Scheer promises to launch inquiry into SNC-Lavalin
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer announced his plans to launch an inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin affair and give the RCMP greater access to information protected by cabinet confidence should his party win the election.
Speaking to supporters in Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s riding of Papineau in Quebec on Thursday morning, Scheer said a new Conservative government would launch a judicial inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin controversy.
“The only way to get to the bottom of this scandal and get the answers Canadians deserve is to hold a judicial inquiry and the only way to do that is to defeat Justin Trudeau on Oct. 21 and elect a new Conservative government,” he said.
The Tory leader pointed to the recent decision by Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion in August, who found Trudeau violated the federal Conflict of Interest Act by pressuring his former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to stop a criminal prosecution of the Quebec engineering company SNC-Lavalin in relation to contracts in Libya.
Despite the commissioner’s finding, Trudeau has repeatedly refused to apologize for his handling of the affair, reiterating that he was standing up for Canadian jobs that he said would be at risk should the company be prosecuted.
On Thursday, Scheer accused the Liberal leader of impeding an RCMP investigation into the scandal by refusing to waive cabinet confidence.
Throughout the campaign, Scheer has cited a report published in the Globe and Mail in early September that said the RCMP was examining potential obstruction of justice in the SNC-Lavalin affair, but has been hindered by the federal government’s refusal to waive cabinet confidentially for all witnesses.
“At every turn, Trudeau has stopped the truth from coming out and prevented Canadians from getting the answers they deserve,” Scheer said. “He’s shut down three parliamentary investigations into the scandal. He refused to cooperate with the ethics commissioner’s investigation and he’s currently stonewalling the RCMP.”
The federal government, on the other hand, has insisted the head of the federal public service, the Clerk of the Privy Council, and not the Prime Minister’s Office, chose not to work with the RCMP.
To address this matter, Scheer said his party would introduce the “No More Cover Ups Act,” which would allow RCMP to apply to the Supreme Court of Canada to obtain access to evidence protected by cabinet confidence in criminal investigations.
A new Conservative government would amend Section 39 of the Canada Evidence Act to give RCMP the ability to challenge a certificate of cabinet confidence during criminal probes, including those related to the administration of justice, Scheer said.
“Cabinet confidentiality exists to protect sensitive matters of policy in order to create good policy. It doesn’t exist to protect corrupt leaders,” he said.
Scheer said these measures, along with future ones he will announce later in the campaign, will safeguard Canadian democracy from the “whims of sleazy and unscrupulous politicians.”
Earlier on Thursday, Trudeau was asked how he would earn back the trust of Canadian voters in the aftermath of the SNC-Lavalin affair and the more recent blackface and brownface controversy during a media event in Sudbury, Ont.
Trudeau replied that he planned to continue focusing on fighting against intolerance and racism and other issues important to Canadians.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was also asked for his thoughts on Scheer’s plan to launch an inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin affair during a campaign stop in Campbell River, B.C. on Thursday. In response, Singh took aim at Scheer’s position on whether he would use a deferred prosecution agreement, or a remediation agreement that is sometimes used instead of pursuing a criminal prosecution, if he were prime minister. Wilson-Raybould alleged that she was repeatedly pressured by the Liberals to have federal prosecutors pursue a DPA during the SNC-Lavalin case.
“One of the things that's really troubling is he [Scheer] hasn’t actually said what he would do with the DPA itself. The root cause of this problem was a deferred prosecution agreement and he hasn't talked about that,” Singh said. “He hasn't talked about independence of ensuring that if a wealthy powerful corporation is charged with a crime, are we going to maintain independence?”
Singh went on to say that if his party was elected they would not allow DPAs to be used and corporations accused in criminal cases would be barred from lobbying the government.
In terms of Scheer’s proposed inquiry, Singh said he, too, has been calling for one since the scandal first came to light and he would support it.
Scheer will spend the rest of the day visiting two other ridings in Montreal with Conservative candidates while Trudeau makes several stops in Ontario. Singh will continue touring B.C. Thursday afternoon and evening.