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Democracy Watch pursuing lawsuit challenging Ethics Commissioner’s ruling that let everyone off except PM Trudeau for pressuring Attorney General to stop SNC-Lavalin prosecution

Case also raises Ethics Commissioner Dion’s bias in ruling – Trudeau Cabinet chose him after secretive process

RCMP and prosecutors must explain publicly if they decide not to charge PM Trudeau and others with obstruction of justice

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the application it is pursuing in the Federal Court of Appeal challenging federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s ruling that let everyone off the hook, except Prime Minister Trudeau, for pressuring former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to stop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC). Daniel Tucker-Simmons of Avant Law is representing Democracy Watch in the case, Federal Court of Appeal File #A-331-19.

DWatch is challenging this part of the ruling in court because in paragraphs 262-281 (pages 41-44) the Ethics Commissioner summarizes the actions of PMO officials, Cabinet ministers and their staff that put pressure on the Attorney General. However, in paragraphs 282-286 (page 44), the Ethics Commissioner then excuses the actions of everyone except Prime Minister Trudeau on the very questionable basis that the other officials “could not have influenced the Attorney General” and were acting “under the direction or authority of the Prime Minister…”

As the Ethics Commissioner ruled, by attempting to influence the Attorney General PM Trudeau violated section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act. Other officials also attempted to influence the Attorney General. It is irrelevant whether they had the same power over the Attorney General as the PM has.

“The Ethics Commissioner made the right ruling by finding Prime Minister Trudeau guilty of violating the ethics law for pressuring the Attorney General to drop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, but he should have also found other PMO and government officials guilty because they also pressured the Attorney General,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The Ethics Commissioner’s ruling set a dangerous precedent because it says Cabinet staff aren’t covered by the federal ethics law, and can do things that Cabinet ministers are not allowed to do, and that’s why Democracy Watch is challenging the ruling.”

Democracy Watch is also arguing that Ethics Commissioner Dion should have delegated the investigation and ruling on the situation to a provincial ethics commissioner who had no ties to any federal party, given that he was chosen by the Trudeau Cabinet after a secretive, Cabinet-controlled process that failed to consult with opposition parties as required by the Parliament of Canada Act. Mr. Dion also had a record 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was federal Integrity Commissioner.

“Ethics Commissioner Dion should not be ruling on any situations involving Liberals as he was hand-picked by the Trudeau Cabinet through a secretive, very questionable process, and has an unethical past enforcement record, and so he should delegate investigations to a provincial ethics commissioner,” said Conacher.

Given the evidence in the Ethics Commissioner’s ruling from last August, Democracy Watch also continues to call on the RCMP and Crown prosecutors to issue a full, public explanation if they decide not to prosecute Prime Minister Trudeau and others for obstruction of justice. “Given the evidence, the public has a right to know the reasons if the RCMP and prosecutors decide not to prosecute anyone,” said Conacher.

After the Globe and Mail first reported the allegations on February 7, 2019 that members of the PMO pressured the Attorney General to intervene, Democracy Watch filed a letter the next day with Ethics Commissioner Dion requesting an investigation only of members of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Ethics Commissioner Dion sent Democracy Watch a letter on February 26th confirming his investigation of its complaint.

Former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould testified before a House Committee on February 27, 2019 and claimed other people – Finance Minister Bill Morneau, some of his staff, PCO Clerk Michael Wernick, and other PMO staff – also tried to influence her. Democracy Watch then sent a letter on March 5, 2019 requesting that the Ethics Commissioner expand his inquiry to cover these people.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May also sent a letter to the Ethics Commissioner on May 2, 2019 requesting an inquiry into all the people named by the former Attorney General.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign