What another sad week it has been in the Court of the Crimson King in response to the SNC-Lavalin scandal, courtesy of Justin Trudeau and his Liberal lickspittles on the Commons justice committee.
The whole spectacle is as insufferable as a prog rock concert and as hellish as the cover image on King Crimson's signature long-player from 1969. (A genre that inspired this excruciatingly long tome, offered as ever in self-indulgence. Feel free to jump to the concluding section “In search of a remediation agreement” at any time.)
Indeed, I can think of no better soundtrack for the upcoming election campaign than In the Court of the Crimson King.
From one groove to the next, #LavScam is likewise a chaotic mess—too ridiculous to fathom, too appalling to ignore, and too atrocious to abide.
At this point, I’d say we’ve passed the opening cacophony ("21st Century Schizoid Man") that precedes "I Talk to the Wind". We’re headed into the dystopian "Epitaph", with its apropos lines:
Confusion will be my epitaph.
As I crawl a cracked and broken path
If we make it we can all sit back and laugh.
As it happens, this October will mark the 50th anniversary since that album was unleashed on the world, way back when Pierre ruled our fair land. Who, ironically, shot to stardom in his single-year stint in the job that his son still clearly doesn’t understand.
In what alternate universe could his First Born ever reconcile his blatant abuses of office and his abhorrent treatment of the Indigenous woman he fired as justice minister and attorney general with his father’s highest appeal? That “Canada must be a just society".
Incredibly, the PM invited that question by raising his father’s legacy as a source of inspiration for his own shoddy conduct, in his sorry “erosion of trust” news conference on Thursday.
In which, he offered not a word of apology, nor the slightest hint of contrition for a crisis of his own making—one that has also served to debase his father’s name-brand—to suggest its very opposite.
For at Justin Pierre James Trudeau’s hand, the “Trudeau” brand now evokes the very opposite of his father’s leadership. It suggests an intellectual lightweight whose “leadership” is morally bereft, hopelessly incompetent and too stupid for words, directed no less, at the obstruction of justice and in betrayal of public trust.
Good job, Justin.
He gushed that he was “immensely pleased to discover that the new prime minister’s office in the West Block was an office that was occupied by my father when he was minister of justice. And throughout his career, he was dedicated to that principle of justice: the ‘Just Society, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms—and his approach of justice and fairness infused everything he did and certainly it was something he raised me with.
“So the justice file has always been important to me … those principles of justice are fundamental to me in what we are as a country, what we want to be as a society. And I have spent my entire political career fighting for justice and for people … the SNC-Lavalin file was not an exception.:
The scary reality is, I think he actually believes that to be true. He said it all without blushing.
When thy name is Trudeau, it is easy to hold the doctrine of the divine right of kings as guidance enough on any matter.
Even when its execution for perceived political advantage collides with that quaint constitutional tenet that his father enshrined in the very first line of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.”
A preamble that only means what it is allowed to mean in the eyes of the only God that matters.
That being the one holding the power and glory as Canada’s predestined leader par excellence: le grand Roi of royal lineage, whose moral authority necessarily flows from God, good looks, and God-knows-what-else.
But from the people? Not so much.
Welcome to the Kingdom of Trudopia, where no cabinet minister’s morality is any match for a Crimson King convinced of his own infallible rectitude.
A leader high on the smoke his disciples blow up his royal butt. Who is utterly driven by his perceived partisan interests, which always, always lead back to Fortress Quebec.
As the song goes, what God wants, God gets.
Which in Justin’s case meant using any means necessary to help his party and SNC-Lavalin both get what they wanted: a “solution” to the “problem” of the independent rule of law.
And it is only because of the fear of more evidence confirming that truth that Trudeau still refuses to legally unfetter former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, to allow her the right to share her whole truth on how it all really went down, post January 14. As she has offered to do, noting that her previous testimony “was not a complete account but only a detailed summary.”
Trudeau’s rejection of that offer is an abomination that adds insult to injury, aided and abetted by his rudderless appointees on the justice committee.
Their loyalty flows from his royalty.
And they perceive he has commanded that she should not be invited to answer Gerald Butts’s and Michael Wernick’s testimony in their contradictory accounts of what transpired.
They perceive (or were perhaps told) that no one should give testimony under oath that would up the ante for all “truth tellers”. And further, that the committee must avoid at all costs calling Trudeau to testify, or other key actors in the scandal, who might shed new damning light on a controversy they hope to grey, that JWR has exposed in black and white, and that Jane Philpott intensified with colour.
On so many levels, JWR still represents a mortal threat to the Trudopian Natural Order, hitherto masked in myths of high morality and disingenuously bathed in “sunny ways”.
Perish the thought that she was actually turfed and trashed for upholding the honour of her office.
For speaking truth to power. For refusing to bend when most would break.
All figments of her bitter imagination and sad dereliction of duty, Trudeau and his jesters now imply.
If only she had had the courage and good sense to put her concerns in writing, or to come a second time directly to her fair King and beseech him again to call off the minions he had dispatched, to bend her to his bidding.
Such insolence. Such insensitivity to the economic and political dictates of his singular mission on behalf of his threatened subjects, which any woman in her firmly planted shoes should have known demanded supplication and acquiescence.
To which, millions of Canadians are now asking themselves this: at what point did Justin Trudeau lose his moral compass?
At what point did his “true north” lead him to run from the rule of law in search of a partisan political “solution” to a “problem” of prosecutorial independence?
A false proposition if there ever was one.
Poilievre hits bulls-eye with question
Is he so ethically lost that he really cannot see that it was just wrong to do what he did? Which Puglaas summarized as a “consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in [her] role as the Attorney General of Canada in an inappropriate effort to secure a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with SNC-Lavalin.”
How can he be so completely tone-deaf? So ethically unhinged?
At what point did he become so driven by political self-interest—and so blind to the line separating right from wrong—that he saw “nothing inappropriate” about crossing the latter to advance the former as a righteous recourse for greater good?
In this case, on behalf of SNC-Lavalin. For the perceived “double good” of winning votes in Quebec and of “protecting 9,000 jobs” that he had not a shred of hard evidence were really at stake.
It was a point that Green Leader Elizabeth May effectively drove home in her questioning at the justice committee last Wednesday (March 6).
One that Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre effectively highlighted in questioning Michael Wernick and in his subsequent remarks, as follows:
“Ms. Wilson-Raybould testified that both the clerk and the prime minister on multiple occasions and on separate dates told her that if she did not immediately proceed towards a deferred prosecution agreement to shelve the charges against SNC-Lavalin that the company would move its headquarters out of Montreal.
“We know that’s impossible because of a loan agreement between the company and the Caisse de dépôt that is part of a $1.5-billion financing deal. So, somebody would have been telling her a blatant falsehood in an attempt to get her to sign the deferred prosecution agreement with false information.
“Now today, Mr. Wernick denied having said that. Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s testimony alleges that he did say it on two separate occasions. Once in September and then once again in December. So we have a major divergence of factual accounts between these two witnesses.
“Mr. Wernick has been given a second chance to come back and testify, whereas Ms. Wilson-Raybould has not. She would have a stronger case for returning because, as we all know, she was prohibited from telling her entire story when she first came before the committee. So the government must release her, eliminate completely the gag order that prevents her from telling the whole truth, so that she come back.
“It has been alleged, and I argue been proven, that members of the prime minister’s inner circle pressured Madame Wilson-Raybould into making a decision that she did not want to make. However, it may be more serious than that. If the prime minister, the clerk of the Privy Council and other senior staff deliberately told a falsehood to Canada’s top law officer to trick her into shelving criminal charges, then that could rise to a higher level of criminal conduct. And we have significant evidence that such a claim was made by those officials including the prime minister to Madame Wilson-Raybould. It is incumbent upon us to have her come back here now that Mr. Wernick has had an opportunity to contradict her and tell her side of the story.”
Amen. Justice demands it. The search for truth demands it.
Only the nervous subject of that enterprise and his obsequious loyal subjects in obfuscation of that truth feel otherwise.
What, really, does Trudeau so hope to hide by his royal decrees of secrecy?
Inquiring minds want to know.
Is he just hopelessly deluded, as he is doing his best to convey? Or is he dishonest to the core, as Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s detailed account, notes, text messages, and emails all scream is the case?
A conclusion Jane Philpott also reached and reinforced with her resignation from cabinet, in her selfless testament to conviction and in her damning indictment of Trudeau’s re-Buttals.
A series of broken promises
Lie to yourself often enough and it becomes a pathological condition, especially if that behaviour is unseen, unchallenged, or worse, repeatedly rewarded.
Trudeau has made an artform of breaking his word and convincing himself that he is telling the truth. On Trans Mountain. On electoral reform. On balanced budgets. On climate action. On reconciliation. The list goes on and on.
Remember, this is the guy who vowed to end the “trend towards more control from the Prime Minister’s Office” that he said could “be traced as far back as my father, who kicked it off in the first place. And I think we’ve reached the end point on that.”
"Et tu, Bruté?", Pierre must be somewhere now saying, rolling in his royal coffin.
The facts, evidence, and allegations Ms. Wilson-Raybould has so far tabled, all suggest she was fired by a man who thought he could get away with it.
That she was fired for being too truly independent.
For not directing the director of public prosecutions to do something that neither guardian of the public trust felt was warranted in executing their duties, nor appropriate in the public interest.
Something that had never been done before—namely, directly intervening in a criminal prosecution, to countermand a DPP’s decision to prosecute in court a company’s allegedly criminal conduct.
In this case, for the purpose of saving SNC-Lavalin from facing a criminal trial for fraud and corruption.
Something that would not seem compatible with the legal eligibility criteria for determining whether the “tool” of a remediation agreement (also known as a deferred prosecution agreement) should be used.
That is, given the nature of the alleged criminal acts in question, the fact that they were not voluntarily disclosed, and that SNC-Lavalin has still not, to my knowledge, admitted corporate responsibility for those acts.
Something that, on the face of it, would have itself been further contrary to the Criminal Code, which expressly prohibits the “national economic interest”, let alone any partisan interest, from influencing whether to negotiate a DPA.
Because Justin Trudeau’s government, no less, had enshrined that proviso in law.
It was a change to the Criminal Code that he snuck into a massive omnibus budget bill last spring—in violation of yet another election promise—to create a new legal option for the DPP to consider.
It was an option that retained the AG’s ultimate power to direct a specific course of action in a prosecution, which was only to be used in the rarest of circumstances, if he or she determined it was appropriate based on the evidence and in furtherance of the public interest.
Something that the DPP and JWR both independently determined was not in the public interest in this case, as she testified that she told the prime minister to his face on September 17. And as repeatedly told him, directly and indirectly, would not change—as she also told all and sundry that the pressure that he directed to be exerted was inappropriate political interference.
That documented pressure included at least 20 attempts by him and his top staffers to make her change her mind. Pretending at every turn that the outcome he was implicitly directing by studiously avoiding explicit direction was, of course, always “her decision,” without any “veiled threats”.
Until he fired her as his AG for refusing to comply, as JWR said she had “interpreted” her dismissal—a concern to which she had alerted Jane Philpott, who in turn relayed it to the PM, before he went ahead and fired her close friend anyway.
Despite Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s lifelong fight against the Indian Act that even the PM’s deputy said made it a “well known” fact that she could never become its chief administrator, Trudeau went ahead anyway and offered her the “privilege” of becoming the Indigenous services minister.
According to Butts’s convoluted reasoning, it was all an innocent oversight. Just an act of simple stupidity and not retribution; one that the PM compounded by demoting her to veterans affairs, just to show her that to refuse his offer was always to risk the wrath of Khan.
It’s a story that speaks to incalculable contempt of JWR, of Indigenous peoples, of the rule of law, and of the duty to put public interest ahead of partisan interest. Nova Scotian votes be damned, as if one could ever be so stupid as to believe that Butts’s “strategy” was remotely worthy of that moniker.
SNC-Lavalin loses in court
On Friday (March 8), the Federal Court rejected SNC-Lavalin’s application for judicial review of the DPP’s decision not to negotiate a DPA.
Justice Catherine Kane struck down that application, ruling “it has no reasonable prospect of success in the context of the law and the governing jurisprudence and taking a realistic view.”
She noted that the DPP made her decision only after considering the “extensive information” SNC-Lavalin had submitted to her office “regarding how they met the relevant criteria”. Which the AG had also duly considered in informing her decision not to intervene.
Justice Kane wrote that “the decision of the DPP is set out in a letter dated October 9, 2018, which indicates that the DPP had conducted a detailed review of the documents submitted by the Applicants, including the submissions made following the DPP’s previous indication, communicated on September 4, 2018, that it would not issue an invitation to negotiate a remediation agreement.” [Emphasis added.]
Yet whether the prosecution of SNC’s alleged crimes ultimately proceeds to trial remains an open question, according to current attorney general David Lametti, who says he must remain “open to new facts” and “in principle…no decision is ever final.”
Even now, he won’t rule out directing the DPP to do what JWR refused to do. And as Trudeau has said again on Friday, it is “entirely the attorney general’s decision”.
Like Puglaas and Philpott (P&P) all Canadians can read between the unspoken lines.
They know what God still wants and is determined to get.
Trudeau’s ongoing defence of the indefensible leaves little doubt in most Canadians’ minds that Montreal’s “Crown jewel” likely has little to worry about from the Federal Court decision.
Because unlike his predecessor, Montreal’s own Lametti can probably be counted upon to make an utterly “independent” and “right” decision that makes no apology for saving jobs in Quebec.
Because the law is itself a pliant, organic twig that can be legally bent as need be, to bind partisan interests to its own severed constructs.
This week, the interminable LavScam shit-show will continue with an emergency meeting of the “justice” committee. It will determine behind closed doors whether Wilson-Raybould will be called back to testify.
Like the scandal itself, the Liberals’ politically brain-dead attempts to “manage” its unravelling through ongoing acts of stupidity and misconduct defy belief.
To date, the “strategy”—from the PM, on down—has been aimed at denying the truth, deflecting responsibility, denigrating JWR, minimizing her legitimate concerns, and diminishing her evidence as the baffling misremembering of a bitter woman scorned.
Some, like Gerald Butts and the shape-shifting Trudeau, have been more artful in their passive-aggressive attempts at character assassination. But nothing they nor anyone has said has come remotely close to countering the transparent truth that JWR has only been partially allowed to articulate.
Enough is enough. This “opus of opacity” is sorely trying Canadians’ patience.
Only a fool would continue to deny Puglaas the right to tell her whole truth, by reappearing before the committee.
That is, unless he or she is a Liberal lickspittle, afraid of all that he or she knows to be true, or fears that JWR might reveal in further outing their leader as the bold-faced liar, bully, and conniver he now appears to be.
Only an idiot of Trudopian improvidence would think that the prudent course of action—politically, ethically, or otherwise—is to continue to attempt to frustrate the truth or to try to muzzle its ineluctable airing.
Unless, that is, that truth speaks to facts and questions that invite unwelcomed new legal scrutiny from the RCMP, the ethics commissioner, or the lobbyist commissioner, which that individual hopes to hide.
Slowly, but surely—thanks to the Globe and Mail’s Robert Fife, Steven Chase, and Sean Fine—that truth is surfacing and won’t be silenced.
Getting at that truth has been like pulling teeth. But one way or another, it is bound to come out.
Surely now, all Liberals must cry: "Enough!"
The circle has been badly broken. The centre cannot hold.
Something’s got to give—and it better bloody well be Trudeau.
For he has blithely led our nation to an ethical and constitutional quagmire that now threatens to suck under his party and nothing less than the rule of law itself.
He has so alienated his two brightest female stars and champions of Indigenous rights that they could no longer in good conscience tolerate his abuses of power and public trust.
In search of a remediation agreement
Like it or not, Job One for Trudeau must be to try to heal the festering wounds he has inflicted on himself and his party. Key to that imperative is to somehow bring P&P back onside, to the extent that that is remotely possible.
That is doubly important if they are to remain in caucus, as they intend, and run again as a Liberal, as JWR still plans to do.
It seems inconceivable that she would run under the Liberal banner to help re-elect the Trudeau government and essentially vindicate his political judgment in gambling that her integrity and the rule of law will not ultimately matter much in the court of public opinion.
Absent fundamental action to accept his responsibility and address the wrongs he has perpetrated, largely at her expense, JWR could surely never fly his Liberal flag this fall.
Certainly, forcing P&P out of caucus at this point would be yet another act of political self-immolation for the Liberals—a skill they have collectively mastered over the last few years.
Whether those two incredible women can ever truly trust Trudeau again, or even work together as members of his Liberal “family” is uncertain. Most pundits would say it is impossible.
However unlikely that may seem now, politics is always about the art of the possible—rooted in compromise, pragmatism, and recognition of mutual goals best achieved through solidarity and strength of numbers.
Healing often involves eating crow. Doing so need not condemn the one who is obliged to swallow their pride as a weakling, underserving of public trust.
In this age more than ever, admitting the mistakes that led such strong and capable cabinet ministers as P&P to lose confidence in their leader is a prerequisite for earning back that lost trust.
Especially for King Justin, God’s gift to identity politics and self-defined champion of Indigenous peoples and women (i.e. so long as they bow to his will).
If genuinely offered and articulated, a solemn apology should be seen as a sign of strength in character and judgment, and of integrity—all attributes that Trudeau is now sorely lacking.
He is in desperate need of his own remediation agreement, as it were, to accept accountability and make amends for his demonstrable transgressions.
The makings of such a compact are certainly open to negotiation and political debate, but I submit, the basic elements are patently obvious.
The first step in setting his government back on track is to finally admit that both he and it are lost.
It starts with admitting that he erred (perhaps unwittingly) in offending the rule of law for economic and partisan motives, which he can now see put the former attorney general in an untenable position, at least from her “perspective”.
If he only had a brain, he would apologize for his inappropriate transgressions, whether or not they were intentional.
He would free Puglaas to tell her whole truth before the justice committee in respect of any facts that she feels are relevant to illuminating what happened after January 14.
Canadians deserve to know what really happened after she was dumped as attorney general and demoted to veterans affairs, through her decision to resign from cabinet, to her subsequent presentation to that body.
If Trudeau was half the man his father was, he would volunteer to appear before the justice committee and publicly free his own members on that forum to call JWR back to testify as she has offered, along with all of the relevant actors in this sorry saga.
Each of the 11 individuals that Ms. Raybould-Wilson has identified and also her former chief of staff, Jessica Prince, should all be obliged to testify under oath, at penalty of perjury for lying, as the opposition has demanded.
If the prime minister truly has nothing to hide, he must act to finally end his ongoing attempts to cover up the truth, to keep the public in the dark on what really happened, and to hide behind a conflict and ethics commissioner probe.
He must act to restore public confidence in the independence of the attorney general in upholding the rule of law from the inescapable partisan and political pressures attendant in simultaneously serving as the justice minister.
He should resolve to legislatively split those two distinct formal functions, with two different office-holders.
This is a no-brainer, as Trudeau himself has now vowed to “carefully study”, if only as a rearguard political action.
It has long been the model in the United Kingdom, where the AG sits outside of cabinet, attending as necessary to remain appropriately informed of relevant issues and to offer the executive council his or her legal advice.
It is not a difficult legislative task.
The Department of Justice Act is very short. That split could be achieved by simply repealing sections 2(2), 3(2), and 5, and reincorporating them into a new Attorney General Act that also expressly defines how the AG is to be appointed and that officer’s relationship to cabinet.
Real courage would involve asking Wilson-Raybould to reassume her former role as justice minister and attorney general, pending that permanent statutory realignment of responsibilities.
You want to restore public confidence in the rule of law?
Implore Puglaas to accept an offer to put her back as attorney general. Apologize to her and Philpott and put them both back in their previous positions.
Find some other hole for Seamus O’Regan, whose own appointment to Philpott’s former role is an additional slight on Indigenous peoples. Particularly in view of Butts’s testimony of the supposed rationale for moving Wilson-Raybould in the first place. Because appointing a lightweight of O’Regan’s experience and stature sends precisely the opposite message to what was supposedly intended by her firing as AG to serve as Canada’s Indian Act apologist.
Change the law this spring and commit to putting Lametti in charge of the justice minister functions if and when that legislative change happens. Make him a minister of state for justice or something in the interim, if necessary.
Make no mistake, simply dividing the roles of attorney general and justice minister is no panacea for preventing the type of inappropriate pressure that was brought to bear on the AG in this instance.
It might create greater clarity and awareness for all concerned about the inherent nature of those two roles, but it would do nothing in and of itself to prevent the potential for abuse when any prime minister is hell-bent on political interfering with the AG.
And that’s the point.
The AG is already supposed to be utterly independent and duty-bound not to allow partisan considerations influence her or his solemn administration of justice.
There should never have been any confusion in the PCO, the PMO, or the finance ministry on that fact.
Any interference or pressure exerted by any agent of those offices with a decision to prosecute anyone, with the AG or the DPP, is patently wrong. Full stop.
Ultimately, any such pressure is only brought to bear by stupid people, by the politically misguided, by the legally myopic, and by those who are coerced by their superiors or are hopelessly ignorant of the blatantly clear lines they must never cross.
Bad judgment is no commendation for holding high office, least of all, those positions that are supposed to exemplify the very highest standards of ethical conduct.
If Trudeau only had a whit of sense he would also act to restore public confidence in his own office by cleaning house.
He would immediately replace the key actors whom Wilson-Raybould alleges were instrumental in this sorry controversy.
At a minimum, he would replace the clerk of the Privy Council and his chief of staff. I’m not saying either should be fired for cause, but they both serve at his pleasure and should be replaced as such.
He should also overhaul the senior political staff in the PMO and in the finance minister’s office, by transferring the individuals at issue to other offices and/or capacities.
Further, Trudeau should immediately act to amend the Lobbying Act and the Criminal Code to criminally outlaw lobbying on any matter that is before the courts.
Why on Earth, I ask, is it now legally allowable to lobby government officials to help secure a deferred prosecution agreement for anyone charged and being actively prosecuted with a criminal offence?
We now know that direct appeals were made to the PM’s deputy, Michael Wernick, by SNC-Lavalin’s board chair (former clerk of the privy council, Kevin Lynch) and by its CEO, Neil Bruce.
We know that SNC’s counsel, former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci, also wrote directly to the prime minister.
The Lobbyist Registry also shows numerous meetings with top officials from the PMO, PCO, finance ministry and infrastructure ministry. They do not fully align with emerging information that key figures in this controversy communicated to the AG’s chief of staff and/or herself, which one would think could only have come from the company itself.
The company repeatedly lobbied through those means and perhaps others to make it case for a DPP, before and after its appeal for a judicial review.
None of that activity was illegal, far as I can tell. Why?
Because nothing in the Lobbying Act or in its code of conduct expressly forbids such contact.
One might wonder why much of that de facto lobbying activity is not evident from SNC’s monthly lobbying activity reports.
I am guessing it is because section 4(2) (b) says the Act does not apply in respect of “any oral or written communication made to a public office holder by an individual on behalf of any person or organization with respect to the enforcement, interpretation or application of any Act of Parliament or regulation by that public office holder with respect to that person or organization.
And sub-section (c) further prescribes that “any oral or written communication made to a public office holder by an individual on behalf of any person or organization if the communication is restricted to a request for information.”
That needs to change, to make it crystal clear that any direct contacts in respect of a prosecution or any related “remedies” made by or on behalf of its subject to anyone other than the DPP is legally forbidden. Period.
Similarly, it should prescribe in law that no such contact is to be permitted by anyone in government on any matter that is before the courts.
The Globe has reported that “Canada’s top bureaucrat suggested to SNC-Lavalin’s chief executive officer that the company should approach the director of public prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel, to discuss the ‘public interest argument’ for avoiding a criminal prosecution of the engineering and construction giant, according to handwritten notes submitted to the House of Commons Justice committee.”
I cannot believe that anyone in his position would council anyone on steps they might take to secure a DPP and avoid a criminal trial.
The very notion is so egregious to my understanding of the concept of prosecutorial independence as to be unthinkable. I would have assumed it is also somehow illegal—perhaps contrary to section 122 of the Criminal Code, relating to breach of trust by a public officer.
I am certainly not alleging any illegal wrongdoings by Wernick, SNC-Lavalin, or anyone. As Butts and Katie Telford would say, I’m not a lawyer.
But honestly, why in God’s name would anyone in the PMO, PCO, or finance ministry even meet with lobbyists, as the record suggests they did, to discuss the merits, arguments, substance, or potential “options” in respect of utilizing a tool to avoid a criminal prosecution?
Especially lobbyists representing a company with as checkered a history as SNC-Lavalin, despite its admirable efforts to clean up its act over the last five years or so.
Especially lobbyists acting on behalf of a company that not so long ago had to repay over $100,000 in illegal political contributions to the Liberal party.
If Trudeau really wanted to demonstrate he has learned the hard lessons of this debacle, he would outlaw any such communication, to ensure it can never happen again.
He should also immediately act to broaden the powers of the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner, to allow him or her to fully examine issues of ethical conduct involving elected officials, political appointees and civil servants, beyond specific conflicts of interest.
The ethics commissioner should be empowered to delve into such scandals as #LavScam, including through a public inquiry process, to get to the bottom of them as appropriate, with concomitant transparency and public accountability.
Where did his advisers get all their information?
How did anyone know that the DPP and the lead prosecutor were supposedly at odds with one another on the issue of whether to negotiate a DPA? That sounds to me like a very serious breach of confidence, which surely did not flow from the DPP’s office.
Trudeau should also amend the Director of Public Prosecutions Act and the Criminal Code to expressly preclude the executive council, public officials, or anyone from initiating conversations with the attorney general or the DPP’s office aimed at influencing their prosecutorial discretion.
He should resolve to codify that communications with those independent agents is a one-way street.
Only the DPP and AG should be authorized to initiate communications and consult as they deem necessary and appropriate in informing their prosecutorial decisions and in meeting their legal obligations. Not the other way around.
That is what the Shawcross doctrine already says, as the Public Prosecution Service of Canada Deskbook explains on page 4.
Beyond those measures, if Trudeau were truly serious about restoring public faith in the rule of law across Canada, he would urge all provinces to mirror that new statutory framework in respect of their criminal justice, lobbyists, and ethical oversight regimes.
Finally, if Trudeau really wanted to put to rest the public concerns that he has unleashed in respect of any interventions designed largely to benefit SNC-Lavalin, he would suspend any changes to the government’s Ineligibility and Suspension Policy.
He should rule out any immediate amendment to that government procurement regime or to Canada’s broader Integrity Regime that might reduce the 10-year mandatory prohibition on corporations convicted of fraud and bribery from bidding on federal government contracts.
In light of this scandal, any such change should only be made after a fulsome public debate on the issue in the upcoming federal election.
To be clear, I am not saying that changes to that regime should not be made. A more flexible framework for tailoring penalties to match companies convicted of infractions might well make sense.
But voters should now have a direct say on that, at the ballot box, in considering each party’s platform and commitments on that issue. The election is only seven months away. Any such changes can wait.
Meanwhile, British Columbia and all other provinces should also commit to extending their public procurement policies to mirror that modernized federal regime, whatever becomes of it.
They should act to similarly ensure that no company convicted of any illegal act(s) that preclude them for bidding on federal contracts can skirt that same penalty on taxpayer-funded offerings at the provincial and municipal level.
No one—not SNC-Lavalin nor any company—should be considered “too big to nail” at penalty of being precluded from bidding on government-tendered contracts at any level of government, whether it is for 10 years or something less than that.
There should be one law for all on that point across the Canada.
I know, most of the above suggestions are as improbable as a King Crimson reunion featuring its original lineup. For one thing, Greg Lake’s no longer with us.
As the title track on Court concludes,
The yellow jester does not play
But gentle pulls the strings
And smiles as the puppets dance
In the court of the crimson king.