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Opposition members of parliament’s Ethics and Justice committees offered withering assessments of Attorney General David Lametti, for defending his boss after the Ethics Commissioner found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke conflict-of-interest law.
“For the Attorney General of this country to basically shrug it off and say there’s no problem here, that just beggars belief,” said New Democrat MP Charlie Angus, vice-chair of the Ethics committee.
“David Lametti is a law professor from a very esteemed university and I believe that this Dion report will be studied in law courses for years to come. I just wouldn’t let Mr. Lametti anywhere near it.”
On Wednesday, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion released his Trudeau II report that concluded the prime minister violated the federal Conflict of Interest Act by pressuring ex-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to divert SNC-Lavalin’s trial to remediation.
Dion went so far as to say Trudeau’s attempt to sway Wilson-Raybould — who refused to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin — ran “contrary to the constitutional principles of prosecutorial independence and the rule of law.”
The Québec-based engineering firm faces bribery and corruption charges related to its business dealings in Libya between 2001 and 2011.
Wilson-Raybould, a lawyer and the country’s first indigenous Attorney General, would resign from cabinet over the scandal and was turfed from the Liberal caucus by Trudeau for blowing the whistle.
Questioned by reporters in Edmonton about Dion’s findings, ironically at a funding announcement for University of Alberta’s indigenous law program, Lametti said he backed the prime minister and portrayed the Ethics Commissioner’s report as a matter of opinion.
“The prime minister always felt that he was acting in the best interests of Canadians,” said Lametti. “Yes, there has been a difference in interpretation of that. We have better clarity now, given that we have the Ethics Commissioner’s report, but I do not doubt (Trudeau’s) sincerity in wanting to have a better country and I do not doubt his leadership.”
“The prime minister, as you heard today, has accepted responsibility. There’s no question, there are many things we could do better,” Lametti added.
At a different event on the incumbent government’s pre-election, pork barrelling tour — this one at Niagara-on-the-Lake — Trudeau refused to apologize for his actions he claimed were to protect SNC-Lavalin jobs.
The “saving jobs” refrain has been a go-to for the prime minister after he could no longer deny the original storyline The Globe and Mail broke last February: that Wilson-Raybould was pushed out of the Justice portfolio for refusing to go along with the prime minister on SNC-Lavalin.
Wilson-Raybould told the Justice Committee as much that same month after it called an investigation into allegations laid out by the Globe.
Prior to her testimony and as political pressure mounted, Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerald Butts tendered his resignation, followed by Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick – the country’s top bureaucrat – who would resign in the aftermath. Wilson-Raybould’s testimony implicated both men in the SNC-Lavalin-diversion scheme.
Conservative MP Micheal Barrett, a member of the Justice Committee – whose SNC-Lavalin probe was truncated by a Liberal majority — told The Post Millennial Trudeau’s actions “rocked Canadians’ confidence in the justice system” and that the PM is only worried about one job.
“He will spare no person’s reputation and he will not consider the rule of law as an obstacle to his naked ambition,” said Barrett, who spared no ire for the current attorney general.
“For Mister Lametti to express his continued confidence in the prime minister is troubling, when we have an independent officer of parliament who has ruled the prime minister broke the law.”
Barrett’s Conservative colleagues Peter Kent and Jacques Gourde have since requested an emergency Ethics Committee meeting to question Dion about his investigation, as has Angus who called the situation “unacceptable.”
“A prime minister and a corporation attempted to re-write the law of the land and then use their influence to get (SNC-Lavalin) off of corruption charges,” Angus told The Post Millennial.
“It’s unacceptable. But Trudeau and Lametti, they seem to think it’s perfectly okay as long as it was one of their cronies that they were helping out. Well, that’s not how the law’s supposed to work.”