OTTAWA (PM) — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau contravened the Canadian Conflict of Interest Act by using his position of authority to attempt to influence the then-attorney general to grant legal leniency to SNC-Lavalin, the ethics commissioner said in a report released on Wednesday.
“The evidence showed there were many ways in which Mr. Trudeau, either directly or through the actions of those under his direction, sought to influence the Attorney General,” the commissioner, Mario Dion, wrote in his report.
Specially, Dion found Trudeau broached Section 9 of the Act, a part that prohibits high-ranking officials from influencing another to “improperly further another person’s private interests.”
The report will likely have a significant impact on the ruling Liberal Party’s re-election effort this fall.
The Globe and Mail, a national newspaper, broke a story earlier this year about alleged inappropriate pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office on former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to grant a deferred prosecution agreement for SNC-Lavalin.
It launched a dramatic, high stakes political affair that rocked Ottawa at the outset of an election year. Trudeau’s Liberals, who had a significant lead ahead of the opposition Conservative Party before the scandal hit, dropped in polling only to slowly crawl back to within the margin of error only in the last few weeks.
Trudeau has denied any wrongdoing and was backed up by his close friend and senior advisor Gerald Butts in a testimony to the justice committee earlier this year, following a testimony from Wilson-Raybould in front of the same House of Commons committee.
Now, with the independent ethics commissioner finding Trudeau guilty of violations, there could be political consequences with just over two months to go before the Oct. 21 federal election.
This is the second time the ethics commissioner’s office has found the prime minister has broken federal ethics laws.
Trudeau was also found to have broken the federal ethics act when he vacationed at the Aga Khan’s private island.
In 2017, the then- commissioner Mary Dawson found that when Trudeau took a 2016 Christmas trip with family and friends to the island in the Bahamas, he broached the act in four ways related to accepting accommodations from someone registered to lobby his office.
What Did Dion Say?
Conflict of Interests and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion wrote that “the Prime Minister, directly and through his senior officials, used various means to exert influence over Ms. Wilson‑Raybould.”
“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.”