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Too many questions that need to be answered

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on March 02, 2019 with No Comments

After two government probes and two resignations the SNC-Lavalin Scandal continues to haunt the Liberals and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The investigations have been carried out by the federal ethics commissioner and the House of the Commons justice committee and the resignations have come from Veterans Affairs Minister Wilson Raybould and Trudeau’s Principal Secretary Gerald Butts. The committees have been trying to find answers to the central question: Did the prime minister or someone in his office try to pressure Jody Wilson-Raybould when she was attorney general to step in and resolve the corruption and fraud case against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. in an effort to spare the Montreal-based engineering giant from criminal prosecution?

The controversy began with reports in papers, that alleged that Prime Minister Justine Trudeau’s office had “attempted to press” Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the corruption and fraud prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. The reports highlighted that despite pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office, Wilson-Raybould refused to ask federal prosecutors to make a plea bargain deal with SNC,that would spare the company a trial and possible criminal conviction.​ 

SNC-Lavalin is in storm as it faces charges of fraud and corruption in connection with nearly $48 million in payments made to Libyan government officials between 2001 and 2011. If convicted, the company could be blocked from competing for federal government contracts for a decade. Hence any attempt to protect/ shield and/or spare them of a possible trial doesn’t augur well with ethics. 

Meanwhile, the ethics commissioner too is investigating whether there was a breach of Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act. It prohibits any official responsible for high-level decision-making in government from seeking to influence the decision of another person so as to “improperly further another person’s private interests.” In the light of these facts there are certain strong questions that need answers. Prime Minister needs to clarify-Did he request this meeting? Was the Prime Minister aware of that the Director of Public Prosecution had already denied SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement when he met with her? Can he deny that the purpose of the meeting was not to indicate to the Attorney general of a favourable decision?

There are question on the cabinet reshuffle carried out on January 14 too. 
Did Prime Minister Trudeay remove Ms. Wilson-Raybould because she refused to overrule the Director of Public Prosecutions on SNC-Lavalin’s prosecution? Did Prime Minister choose David Lametti to replace Ms. Wilson Raybould as Attorney General as Lametti could be molded to overrule the Director of Public Prosecutions on SNC-Lavalin prosecution?  Though, the legislation allows for the justice minister to overturn the independent decision of the director of public prosecutions, but to do so she would have had to declare it in the Canada Gazette, publicly undercutting the prosecutor. That might have led to a high-profile resignation, throwing the administration of justice into disrepute.

Prime Minister also faces questions concerning the resignation of Principal Secretary Gerald Butts. Prime Minister must explain whether Gerald Butts resignation is linked with SNC-Lavalin’s case or not. Why did Prime Minister had to accept Gerald Butts resignation if Butts did nothing wrong? Prime Minister must break his silence on whether RCMP has contacted Gerald Butts or not.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finds himself in a mess, the same has been indicated by the recent opinion polls. Angus Reid Institute shows the SNC-Lavalin affair taking a toll on the fortunes of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government, as the PC party now has point lead over the Liberals.

Above all how appropriate was it to put the muscle on Wislon-Raybould to push for a “favorable result” and in return make all of them appear odd with their political stances?

 

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