Yesterday the Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion issued his report on the investigation into the SNC Lavalin affair, confirming that things were as bad, or maybe even worse than had first been thought.
Despite repeated assurances that nothing improper had occurred, and that the ethics investigation would clear the air, Dion issued a report stating that Trudeau broke the federal Conflict of Interest Act in relation the SNC Lavalin scandal by attempting to influence then Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould in “many ways.”
Having reviewed information and testimony provided by the Prime Minister’s Office, the report confirmed that Trudeau had contravened section nine of the Act, which states that office holders may not use their position to seek to influence a decision to the benefit of a private third party.
Dion, no stranger to controversy himself, had previously been criticized for not being effective in his prior role as Public Sector Integrity Commissioner by former Auditor General Michael Ferguson. His appointment earlier in the Trudeau Liberal mandate was criticized by opposition parties as being hasty and poorly thought out.
Yesterday’s report cleared any questions about any perceived bias or predisposition towards the Trudeau Liberals.
Most concerning in my view about the reported developments, as I’ve noticed to be a trend with Trudeau, was the communications and response around the report, as well as some of the more intriguing content of Dion’s report.
Firstly, was Trudeau’s response. It needs to be said the Prime Minister is supported by some of the most incapable communications professionals I’ve ever seen at work in a PMO. One might be led to think their incompetence is by design.
The response from Trudeau stated that he simultaneously accepted the report the commissioner put forward, and that he took responsibility for the incident, while at the same time disagreeing with the conclusions in the report.
Anyone with a cursory understanding of the English language would understand that you cannot simultaneously accept and reject the findings of the report.
Throughout the entire firestorm earlier this year, Trudeau maintained that neither he nor his staff acted inappropriately.
Dion’s report confirmed that in fact Trudeau had broke federal law, the second time this Prime Minister has been found to contravene the Act, by two different Ethics Commissioners. Dion’s predecessor, Mary Dawson also weighed in saying she believed that Dion had got it right, and it was pretty clear another contravention had occurred.
Trudeau remains the only Prime Minister to ever have been found guilty of such a contravention. (It must be noted that these are not criminal offenses, and the law as it is currently written doesn’t allow for penalties).
The second egregious concern within Dion’s report was that witnesses were ‘constrained’ in what they were allowed to communicate with the Privacy Commissioner by the Privy Council and PMO.
Despite having claimed throughout the duration of the investigation that the PMO was cooperating with the commissioner, the report indicated that full transparency was not given for Dion to be able to fully assess all information which those who he interviewed felt was pertinent, for fear that they may break cabinet confidence.
For a Prime Minister that campaigned on and regularly flouts rhetoric about being more transparent, these actions would seem to indicate that the situation could be even less flattering than it already is. If there were any chance of exoneration or positive image rehabilitation, one would assume the PMO and PCO would be quick to waive these confidences.
With mere weeks left until the fall federal election, the Liberal Party is in tough to form government again with Trudeau at the helm, having already ceded a sizeable lead in polling to the Conservatives with the fallout of the initial stages of this scandal.
Expect this bombshell report to further damage Trudeau’s committed support.
Perhaps had Trudeau shown better judgement, and better communications and strategic advice, he might have come out of this affair less scathed.
What this has really shown to me is that whether we have a Liberal or a Conservative occupying the PMO, they are both ultimately two sides of the same coin, beholden to large corporate interests and donors that get to dictate legislation to suit their best interests.
It’s been sad to watch what I consider to be good people, with good intentions, defending bad behaviour. It’s why I got out of partisan politics.
Leaders need to be held accountable for their missteps by their own supporters, not just by voters. It’s why we find ourselves in a position with two completely unpalatable options, followed by three completely unrealistic ones.
It’s a sad state for our fall election, and like most people I talk to, they’re really conflicted about having to choose between the lesser of two evils/ two incompetents.
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