On Friday, August 16, NDP MP representative for the Timmins-James Bay area Charlie Angus wrote a poignant letter to the lobbying commissioner demanding that Trudeau’s connection to SNC-Lavalin be investigated.
He begins his letter by referring to an earlier letter penned on February 13, 2019, in which he called out SNC-Lavalin specifically and asked for an investigation into possible breaches of section 6 of the Code of Conduct for Lobbyists.
His primary concern is that the connection between SNC-Lavalin and Trudeau undermines the entire lobbying system. This, Angus believes, sends a message to Canadians that politicians are in the pockets of large, unaccountable corporations who exercise their will through politicians, especially those at the top, rather than politicians representing the will of the people.
“Canadians need to know that our lobbying system is not being systematically abused by the biggest and best-connected companies in Canada,” he writes.
“Mr. Dion found in his report that the Prime Minister’s attempts to use his position to improperly advance SNC-Lavalin’s attempts to secure a deferred prosecution agreement, and consequently further the company’s private interests, broke the law.
“Mr. Dion’s findings of fact show a disturbing pattern of co-operation and mutual support between the Prime Minister’s office and senior SNC-Lavalin officials,” Angus added. “They worked together to find a way to put inappropriate political pressure on the former Attorney General, Jody-Wilson Raybould — which would run afoul of the company’s obligation under the Code of Conduct not to act in such a way as to place public office-holders in a conflict of interest.”
Angus goes on to point out that in Dion’s Trudeau II Report, a senior SNC-Lavalin official has been caught unambiguously trying to decide what happens in government, and believing he has every capacity to make sure that what he wants happens.
Specifically, the official wrote about “considering other ways to make it easier for the Minister to engage and reverse the [Director of Public Prosecutions] decision.”
“In the end however, it will take a deliberate decision from the center [sic],” the senior SNC-Lavalin official concluded.
This message was sent directly to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Prime Minster complied with this request. Trudeau did not hesitate to apply pressure on Wilson-Raybould with the hopes of overruling the Director of Public Prosecutions decision, all to further SNC-Lavalin’s interests.
This clearly shows the Prime Minister working as an actor for a corporation, not the people of the country he is supposed to be leading.
As Angus writes, “Mr. Dion found that the Prime Minister’s attempt to interfere on their behalf was intrinsically a decision made to improperly advance a private interest in paragraph 319 in his report.”
Moreover, Angus notes that the co-operation between SNC-Lavalin and the Prime Minister’s Office goes deeper than surface level demands from the corporate giant and meek capitulation on the part of the Prime Minister. Instead, Dion’s report suggests a strong intermingling of politics and corporate interests, in which the latter seeks to influence the legal system. Such attempts to influence politicians included taking PMO staff to dinner meetings. Gerald Butts, former principal secretary to the Prime Minister, and Wilson-Raybould were two attendees at such meetings.
More specifically, Angus points to a section in paragraph 208 of Dion’s report where it is revealed that Wilson-Raybould’s former Chief of Staff Jessica Prince was told that “the government had set up the remediation agreement regime to allow SNC-Lavalin to benefit from this [legal stratagem devised by SNC-Lavalin with the former Attorney General].”
According to Angus, “This [demonstrates] the troubling depth of co-operation between the centre of government and private corporation and the degree to which the company felt that its interests were tied to being granted a deferred prosecution agreement.”
the troubling depth of co-operation between the centre of government and private corporation and the degree to which the company felt that its interests were tied to being granted a deferred prosecution agreement.”
He says this postulation is further supported by information revealed in paragraph 36 of Dion’s report. This section describes a meeting between SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce and Finance Minister Bill Morneau in Davos, Switzerland, about the creation of the legal stratagem designed sure up the company’s profits in Canada. This suggests that SNC-Lavalin’s attempted exploitation of Canada was a means of being further competitive on the global market.
On the whole, Angus believes that Dion’s report has identified a “pattern of active involvement” that shows that SNC-Lavalin has been influencing Prime Minister Trudeau’s actions and that this would constitute a conflict of interest.
“This raises serious questions about the integrity of the lobbying regime, and deserves a thorough examination by your office as soon as possible,” Angus writes.
“Most Canadians do not have a direct line to the Prime Minister,” he continues. “They are rightly disgusted by the prospect of Canada’s biggest corporations using their connections to the Prime Minister’s Office to advantage themselves in grossly inappropriate ways,” the letter concludes.