Just yesterday I was on CFRA talking about the most recent revelations from the CBC’s Aaron Wherry’s new book on the Prime Minister, which talked about Mr. Trudeau’s views on the whole SNC/PMO Scandal. We pretty much agreed on the air that unless something big changed, LavScam wouldn’t be a big election issue. But this morning “something big” seems to have happen, and the news is not good for the Liberals:
You can read the report from Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion here but wow, this report doesn’t leave any question about the violations here. The quotes are damning, leaving little doubt about how wrong this was, as so many of us knew. Mr. Dion pointed out some of the following:
- As Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau was the only public office holder able to exert influence over the Attorney General
- Senior officials, who included both senior ministerial staff and public officials, would not have acted without a full and clear appreciation of the Prime Minister’s position on the matter.
- SNC-Lavalin’s considerable private financial interests would undoubtedly have been furthered had Mr. Trudeau successfully influenced the Attorney General in her decision to overturn the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision relating to the company
- Partisan political interests were improperly put to the Attorney General for consideration in the matter, contrary to longstanding constitutional principles relating to prosecutorial independence and the rule of law
Think about that last quote folks; partisan political interests were put to Attorney General for consideration, contrary to longstanding constitutional principles. Mr. Dion is saying clearly that the Prime Minister tried to put partisan interest over constitutional principles and prosecutorial independence, contrary to the rule of law. That is downright damning, there are no two ways about it.
Furthermore what this report from Mr. Dion makes very clear is that there was no reasonable or legal justification for what the Prime Minister and his office wanted Jody Wilson-Raybould to do. It vindicated her actions and proved that she was right in this matter, regardless of how some partisans will feel about it. The irony here is that many people thought that we wouldn’t see this report until after the election; that came out when it was announced yesterday that the Prime Ministers office had received a report from Anne McLellan (which the PM had asked for) and wasn’t going to release it until after Mr. Dion released his. So I guess we’ll see that other report pretty soon, right?
For the Liberals, this is very bad news. The fact is that Mr. Dion’s independence and non-partisanship is well known and respected in Ottawa. They can’t try to turn this into some partisan attack against them or try to flub it off as some trickery. This is real and it’s very credible. When you add to the fact that this was the fifth Ethics Commissioner’s investigation into this government and the second finding against the Prime Minister by him, added to the Aga Khan case, this builds a strong narrative of behaviour by this Liberal government.
Furthermore this finding today puts everything that happened back in the Spring around this in a whole new light. Remember all the stonewalling from the Liberals in committees trying to stop investigations into this matter? Remember the resignation of Gerry Butts? Remember the expulsions of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott? All of that looks much shadier now when you have the Ethics Commissioner standing up staying that Prime Minister was wrong.
Finally the big thing about this decision is that Mr. Dion laid all of the blame at the feet of Justin Trudeau, dismantling the argument that some made at the time that all these PMO staff were operating without the Prime Minister’s consent or approval, tacit or otherwise. Basically Dion says that they were all following orders and acting out the wishes of the PM. As Mr. Dion put it himself, all these staff people “would not have acted without a full and clear appreciation of the Prime Minister’s position on the matter.” That’s as clear as day folks, and Mr. Dion makes it clear where the buck stops in this case.
With a few weeks before the writ drops in the election, this news today guarantees that LavScam will roar back into the picture and will play a big part in the discussion and debate in the 43rd General Election. Having been found wanting twice by the Ethics Commissioner would be damaging to any Prime Minister, but it’s especially damaging for a Prime Minister who got elected on promising to be better and to bring “Sunny Ways” to the job. This is quite the opposite of that and is the kind of thing that has turned people away from the Liberals in the past. Will this move votes and reverse the gains the Liberals have made lately? Time will tell but this is a crucial moment for this election, even if it’s happening weeks before the writ is dropped. This chicken has come home to roost and wow, is it ever roosting bigtime.