Martyn Brown: Scheer justice on SNC-Lavalin is Trudeau’s nightmare—and should be the precondition for all parties

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      Today (Sept. 26) Andrew Scheer vowed that a new Conservative government will launch a judicial inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal.

      And further, that it will introduce a “No More Cover-Ups Act” to “allow the RCMP to access information protected by cabinet confidence by making an application to the Supreme Court of Canada. This will prevent corrupt politicians from hiding behind cabinet confidence to escape police investigation."

      Right. On. Was my response.  

      Over to you, Elizabeth May, Jagmeet Singh, Yves-François Blanchet, Jody Wilson-Raybould, Jane Philpott, and anyone else who stands to hold the balance of power in a minority government scenario.

      For as I most recently wrote in the Straight, holding Justin Trudeau personally accountable for his illegal conduct on the SNC-Lavalin scandal—including investigating whether it constituted obstruction of justice or some other breach of the Criminal Code—is arguably the single most important issue in determining who should serve as Canada’s next prime minister.

      Violating the MPs’ conflict of interest and ethics act was bad enough.

      But his conduct in trying to deny the facts, bully Jody Wilson-Raybould into doing something demonstrably wrong and ethically untenable, lie about his government’s dirty deeds, shield himself from scrutiny, discredit his female whistle blowers, deflect blame on others, punish those who had the “temerity” to speak their truth to his power, and hold himself legally harmless from RCMP examination of his own unlawful political interference in the prosecution of a company charged with bribery and corruption is unconscionable.

      Scheer’s backgrounder is an apt summary of the ethical crimes and serious legal questions at issue that beg to be addressed with a judicial inquiry and other measures that Scheer has said will be announced as this campaign unfolds.  

      Embracing those commitments to upholding the rule of law, the independent administration of justice, and the unfettered investigation and enforcement of conflict of interest and ethics laws and the Criminal Code of Canada should be all MPs’ ethical bottom line.

      They should be their opening bid and unwavering demand in giving any party or leader a vote of confidence on our behalf in any “responsible government”.

      “Mark my words, dear Liberals—the cops are coming and no privilege will protect you,” I predicted last spring (see Related Stories). So far, only Andrew Scheer seems determined to ensure that’s the case.

      And that could prove pivotal in swinging many votes to the Conservatives’ cause, largely at the expense of the NDP and Greens.

      Yes, I know, the NDP has also similarly vowed to “immediately launch an independent public inquiry into alleged attempts from Prime Minister Trudeau’s office to interfere in the former Attorney General’s decision-making authority”. 

      But only if it forms the government. Not as a precondition for forming a government. And Singh has already also vowed that under no circumstance will his party support a Scheer government.

      And the Greens? While May has publicly paid lip service to also supporting a public inquiry, it didn’t make the cut in her party’s official platform, far as I can tell.

      It only vows that a Green government would “Implement recommendations of the McLellan Report for a clear written exchange of views to avoid some of what was inappropriate in the SNC-Lavalin matter”. Not a word about a public inquiry into that issue.

      The Greens also pledge to empower the information commissioner to review claims of cabinet confidences and provide for exclusions to any prime minister’s use of that instrument to avoid personal accountability.

      Better to put that power to reverse any PM’s abuse of that crucial prerogative in the hands of the Supreme Court, I agree with Scheer, but fair enough. 

      Anything’s better than allowing the likes of Trudeau to hide behind cabinet privilege to prevent people with relevant information from fully testifying to the RCMP, the ethics commissioner, or the House of Commons ethics committee.

      Anything’s better than allowing Trudeau and his Liberal lickspittles from hiding their own unethical asses from a potential criminal investigation or inquiry.

      One way or another, such abuse of cabinet privilege must be outlawed, or at least subject to judicial review.

      But unlike the Conservatives, the NDP, the Greens don’t have a hope in hell of forming the next government. And they have not made their commitments on this issue a “deal-breaker” in deciding who should form the government, in the event of a hung Parliament.

      Why the hell not?

      As I have argued, in a perfectly just democracy, Trudeau would be thrown out on his ear with the aid of progressives for his abuse of office, power, and public trust.

      He would be jettisoned as Liberal leader, if not by his own morally blind partisan sycophants and ethically malleable fans and admirers, at least by the opposition king- or queen-makers in a minority Parliament.

      Replacing him as Canada’s prime minister in the event of a prospective minority Liberal government should be the opposition members’ sine qua non for that party as its price of power.

      Might even one or two votes make that difference? Wilson-Raybould’s and Philpott’s perhaps? What an argument that would be for the swing voters in their ridings who are being told by the mainstream parties that independents can’t make a meaningful difference in Ottawa.

      Justin Trudeau and Jane Philpott in happier days.

      This election could be that razor-close, don’t kid yourself.

      Would the Liberal caucus dump Trudeau if his dismissal and personal accountability was the Liberals’ only ticket to ride back to power as government?

      Perhaps not, though hope springs eternal.

      But why not at least insist upon conducting a judicial inquiry that provides for a thorough examination of Trudeau’s illegal interference with his former minister of justice and attorney general in a criminal prosecution?

      Why not assert that now, as a precondition for supporting any leader’s claim to forming Canada’s government and to serving as all Canadians prime minister—especially if that person begging to be given that power is Justin Trudeau? Hello leaders’ debate moderators.

      Are May and Singh really prepared to reward Canada’s repeat law-breaker and justice obstructer-in-chief with the keys back to his sullied office, without so much as insisting on a judicial inquiry that allows all the evidence to be aired and investigated?

      Are they really prepared to effectively vindicate Trudeau’s cynical strategy of actively frustrating the independent investigations into his own personal misuse of power, banking on his charisma, name, Scheer fear, and voter apathy to avoid personal accountability?

      If so, they both strengthen Scheer’s case for a majority government and perhaps fatally compromise their own arguments for a minority government, for voters like myself who regard this issue as their own, private deal-breaker in deciding who to support at the ballot box.

      Don’t get me wrong. I’m not shilling for Scheer, as anyone who has given even a passing glance to my numerous offerings on these pages would know.

      Indeed, I’m a constituent and huge admirer of May’s and deeply value her leadership and her party’s growing voice in Parliament on a number of issues, the need for urgent climate action first among them.

      I have supported John Horgan’s B.C. NDP in the past couple of elections and for the most part still applaud their progress in government, in partnership with Andrew Weaver’s Greens.

      It’s a forced marriage of mutual convenience that has been productive. It bodes well for a new type of minority government at the federal level, where Green priorities really matter.

      For me—and I dare say, for millions of other voters who also desperately want to see justice done and meaningful personal accountability assured on the SNC-Lavalin scandal—the “progressive” parties’ response to the Conservatives’ promise today will largely determine who should get my vote.

      Because under no circumstance am I prepared to give Trudeau a pass—a “get out of jail free” card in his dishonest game of political monopoly.

      My vote is contingent on the overriding imperative to ensure that justice is done.

      To ensure that justice is not averted or avoided by the one leader who hasn’t even had the decency to apologize for his unlawful transgressions, which some suggest may yet prove tantamount to criminal obstruction of justice.

      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