The Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP said voters have a right to be concerned about placing trust in the prime minister.
Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by improperly pressuring former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to halt the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
“We now have a prime minister who has twice been found guilty of violating the Conflict of Interest Act,” McLeod said, referring also to the 2017 report that found Trudeau had violated the act when he and his family took a Christmas 2016 trip to the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas and accepted gifts from someone registered to lobby his office.
McLeod said this week’s ruling from the ethics commissioner clearly vindicates Wilson-Raybould.
“This is a prime minister who promised open and transparent government sunny ways, and he is not as advertised,” McLeod said. “He clearly has not taken responsibility for what clearly was interference in our judicial system, which is very, very serious.”
While responding to the ethics commissioner’s report, Trudeau said he would not apologize for trying to protect jobs.
“This is not about protecting jobs,” McLeod said. “This was about protecting his own interests and protecting his well-connected friends.
“I believe in this riding and across the country people do care about ethical governments.
“I think they are very disappointed because, clearly, this is not the kind of government that the prime minister, in 2015, promised.”
Dion concluded that Trudeau’s attempts to influence Wilson-Raybould on the matter contravened section 9 of the act, which prohibits public office holders from using their position to try to influence a decision that would improperly further the private interests of a third party.
He said there is little doubt that SNC-Lavalin’s financial interests would have been furthered had Trudeau succeeded in convincing Wilson-Raybould to overturn a decision by the director of public prosecutions, who had refused to invite the Montreal engineering giant to negotiate a remediation agreement in order to avoid a criminal prosecution on fraud charges related to contracts in Libya.
“The authority of the prime minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the director of public prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson-Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer,” Dion wrote.
Liberal candidate Terry Lake said it remains to be seen how this issue impacts the campaign, though he believes many people already made up their mind on the issue months ago, when it first arose.
“We went door to door last night (Wednesday night) and, while some people commented on it, it was like, ‘Yeah, you know, not a big deal’ kind of thing.
“But any time you have the ethics commissioner or any of the independent officers make a ruling, you have to pay attention to it, so I don’t want to downplay it.”
However, Lake added, the prime minister was not only trying to protect jobs, but also related economic issues, including the pension plan and investors who had nothing to do with wrongdoing at SNC-Lavalin.
“So, it’s not just necessarily the direct jobs, although I think many of those would have been at risk,” Lake said. “It’s people’s pension plans, people’s investment portfolios that would be at risk.”
Lake likened the situation to a scenario in which funding and jobs were at risk at TRU.
“I’d be fighting tooth and nail and talking to any cabinet minister I could to prevent that from happening.”
Iain Currie, Green candidate in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, said the controversy is one of politics as usual.
“It strikes me as an example of the way government and politics has been done in Canada for the last long time,” he said.
“Not only was the prime minister trying to improperly influence the course of a criminal case, but also that there was no recognition from the Prime Minister’s Office or the government itself that this was — even after it had been discussed and publicly vetted — that this was clearly outside the bounds of appropriate conduct when you’re dealing with matters of criminal justice.”
Currie highlighted two issues of concern: that Trudeau crossed the line and that there is a lack of recognition that a line has been crossed.
As for Trudeau maintaining he was trying to protect jobs at SNC-Lavalin?
“All of us are for jobs for Canadians, but that’s simply a politician’s recasting of something,” Currie said.
“Clearly, there are lots of things one cannot do as an ethical politician, even if one’s intention is to save jobs. That’s not an answer. That’s an excuse and a very transparent and unfortunate excuse, in my view.”
Currie said he will be talking to voters about the way politics is done in Canada.
“This is just another example, and I am going to start sounding like a broken record, of politics as usual,” Currie said, noting the Liberals and Conservatives often talk about the issue of politics as usual
“Generally, that means promising not to do politics as usual until they’re elected, complaining about politics as usual when they’re in opposition and going right back to it when they’re elected.”
People’s Party candidate Ken Finlayson questioned whether the controversy will have an impact on the election.
“I don’t think it will make a spoonful of difference because these people think they’re above the law,” he said. “I don’t think the voters even care, especially Liberal voters. I mean, we all care. We think ethics are important.
“It’s a pathetic joke. As much as I dislike the UN, I think we should probably apply for some kind of oversight, like every banana republic in the world, when it comes to our politics.”
Wilson-Raybould quit Trudeau’s cabinet in February over the affair and friend and cabinet ally Jane Philpott resigned soon after.
Trudeau subsequently kicked both women out of the Liberal caucus. They are running for re-election as independent candidates.