Sex payouts, character assassinations: Trudeau struggles to contain SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal
OTTAWA, March 27, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – As sordid details of the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal emerge, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are under fire for what many analysts allege were strategic leaks intended to smear Jody Wilson-Raybould.
The former attorney general has accused Canada's prime minister and top staffers of attempting to interfere in the criminal prosecution of Montreal-based global engineering firm SNC-Lavalin on bribery and corruption charges relating to its government contracts in Libya from 2001 to 2011.
Since the scandal broke in February, Trudeau and the Liberals have taken a hit in the polls, dropping four points behind the Conservatives, CBC News reported in March. And the prime minister’s personal popularity has tanked more than his party’s, dropping six to eight points, with some pundits predicting the growing SNC-Lavalin scandal may be the end of Trudeau’s political career.
In a more unsavory aspect of the affair, Montreal’s La Presse revealed last month that SNC-Lavalin paid $30,000 to Saadi Gadhafi, the son of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, to cover his hiring of prostitutes during his visit to Canada in 2008, according to the National Post.
That included $10,000 in services to a single escort service in Vancouver, as well as payments to a Montreal strip club.
The information was gathered during an investigation of Stéphane Roy, former vice-president of SNC-Lavalin, on fraud and bribery charges, and its publication was allowed after the charges were dropped in mid-February because of court delays, the National Post reported.
La Presse reported the investigation revealed SNC-Lavalin “was writing off the expenses as associated with construction projects in Libya...with the total bill for Gadhafi’s trip totalling nearly $2 million,” according to the National Post.
Gadhafi had “helped the company secure billions in public contracts in Libya — thanks also to millions in bribes to Libyan officials, the RCMP has alleged — and visited Canada on three previous occasions,” it stated.
SNC-Lavalin has strenuously lobbied the federal Liberals for a deferred prosecution agreement rather than a criminal trial. A criminal conviction would ban the engineering giant from receiving government contracts for 10 years.
Liberals shutting down investigations?
On Tuesday, the Liberal-dominated Commons ethics committee voted down a motion for its own probe of the affair, CBC reported.
Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith argued an ethics committee hearing was “premature” because the justice committee was still awaiting written submission, texts and emails from Wilson-Raybould to back up her testimony last month that Trudeau and Liberal staffers pressured her over four months to grant SNC-Lavalin’s request for a deferred prosecution agreement, it reported.
Raybould-Wilson, who resigned from cabinet February 12, testified she believed she was demoted to Veterans Affairs for resisting the pressure. The prime minister has denied this, according to CBC.
The Liberal-dominated justice committee voted last week to shut down its investigation of SNC-Lavalin affair.
Global News reported Wednesday the justice committee had received Wilson-Raybould’s written material and that chair Anthony Housefather sent an email to members “letting them know the documents had been received and that a plan for their release to members and the public was expected shortly.”
The justice committee is expected to release the material on Friday, CBC reported.
Leaks intended to smear Wilson-Raybould
Meanwhile, on Wednesday Wilson-Raybould joined Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives in calling for an investigation into the leaking of confidential information regarding the last Supreme Court appointment that suggested this was the original source of tension between Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould, CTV News reported.
Federal Judicial Affairs Commissioner Marc Giroux said while he is “deeply concerned and troubled about the release to the media of any confidential information,” his office does not have the authority to investigate, according to CTV.
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement Wednesday that the “PMO would never leak who would be considered for a judicial appointment,” it reported.
The Canadian Press and CTV reported Monday that “anonymous sources” told them Trudeau began to have doubts about Wilson-Raybould in 2017 after she recommended Manitoba Justice Glenn Joyal for the Supreme Court.
“Trudeau was concerned that Joyal wasn’t committed to protecting rights that have flown out of interpretation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly LGBTQ2 rights and even abortion access, neither of which are specifically enshrined in the Charter,” wrote Glenn McGregor of CTV National News.
“Well-placed sources say the former justice minister's choice for chief justice was a moment of ‘significant disagreement’ with Trudeau,” reported Joan Bryden of Canadian Press.
“The implication from the leaker: Mr. Trudeau rightly began to question the judgment of his attorney-general long before the issue of whether to prosecute SNC-Lavalin emerged,” observed the Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson.
'Deliberate leak' universally condemned
The move was obviously “intended to debase the reputation of the former attorney general” and has been universally decried, including by Joyal himself, Ibbitson wrote.
Joyal released a statement Monday saying “he submitted an application for consideration for the Supreme Court in 2017, only to be forced to withdraw his name for personal reasons related to his wife's health,” Bryden reported.
“I fear that someone is using my previous candidacy to the Supreme Court of Canada to further an agenda unrelated to the appointment process,” Joyal said. “This is wrong.”
The Manitoba Bar Association and the Canadian Bar Association also denounced the leaks, with CBA president Ray Adlington saying the breach “demeans the selection process and ultimately all those who hold the office of judge,” Global News reported.
“Even Liberals are furious over the leak to The Canadian Press and CTV, presumably from someone inside the Trudeau government,” noted Ibbitson.
Andrew Coyne also denounced the tactic in the National Post.
Among the many points to note about the “obviously deliberate leak” is the Trudeau government’s “willingness, in the service of undermining the credibility of the former attorney general, to smear not only her — apparently in addition to being ‘difficult’ and in it for Jody,’ she’s a crazed social conservative — but a sitting judge,” Coyne observed.
No end of scandal in sight?
Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail published a story Tuesday in which an unnamed source claimed Wilson-Raybould recommended Joyal to “make way for the appointment of Canada’s first Indigenous chief justice of a superior court.”
As the scandal continues, Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, who resigned as Treasury Board president over the scandal, remain in the Liberal caucus.
Philpott told Paul Wells of Maclean’s last week there was more to the affair but that she could not break cabinet confidentiality.