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Scheer blasts Trudeau in Regina on day of damning SNC-Lavalin report

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, shakes hands with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer Thursday, June 14, 2018 in Saguenay Que.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, shakes hands with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer Thursday, June 14, 2018 in Saguenay Que. - Jacques Boissinot

The Conservative leader's harsh words came in light of a federal ethics commissioner's report that found the prime minister contravened the conflict of interest act.

REGINA, Sask. —

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s actions in the SNC-Lavalin affair “unforgivable” on Wednesday, in light of a federal ethics commissioner’s report that found Trudeau contravened the conflict of interest act.

Scheer was speaking at the Hotel Saskatchewan in Regina, where he blasted Trudeau breaking the law and said he believes there’s enough evidence to warrant an RCMP investigation.

“Today, Justin Trudeau has been found guilty of illegal interference to block the fraud and bribery trial of a Liberal-linked corporation,” he said.

He called on voters to cast out the Liberals in October.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion was investigating whether Trudeau improperly sought to influence former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to overrule her top prosecutor and assist SNC-Lavalin’s quest to evade criminal prosecution.

In a report released Wednesday morning, Dion found that Trudeau’s actions went against the principles of prosecutorial independence and were therefore “improper.”

“The evidence showed there were many ways in which Mr. Trudeau, either directly or through the actions of those under his direction, sought to influence the Attorney General,” Dion wrote.

“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.”

He noted that SNC-Lavalin had “significant financial interests in deferring prosecution.”

The Montreal engineering giant was facing criminal charges on fraud and bribery charges relating to its actions in Libya. It would be barred from federal contracts for 10 years if convicted. In 2018, the Liberal government passed legislation creating a regime of deferred prosecution agreements, allowing the company to avoid trial.

But in September, the federal director of public prosecutions declined to use it after deciding that SNC Lavalin was not a suitable candidate.

Despite repeated conversations with the prime minister, the country’s top bureaucrat and senior staffers, Wilson-Raybould declined to overrule the director. Trudeau’s then-principal secretary, Gerald Butts, argued there was “nothing inappropriate” in the efforts to persuade her to seek a second opinion and reconsider her views.

But Wilson-Raybould said she had been clear on her position and viewed the attempts to change her mind as inappropriate pressure. Dion agreed.

“Mr. Trudeau used his position of authority over Ms. Wilson-Raybould to seek to influence, both directly and indirectly, her decision on whether she should overrule the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision not to invite SNC-Lavalin to enter into negotiations toward a remediation agreement,” he wrote in his report.

“Therefore, I find that Mr. Trudeau contravened section 9 of the Act.”

But he stressed that his efforts to investigate the issue were stymied by the government’s refusal to waive cabinet confidentiality. He wrote that there were nine witnesses that were unable to testify in full as a result.

“I was unable to fully discharge the investigatory duties conferred upon me,” he explained.

Scheer noted that the SNC-Lavalin case is the second time Trudeau has run afoul of ethics law, the first relating to him accepting a helicopter trip for a visit to the Aga Khan’s island.

awhite-crummey@postmedia.com

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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