ALBAS: Political pressure and the rule of law

Dan Albas a Member of Parliament.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Dan Albas

 


OPINION


If you have followed any Canadian media reports this week you have likely heard the growing controversy occurring within the Trudeau Liberal government.

In particular, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the subsequent fallout over the resignation of former Justice & current Veteran Affairs Minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould from the Trudeau cabinet.

What started this controversy?

Last week, the Globe and Mail reported that the former Justice Minister was pressured, by Trudeau's senior officials working within the PMO, into offering a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) in a criminal case to large Canadian corporation, SNC Lavalin, in lieu of a criminal trial.

It has been suggested that when Ms. Wilson-Raybould did not end the criminal proceedings in favour of a DPA, she was shuffled, by the Prime Minister, from the Justice portfolio and a Montreal based Justice Minister was appointed.

The new Justice Minister has since indicated that he will not rule out entering into a DPA with SNC-Lavalin.

A deferred prosecution agreement allows a major corporate entity, like SNC Lavalin, to plead guilty and pay a fine instead of facing criminal charges that may lead to jail or other severe consequences.

In this case, the consequence of a criminal conviction would be a ban from being able to bid on federal contracts for ten years.

Many consider a DPA to be a “slap on the wrist” only offered to well-connected insiders and is a controversial topic as it this was only recently created in Canada, buried deep within a Liberal omnibus budget implementation bill.

It has been implied that this option of a DPA was created specifically to benefit SNC Lavalin, currently facing criminal charges related to bribery and fraud.

Where this situation becomes murkier is that the lobbyist registry reveals that since 2016, SNC-Lavalin has lobbied the Trudeau Liberal government more than 80 times on the subject of “justice and law enforcement”.

In 2016 it was also revealed that SNC Lavalin had illegally donated close to $118,000 to various political parties.

Of this $118,000, close to $110,000 was donated to the Liberal Party of Canada or various Liberal riding associations or candidates.

The remainder went to the Conservative party of Canada or various Conservative candidates. None was reported donated to the NDP.

The Prime Minister has steadfastly refused that he directed the former Justice Minister in any way over the SNC-Lavalin prosecution, however he has refused to comment on the allegations that Wilson-Raybould may have been pressured.

A serious concern, that many suggest, amounts to potential judicial interference.

On Monday evening, Ms. Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet in a letter stating that she has hired legal counsel to determine what she can say in response to the allegations without interfering with solicitor client privilege that Mr. Trudeau has thus far refused to waive.

My question this week:

Do you believe this situation is deserving of further investigation or should Mr. Trudeau be taken at his word that there was no potential judicial interference?

I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca<mailto:Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca> or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

— Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola. This riding includes the communities of Kelowna (specific boundaries), West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Keremeos, Princeton, Merritt and Logan Lake.


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