Martyn Brown: Pardon my French, Prime Minister, but you’re f#*ked

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      Yesterday (March 20), Justin Trudeau tried to minimize the English language media’s coverage of his SNC-Lavalin scandal coverup by answering only in French during yet another Question Period preoccupied with the controversy.

      Pardon my French, prime minister, but if you think that your efforts to coverup, stonewall, “re-communicate”, or “change the channel” on your role in authoring the LavScam fiasco will work, they won’t. It’s getting clearer by the day that you, sir, are f#*ked.

      Not just because the courageous Jane Philpott has today sent the LavScam crisis to Defcon 1 with her pleas to the prime minister in Macleans to allow herself and Wilson-Raybould to be fully heard, saying that "There’s much more to the story that should be told."

      Not just because the Conservative chair of the House of Commons ethics committee has served notice that his forum might rightly continue with the investigation into that scandal, which the Liberal majority shut down on the justice committee. Including, I might add, through a breach of privilege that Conservative MP Lisa Raitt so powerfully outlined yesterday.

      Not just because Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes has now quit Trudeau’s caucus in protest of his abusive treatment of her and in support of women like Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, who felt obliged to quit his cabinet over his attempted abuses of justice. Fake feminist that he is, indeed.

      Not just because of the ongoing investigation by the ethics commissioner and the increasing likelihood of an RCMP investigation into questions relating to potential criminal obstruction of justice and/or breach of trust concerns. Concerns that flow from the prime minister’s personal conduct and direction in trying to pressure his former attorney general into intervening in a criminal prosecution that she repeatedly said was not something she would do, and which would have been unprecedented in Canadian history and possibly also illegal.

      Not just because of the political motives that clearly underpinned the “sustained and inappropriate political pressure” that Trudeau and his senior lieutenants allegedly brought to bear on JWR in trying to help his Quebec “Crown jewel” avoid a criminal trial on bribery and fraud charges.

      But also, because, it is now apparent that Trudeau and his minions either deliberately or inadvertently misled JWR with false information, to try to bend her to their will in granting SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement.

      And because if that false information was ever known to be untrue by Trudeau or his designates, it also negates the central argument that they supposedly marshalled in the “public interest” in advocating for a DPA. Which, if true, suggests that the main reason they fought for that special deal for the company was most likely to help the Liberals’ electoral chances in Quebec—not to prevent job losses that were never going to happen.

      And if that were proven to be the case, that it was a self-serving political imperative and not the previously cited “public interest” imperative that was at the root of the pressure at issue, that may well amount to obstruction of justice and/or a breach of trust under the Criminal Code. Then again, as Trudeau’s folks like to stress, I’m not a lawyer.

      Today, SNC-Lavalin’s president and CEO, Neil Bruce, told BNN Bloomberg that he never said 9,000 jobs would be lost without a DPA.

      “That’s incorrect and we’ve never said that,” Bruce said.

      “I’ve never talked to the prime minister about a DPA or about jobs,” he insisted.

      “To the Prime Minister’s Office, we have lobbied, as you would expect a CEO or the company to do,” he added.

      Bruce further told the Globe and Mail that (contrary to what Trudeau & Co. have been saying) the issue was never whether SNC’s 9,000 Canadian workers would lose their jobs, but rather, only for whom they would continue to be working.

      “Yes, the 9,000 people will get a job. I have no doubt whatsoever about that,” Mr. Bruce said. “But they’ll be working probably for a U.S. company." 

      Wow.

      With those words, Bruce has effectively implied that Canada’s prime minister is either a liar, or was hopelessly ill-informed by his senior staffers. Either way, it begs for an RCMP investigation and for a thorough review by the ethics committee.

      For, as Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre observed after questioning Michael Wernick in the justice committee, “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.”

      A glum-looking Jody Wilson-Raybould (far left) sits at Rideau Hall on the day she was shuffled out of the justice ministry.
      MCpl Mathieu Gaudreault, Rideau Hall

      Legal stakes are high for PM

      Hell, for all we know, the RCMP might already be investigating the prime minister and/or others on this issue. If so, Canadians deserve and demand to be told.

      The standard “we don’t confirm or deny any investigations” is so lame. It happens all the time, as in British Columbia, where special prosecutors are typically appointed to oversee such politically sensitive matters.

      In fact, if the prime minister really wanted to do something useful, he would amend the Criminal Code to allow for and require special prosecutors to be appointed in any cases such as this one, which go the heart of public confidence in Canada’s highest elected officials and civil servants.

      Bruce’s latest remarks obviously also oblige the prime minister to release JWR from the cabinet confidence and solicitor-client privilege restrictions. It’s high time all Canadians added their voices to the opposition parties’ calls to “let her speak!”

      Puglaas (Wilson-Raybould's Indigenous name) and all of the actors in Trudeau’s sorry LavScam passion play must be called to testify before the ethics committee. They must be obliged to give their evidence under oath, to help illuminate the truth and to help inform the RCMP’s deliberations as to whether or not crimes may have been committed that warrant criminal investigation.

      Potential crimes, it must said, that may not have been apparent to JWR in her initial testimony to the justice committee.

      Remember, she was only in a position to speak about the pressure that she says was inappropriately exerted upon her and her chief of staff up until January 14, but not after.

      She was not in a position to speak about anything that happened outside of that contact, including what may have transpired in secret between the company and senior government officials, or between Trudeau, the finance minister, senior staffers, or others. 

      Perhaps JWR was not the only one who was misled, either unintentionally or by design, in the campaign to grant SNC-Lavalin a special deal that its CEO claims he never personally asked for.

      Perhaps others were misled to do what that they did by the false threat that 9,000 jobs were at risk, as Team Trudeau has told all Canadians was its central rationale in pushing for a DPA.

      The head of SNC-Lavalin maintains that such threatened job losses was never a credible concern—a fact that was effectively advanced by several opposition members on the justice committee.

      Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti has sworn an oath to "truly and faithfully, and to the best of my skill and knowledge, executive the powers and trusts reposed in me".

      Lametti on the hot seat

      Will the current attorney general, David Lametti, now find the gumption to rule out that argument in his ongoing effort to leave open the door to a DPA?

      Will he now admit that JWR was legally and morally correct in dismissing that concern as cause to overrule the independent director of public prosecutions?

      Will he now admit that it isn’t just the Criminal Code that explicitly forbids granting any DPA based on consideration of the “national economic interest”, but that also, even that spurious “public interest” concern is not applicable in this instance?

      The deeper one stares into this abyss, the darker it looks.

      If Trudeau persists in refusing to shine a light on all of the fears, suspicions, and black matter that lies at the heart of his signature contribution to the frustration of justice and the rule of law, he is truly and royally f#*ked.

      For without that transparency that Canada has also pledged to guarantee the OECD in its efforts to combat bribery, fraud, and corruption, Trudeau cannot hope to escape from the political grave that he is rapidly digging for himself and his party.

      The fact that his party holds an even greater effective majority on the ethics committee than it had in frustrating the work of the justice committee is no saving grace.

      Something tells me, with today’s revelations, the RCMP will be tempted to “get its man” if there’s one (or more) to be got. No matter how hard the prime minister tries to put this controversy that he engineered behind him.

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      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic adviser to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, and in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact him via email at bcpundit@gmail.com.
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