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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to Governor General Julie Payette Wednesday morning to ask that she dissolve Parliament and plunge the country into its 43rd general election, evoked his tenure as leader of our G7 nation; an exercise in contradiction.
With hands clasped and appearing from the path to his cottage in Payette’s Rideau Hall backyard, Trudeau and his wife Sophie offered a photo opportunity worthy of HELLO! Canada’s gliterati pages.
When Trudeau emerged from Rideau Hall with Sophie, they walked around a group of Liberal supporters assembled behind a podium, where he dropped Sophie off to mingle with who he later described as “everyday Canadians”.
Trudeau’s speech and press conference were a ‘greatest soundbite hits’ from his four years in government: including how Liberals care more about the environment, the middle class, and growing the economy than do Conservatives.
And throughout his government’s caring time in office, it even “renegotiated NAFTA…at a time of U.S. protectionism and unpredictability.”
The PM also mentioned the differences between himself and vanquished foe Stephen Harper more often than his contemporary Conservative challenger Andrew Scheer; Trudeau and Sophie’s entrance alone, a stark contrast to Harper’s limousine motorcades’ past.
“Canadians once again get to vote for the kind of Canada they want to live in. We’ve all got choice to make: keep moving forward and build on the progress we’ve made or go back to the politics of the Harper years,” Trudeau declared.
“Conservatives like to say they’re for the people, but then they cut taxes for the wealthy, and cut services for everybody else.”
When Trudeau finished his pitch, he was immediately in the hot seat over SNC-Lavalin, once again.
The latest Globe and Mail report about the scandal that rocked his government, by tenacious press gallery veteran Robert Fife who broke the original story in February, suggests Trudeau and the Prime Minister’s Office did not cooperate with RCMP in its current probe of the affair.
Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s own investigation concluded in August that Trudeau’s attempt to pressure ex-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to defer prosecution of SNC’s bribery and corruption charges violated the Conflict of Interest Act.
Dion also noted that he too was obstructed by the Privy Council Office from interviewing nine witnesses for his scathing Trudeau II report.
Asked what he had to hide by restricting cabinet confidence waivers for RCMP on key witnesses, Trudeau said the waiver he already provided was “the largest and most expansive…of cabinet confidence in Canada’s history.”
“But the buck stops with you, you’re the boss,” the reporter pressed.
“We respect the decisions made by professional public servants. We respect the decision made by the clerk,” said Trudeau, who moments earlier was greeted at Payette’s front door by the new Privy Council clerk Ian Shugart.
During Trudeau’s and the PMO’s, four-month, full-court press to change Wilson-Raybould’s mind – she didn’t, and SNC-Lavalin will stand trail later this year – Shugart’s predecessor Michael Wernick provided a much different function for the PM.
Tapes secretly recorded by Wilson-Raybould which were released to media back in March, supports the now ex-communicated Liberal Party member’s claims: that she was unduly and inappropriately pressed by Trudeau and others, including Wernick; a conclusion Dion’s report also reaches.
Asked about demonizing Scheer, recently as a homophobe for skipping Pride then spreading a 14-year-old clip on social media of the Scheer describing “marriage” in the House of Commons as a union between a man and woman, Trudeau claimed he’s only about criticizing policy.
“I do not engage in personal attacks, but I will be very, very sharp in distinctions around policy,” said Trudeau. “Around how one engages with Canadians, the vision one puts forward. That is something Canadians deserve in an election, to see clear contrasts.”
Asked about SNC-Lavalin again, this time about Dion’s report and what Trudeau “did personally, wrong and the mistakes (he) made”, Trudeau pivoted to his claim that pressuring his former attorney general to go easy on the Québec-based construction firm, was really about defending jobs.
“My job is to stand up and defend Canadians’ jobs, whether its communities right across the country, pensioners, families,” said Trudeau. “I will always defend the public’s interests, I will always defend Canadians jobs.”
If SNC-Lavalin is convicted of the charges it bribed officials in Libya nearly $50 million to secure lucrative contracts in the failed North African state, the company would be banned from bidding on federal contracts for 10 years.
Claims of potential, real job losses in Canada related to current SNC-Lavalin contracts – it just finished the $2.1 billion phase I light-rail project in Ottawa and was tapped to build phase II – are dubious, regardless of the outcome of the looming trial.
Adding to the specious nature of Trudeau’s ‘protecting jobs’ defence for his conduct toward Wilson-Raybould is a caveat in the new legislative mechanism for deferred prosecution agreements.
Included in the Liberal government’s 2018 omnibus budget bill, after significant lobbying efforts by SNC-Lavalin, is a provision that forbids prosecutors from considering “the national economic interest” as reason to divert criminal charges to remediation.