The scathing report released by federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion this week was damning for the Prime Minister. And not only for him, but for other members of the PMO and the Privy Council Office (PCO). And it has lit the burner under the simmering SNC-Lavalin scandal the Liberals hoped would be dead in the lead up to the election.
It is clear the efforts to have then Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould interfere with the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions not to abandon a prosecution of SNC-Lavalin in a $48 million bribery case involving the late Muammar Gaddafi and the alleged defrauding of Libyan organizations of $130 million was multifaceted and involved a number of people.
The attempt to interfere was adjudged to be a breach of Section 9 of the Conflicts of Interest Act. In other words he broke the law, again. This is the second time Trudeau has been found in breach of the Act.
The 63-page report also detailed how Dion was hampered in his investigation by the PCO who deliberately withheld confidential cabinet documents related to the matter. “Decisions that affect my jurisdiction under the Act, by setting parameters on my ability to receive evidence, should be made transparently and democratically by Parliament, not by the very same public office holders who are subject to the regime I administer,” said Dion.
Dion been conducting his investigation the day after a Feb. 7, 2019 report in the Globe & Mail outlined the pressure being put on Wilson-Raybould, a report Trudeau unequivocally denied. So far, the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer has twice called for the RCMP to investigate this sordid mess.
After the report was released RCMP spokesperson Chantal Payette said only, “The RCMP is examining this matter carefully with all available information and will take appropriate actions as required.”
Also this week, we learned the RCMP had interviewed Wilson-Raybould last April about the matter.
But it would seem no official investigation has actually begun. At least that’s the inference we draw given Section 49 of the Conflicts of Interest Act specifically says the Commissioner is not to investigate if there is a parallel criminal investigation or to stop investigating once he learns of such an investigation.
So, either the RCMP were investigating and Wilson-Raybould was interviewed as part of that and didn’t inform the Commissioner or they have yet to start a formal investigation.
The RCMP have to tread very carefully in all of this. As an organization in recent years the Force has been beset with lawsuits about bullying and harassment. Many have since settled but efforts to curb failing morale across the organization has further diminished the reputation of the once proud national icon.
They have also had their reputation damaged by the perception of being politically controlled by the PMO and are not the independent police agency they must be to maintain the confidence of Canadians.
They also have a duty to investigate criminal offences and it would certainly appear, on the surface at least, that the crime of attempted obstruction of justice contrary to Section 139 of the Criminal Code has occurred.
Add to this the angst running through upper ranks because two of the members of the YVR Four have filed complaints against the Commissioner and the former Commanding Officer of E Division (BC) alleging they failed in their duty by not investigating criminal complaints asserted by those two members, one of whom is retired and one is still serving.
Those complaints are currently being investigated by K Division (Alberta) Professional Standards investigators. Failing to investigate this apparent breach of the Criminal Code by senior members of government would only make the Force look worse and give further grist to their mill in those complaints.
The gist of their complaints is the RCMP is duty-bound to investigate criminal matters and failing to do so is a breach of that duty.
The RCMP, in my view, has no choice but to conduct a formal investigation into all of this and publicly say so. No matter the result, I would say they have that duty to Canadians or risk further reputational damage. Then they need to either recommend criminal charges or explain to Canadians why no charges are applicable.
The air needs to be cleared.