Canada’s ethics commissioner rebuked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Wednesday after finding he broke laws by pressuring the attorney general to settle a criminal case against engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.
The scandal, which unfolded earlier this year, tarnished Trudeau’s image, cost two ministers and two senior officials, and put liberals in a heated contest with conservative opposition in the election.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he accepts full responsibility after Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion found he violated the Conflict of Interest Act by trying to influence then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and get her to overrule a decision to not grant a deferred prosecution agreement to Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.
Independent Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said Trudeau and his officials had sought to “influence the prosecutor in her decision to intervene in a case related to criminal prosecution.”
Trudeau must pay a small fine of up to 500 Canadian dollars (375 dollars) for violating Canada’s Conflict of Interest Act. But just two months before the election, the political price may be much higher.
Trudeau has long denied accusations that his small circle sought to protect SNC-Lavalin from a corruption trial.
According to Sky News, Prosecutor Jody Wilson-Raybould rejected the plaintiffs’ request to settle the case and the trial is scheduled to begin soon.
But after her resignation, she told lawmakers that she was subjected to “sustained” political pressure to intervene in the case, including “veiled threats.” Dion concluded that “the prime minister’s authority and position were ultimately used to question the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson as Chief Legal Officer. ”
He also concluded that “partisan political interests were improperly placed before the attorney general for consideration”, especially as a court conviction could lead to the denial of profitable SNC-Lavalin contracts that would result in job losses and thus undermine the liberals’ efforts to win the election.