Did the Prime Minister’s Office try and skirt the rule of law as a favour for an accomplice of former Libyan dictator Muammar Ghadaffi?
The Globe and Mail, citing anonymous sources, alleged so earlier this month. Members of the PMO pressured Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former Ministry of Justice, to spare SNC-Lavalin from criminal prosecution, according to the Globe.
Connie Denesiuk, Liberal candidate for the local riding, said it was too early to throw any stones. However that was before Wilson-Raybould’s testimony on Wednesday.
“Until the facts are known it would be impossible for anyone to comment on whether or not anyone would act inappropriately,” she said.
In search of the facts, the Conservatives supported an NDP motion last week to hold a public inquiry on the matter. The Liberals, with a majority government, were able to defeat it.
Local MP Dick Cannings says the Prime Minister is stonewalling.
“This gets more and more damning to the Liberals day by day,” he said.
Cannings said constituents he’s spoken to aren’t surprised to hear about corruption in federal politics, but “this one is quite a bit more damning in that troubles with SNC-Lavalin go back years and years.”
Back in 2015, the RCMP alleged an SNC-Lavalin executive was in cahoots with Ghadaffi, committing fraud and bribery in the tens and hundreds of millions between 2001 and 2011.
If found guilty, the penalty would likely result in substantial losses for SNC-Lavalin, which earns revenues nearing 11-figures and staffs over 50,000.
Wilson-Raybould’s job was to follow through on the charges against the company. But, according to the Globe, after she ignored pressure from the PMO to strike a plea bargain with federal prosecutors instead of moving forward with criminal charges – she was demoted from Minister of Justice to Minister of Veterans Affairs.
“I’m surprised at how (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) tried to put the blame on Wilson-Raybould. She’s the one that’s standing up for her beliefs,” Cannings said.
Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerald Butts stepped down in wake of the scandal, though he denied any wrongdoing. Cannings wonders why an innocent man would resign.
“So many of their actions point to some guilt there … It just shows this government, and the government before it, put concerns of big business over the concerns over average Canadians. Yes SNC-Lavalin are big employers, but there are lots of other companies we can use for government contracts.”
Offering such generous favours to giant corporations is typical of the Liberal Party’s attitude towards big business and the one per cent, he said.
“NDP is very different – we have the backs of regular Canadians who actually work hard. We want corporations to succeed to the point jobs are created, but not offering them benefits that normal Canadians don’t get.”
Politicians on the opposite end of the political spectrum are making similar criticisms against the Liberal Party.
Conservative MP Michael Barrett said “the merits of a deferred prosecution agreement is something that could be debated through open and transparent conversations,” but “that is troubling when the change that they request is very much to their benefit and specific circumstances.”
The government only gained the ability to reduce criminal charges in such a way after last year’s budget bill was passed, thanks to a provision buried in the 582-page document. SNC-Lavalin lobbied officials from the PMO to make that happen.
“If me, you or one of our neighbours commits a crime – we’re not able to lobby the government dozens and dozens of times to affect a change to the criminal code to be able to seek relief from criminal prosecution. That type of access and relief is not available to everyday Canadians.”
Barrett said the Conservatives will continue calls for a public inquiry, but in the meantime, he’s optimistic about inquiries being made by the RCMP.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is calling on the RCMP to launch a criminal investigation.
“Through their good work, we’ll wait and see,” said Barrett, adding that there needs to be real consequences for any corporation that doesn’t obey the law.
“Canadians expect public prosecution to be free from political interference.”