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Opposition requests ethics committee meeting to hear from watchdog about SNC-Lavalin investigation

Mario Dion - Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner
Mario Dion - Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner - Government of Canada

An appearance of the ethics commissioner before a parliamentary committee would be another way to keep the scandal in the headlines

OTTAWA, Ont.  — The Conservatives and NDP have requested a meeting of the parliamentary ethics committee in an attempt to hear directly from the federal ethics watchdog about his damning report on the SNC-Lavalin affair.

In a letter sent to Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, the chair of the House of Commons ethics committee, on Thursday afternoon, Tory committee members Peter Kent and Jacques Gourde asked for an urgent meeting, where the Conservatives will move a motion to have ethics commissioner Mario Dion appear.

Dion’s 63-page report, published Wednesday morning, found that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by improperly pressuring former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the prosecution of Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin. The company is accused of paying $48 million in bribes to Libyan government officials between 2001 and 2011.

“This is incredibly concerning. These findings show that Justin Trudeau used the power of his office to reward his friends and punish his critics,” the Conservatives wrote. “Canadians deserve fulsome answers to the many remaining questions.”

In a separate letter on Wednesday, NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus made a similar request, and also asked that the committee consider inviting Trudeau, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and his former chief of staff, Ben Chin, “on account of their intimate connection to the matters at the heart of the report.”

On Wednesday, Trudeau told reporters he accepted the report but disagreed with some of its findings, including that any contact with Wilson-Raybould on the matter was improper. “We recognize that the way this happened shouldn’t have happened,” he said. “I take responsibility for the mistakes that I made.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, however, has called for an RCMP investigation of the scandal. “What we have now is a clear picture (of) who Justin Trudeau truly is, and it’s not who he promised he would be,” Scheer told reporters on Wednesday. “He promised he would be accountable and ethical. Instead, time and time again, he has used the power of his office to enrich himself, reward his friends and punish his critics.”

An appearance of the ethics commissioner before a parliamentary committee would be another way to keep the scandal in the headlines in the weeks leading up to a federal election campaign. Much of the SNC-Lavalin affair unfolded very publicly before the House of Commons justice committee last spring, where Wilson-Raybould, former principal secretary Gerald Butts and former privy council clerk Michael Wernick all testified.

In March, the NDP moved a motion to have the ethics committee investigate the affair, but it was voted down by the Liberal majority on the committee, who pointed to the fact that the ethics commissioner’s investigation was already underway.

This wouldn’t be the first time the ethics commissioner has appeared before the parliamentary committee following an investigation. In January 2018, former ethics commissioner Mary Dawson appeared before the committee regarding Trudeau’s first breach of conflict-of-interest rules — his holiday trip to the Aga Khan’s private island.

• Email: mforrest@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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