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Democracy Watch calls on Ethics Commissioner to rule on Clerk of Privy Council Wernick’s preferential phone call with Kevin Lynch

Wernick, in his last week in government, also needs to answer 2 big questions:
Did he talk about SNC-Lavalin or his call with AG with PM from Dec. 19-Jan. 7?
Did he communicate with PM, or anyone who would have communicated to the PM, about SNC-Lavalin or his call from Dec. 19-Jan. 7?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, April 17, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion, calling on him to ensure an independent ruling on Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick giving preferential treatment to Kevin Lynch, Chair of SNC-Lavalin, and Mr. Wernick’s former boss.

Democracy Watch’s position is that, by taking the phone call from Mr. Lynch on October 15, 2019, Mr. Wernick violated section 7 of the Conflict of Interest Act by giving preferential treatment to Mr. Lynch. Democracy Watch has also filed a complaint with the federal Commissioner of Lobbying about Mr. Lynch failing to register the call as lobbying in the Registry of Lobbying.

It is a violation of the federal ethics law, the Conflict of Interest Act (section 7), to give preferential treatment to anyone or any business or organization based on the identity of the person who represents them (such as someone being your former boss).

Unless Mr. Wernick can show that he takes calls from average Canadians and other business executives when they have a concern about a government decision as readily as he took Mr. Lynch’s call, taking Mr. Lynch’s call amounts to a violation of section 7 of the Act because it was “treatment more favourable than might be accorded to anyone else in similar circumstances” – which is the Ethics Commissioner’s definition of “preferential treatment” in a past ruling.

“It is unethical and undemocratic for government officials to give preferential treatment to people they have relationships with, and an independent ruling is needed into Michael Wernick taking the phone call from his former boss and SNC-Lavalin chair Kevin Lynch,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The Ethics Commissioner should not make the ruling in this case because he was handpicked by the Trudeau Cabinet through a very secretive, Cabinet-controlled, dishonest process.”

Democracy Watch’s position is that Ethics Commissioner Dion should delegate the investigation and ruling on the situation to a provincial ethics commissioner who has no ties to any party, given that he was chosen by the Trudeau Cabinet after a secretive, Cabinet-controlled, dishonest process that failed to consult with opposition parties as required by the Parliament of Canada Act. Mr. Dion also has a record 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was federal Integrity Commissioner. As well, his senior lawyer’s sister is the spouse of Liberal Cabinet minister Dominic LeBlanc.

Democracy Watch also called on the media and House and Senate committees to ask Mr. Wernick, who is in his last week with the federal government, two simple questions that remain unanswered:

Did Mr. Wernick talk about SNC-Lavalin, or his phone call with then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould, with Prime Minister Trudeau or other members of the PM’s staff from December 19, 2018 through to the beginning of January 2019 when everyone returned from vacation?

Did Mr. Wernick communicate in any way about SNC-Lavalin, or his phone call with then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould, with Prime Minister Trudeau or other members of the PM’s staff from December 19, 2018 through to the beginning of January 2019 when everyone returned from vacation?

The statement issued a few weeks ago by Mr. Wernick’s lawyer Frank Addario does not answer these questions. It says, very carefully, only that Mr. Wernick did not discuss SNC-Lavalin with the PM after the beginning of January.

The statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office says, very carefully, only that Mr. Wernick did not brief the Prime Minister on the call with the former Attorney General. This does not answer whether Mr. Wernick briefed someone on the PM’s staff about the call, who then briefed the PM about the call.

The statement from Mr. Wernick’s lawyer says:

“Michael Wernick must answer two key questions about whether he communicated in any way with the PM or the PM’s staff after his call with the Attorney General about SNC-Lavalin,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The answers to these questions are key to both the investigation concerning who may have violated the federal government ethics law, and whether any obstruction of justice occurred.”

Answering these two questions is key for the Ethics Commissioner, and the RCMP, in their investigations. Democracy Watch’s February 8th and March 5th letters to Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion are the basis of the Commissioner’s current investigation of everyone who may have tried to influence the former Attorney General in violation of section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act. Ethics Commissioner Dion sent Democracy Watch a letter on February 26th confirming his investigation of its complaint.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign