Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer speaks at a press conference at Hotel Saskatchewan in Regina, Saskatchewan on Wednesday August 14, 2019, commenting on Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion's findings regarding the SNC-Lavalin affair. (Michael Bell/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Conservatives promise judicial inquiry into SNC-Lavalin affair

If elected, a new Conservative government would launch a judicial inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin scandal, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer announced Thursday during a campaign stop in the Montreal riding held by his Liberal opponent Justin Trudeau.

Last month, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion found Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by trying to pressure former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to overrule a decision by the director of public prosecutions to deny a deferred prosecution agreement to the Montreal-based company, which faces corruption charges over its dealings in Libya.

SNC-Lavalin is accused of paying $47.7 million in bribes to public officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011. SNC-Lavalin, its construction division and a subsidiary also face one charge each of fraud and corruption for allegedly defrauding various Libyan organizations of $129.8 million.

The company says it intends to vigorously challenge the charges and plead not guilty.

Speaking in the federal riding of Papineau held by Trudeau since 2008, Scheer accused the Liberal leader of repeatedly lying to Canadians and trying to cover up those lies.

“Every single step of the way, each new piece of information contradicted what he had said before and Justin Trudeau denied any responsibility,” Scheer said. “Justin Trudeau lied to Canadians. On the very first day this story came to light he said the story was not true. That was a lie. He said he never pressured Jody Wilson-Raybould. That was a lie.”

Jody Wilson-Raybould told the justice committee that the prime minister and other officials put sustained pressure on her to drop charges against SNC-Lavalin. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Feb. 27, 2019)

A new Conservative government will also introduce the so-called No More Cover-Ups Act to allow Canada’s national police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to access information protected by cabinet confidence by making an application to the Supreme Court of Canada, Scheer said.

“This will prevent corrupt politicians from hiding behind cabinet confidence to escape police investigation,” he added.

The issue of cabinet confidences dogged Trudeau in the early days of the campaign.

Just hours before the official dissolution of Parliament, the Globe and Mail published a story suggesting the RCMP were being stymied in their attempts to interview potential witnesses in the SNC-Lavalin case because they were limited in what they can say under the laws governing cabinet secrecy.

Trudeau has denied reports that his government has been hindering the RCMP from looking into potential obstruction of justice by the Prime Minister’s Office.

“We gave out the largest and most expansive waiver of cabinet confidence in Canada’s history,” Trudeau said on Sept. 11, as he launched the election campaign.

“We respect the decisions made by our professional public servants. We respect the decisions made by the clerk.”

Trudeau has also side-stepped questions about whether he thinks he made any personal mistakes in the affair, arguing it was his job as prime minister “to be there to stand up for and defend Canadians’ jobs.”

With files from CBC News

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