Following the release of a report into the SNC-Lavalin scandal, Yukon MP Larry Bagnell says he supports Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for “taking full responsibility” for his handling of the matter.
“He said the buck stops with him,” Bagnell told the News.
Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion found that Trudeau, through various means, attempted to pressure Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada, into extending a remediation agreement, which would have, if used, insulated the embroiled engineering giant from a criminal trial. According to the report, which was released on Aug. 14, these actions violated the Conflict of Interest Act.
“The evidence showed there were many ways in which Mr. Trudeau, either directly or through the actions of those under his direction, sought to influence the Attorney General,” Dion says in the report.
“I find all of these tactics troubling,” he goes on to say, singling out Trudeau and noting that the “evidence abundantly shows” he attempted to sway Wilson-Raybould.
Taking “full responsibility” for what happened was what Trudeau said during a press conference in Fredericton on Aug. 15. He skirted around apologizing.
“I’m not going to apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs, because that’s my job — to make sure Canadians and communities and pensioners and families across the country are supported, and that’s what I will always do,” he said.
“I disagree with the ethics commissioner’s conclusions, but he is an officer of Parliament doing his job and I fully accept his report, which means I take full responsibility.”
In a watershed moment, Wilson-Raybould — now an independent MP for Vancouver-Granville — testified on Feb. 27 that she received “consistent and sustained” pressure from officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and others to green-light a deferred prosecution agreement.
An avalanche was set off by a story from the Globe and Mail on Feb. 7.
It was around this time Trudeau denied wrongdoing.
The scandal rocked Ottawa. Trudeau’s senior advisor, Gerald Butts, resigned, along with Wilson-Raybould herself and Jane Philpott, who was the president of the Treasury Board.
Bagnell said he hasn’t read the full report.
Asked if he’s concerned with its timing, given the election is roughly two months away, Bagnell said, “I think people have already, to a large extent, made up their minds on this issue.”
Dovetailed with the release of Dion’s report was another one from former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan, who was tasked by Trudeau in March to investigate whether the Attorney General and Justice Minister should be held by the same person.
She found such a change unnecessary.
“In my view,” she wrote, “Cabinet colleagues are more likely to pay attention to the Attorney General’s legal advice because they know that the Attorney General, as a member of Cabinet, understands the political context in which they are operating. That advice is also likely to be better informed, and therefore more helpful to Cabinet.”
McLellan makes several recommendations, one of which calls for clarification on how members interact with the different roles — more education for parliamentarians, in other words.
Bagnell said he’s pleased to know Trudeau is implementing the recommendations, a move that could help prevent future governments from making the same mistakes.
Jonas Smith, the Conservative Party candidate for the Yukon, criticized Bagnell for “supporting Mr. Trudeau through this whole scandal.”
Asked how he’s extended support, Smith said Bagnell has, through the media, “continued to stand with the prime minister, with the Liberal Party, with his leadership, and now we know, unequivocally, that the prime minister has been lying all the way through.
“Does he still support the prime minister, despite the fact we know he’s been lying to Canadians? Does he still support the expulsion of Wilson-Raybould and Dr. Philpott?”
Wilson-Raybould and Philpott were expelled from caucus. They resigned from cabinet.
Smith said the report “exonerates” Wilson-Raybould.
Asked about the weight of such word choice, Smith said a lot of “ink was spilled” concerning Wilson-Raybould taping a phone call between herself and Michael Wernick, the former Privy Council Clerk, who retired shortly thereafter.
In April, Trudeau called it “unconscionable” that Wilson-Raybould taped the call.
It’s not illegal in Canada to record conversations, as only one party needs to consent.
“You can see with this report, she literally had no choice,” Smith continued. “She was forced into a corner and the only way that she could protect herself, and the government. That’s what I mean by exonerated.”
With files from the Canadian Press
Contact Julien Gignac at email@example.com