent decision confirms that there was political interference by the prime minister and his office. Dion concludes that, “Mr. Trudeau used his position of authority over Ms. Wilson-Raybould to seek to influence her decision on whether she should overrule the Director of Public Prosecutions' decision not to invite SNC-Lavalin to enter into negotiations towards a remediation agreement.”
Because SNC-Lavalin stood to benefit from Ms. Wilson-Raybould's intervention, Dion had no doubt that Trudeau's influence would have furthered SNC-Lavalin's interests and those actions were improper and contrary to the constitutional principles of prosecutorial independence and the rule of law.
The investigation brings out much evidence which was previously unavailable. Unbeknownst to the public, and even to Wilson-Raybould, there were attempts to involve three retired Supreme Court justices to intervene on behalf of SCN-Lavalin in the process. It is especially interesting that two of them were involved in a 2002 Alberta decision (on appeal to the SCC) where they stated in their decision: “The quasi-judicial function of the attorney general cannot be subjected to interference from parties who are not as competent to consider the various factors involved in making a decision to prosecute. To subject such decisions to political interference, or to judicial supervision, could erode the integrity of our system of prosecution.”
Right from the get-go in 2016, it was SNC-Lavalin that lobbied for legislation to authorize a deferred prosecution agreement which was eventually passed as an amendment to the Criminal Code hidden in an omnibus budget bill. These amendments to the Criminal Code were only proclaimed on Sept.19, 2018, however SNC-Lavalin had already made their application and was claiming that the process was taking too long a month earlier.
Even with this lengthy, well-articulated decision it is expected that there may well be more damning evidence submitted as the commissioner was denied access to cabinet documents that might "reveal a confidence of the Queen’s Privy Council." This stonewalling by the PMO was made despite an Order in Council, which authorizes Wilson-Raybould and "any persons who directly participated in discussions with her" in relation to the exercise of her authority under the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, to disclose to the Office of the Ethics Commissioner any confidences contained in any communication that was "directly discussed with her" while she held the office of the Attorney General.
So, will there be a further act in this comedy of errors? There may be a further investigation by the RCMP into the alleged corruption within the Prime Minister’s Office and, of course, there is the likelihood of a court decision on the allegations of bribery against SNC Lavalin.
Ken Allred is a former St. Albert alderman and MLA.