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Ethics commissioner launches investigation into political interference allegations in SNC-Lavalin case

Ethics commissioner launches investigation into political interference allegations in SNC-Lavalin case
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The ethics commissioner’s office confirmed to the Post on Monday morning that commissioner Mario Dion has received a request for an investigation from NDP MPs Charlie Angus and Nathan Cullen, which pointed to possible violations of the Conflict of Interest Act.

Under the rules of the act, Dion has the power to summon witnesses and require them to provide evidence under oath. The investigation will take place in confidence, but a report must be published at its conclusion.

Angus and Cullen wrote to the ethics commissioner on Friday to request an investigation in the wake of a Globe and Mail report on Thursday containing allegations from unnamed sources that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office pushed Wilson-Raybould to negotiate a deal with SNC-Lavalin that would have led to a fine instead of a criminal trial.

Then interim public sector integrity commissioner Mario Dion in Ottawa, Tuesday December 13, 2011. Adrian Wyld/CP

The company was charged in 2015 with bribing Libyan officials between 2001 and 2011 in exchange for construction contracts. The Post has not independently confirmed the allegations of political interference.

The NDP is suggesting possible violations of several provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act, including one that prohibits public office holders from giving “preferential treatment to any person or organization.”

On Monday, Wayne Long, a backbench Liberal MP from New Brunswick, broke ranks and joined the Conservatives and New Democrats in calling for the justice committee to investigate the matter. “I also am seeking answers that will clear the air regarding exactly what happened here, and, because I was raised to believe that full transparency is always the best approach to addressing such uncertainty, I believe that a full and transparent investigation is necessary to ensure that my constituents, and all Canadians, can be confident in (the) veracity of those answers,” he said in a statement.

To date, Wilson-Raybould has said little about the allegations, citing solicitor-client privilege. On Sunday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer wrote to Trudeau to demand that he waive that privilege and allow Wilson-Raybould to speak openly.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau address attendees at the Liberal fundraising event at the Delta Hotel in Toronto, Ont., on Thursday, February 7, 2019. Tijana Martin/CP

Last week, Trudeau told reporters that the allegations in the Globe and Mail’s story are false. “At no time did I or my office direct the current or previous attorney-general to make any particular decision in this matter,” he said.

Wilson-Raybould was shuffled out of the justice portfolio last month, and is now the minister of veterans affairs, a move widely seen as a demotion. Montreal MP David Lametti is the new attorney general.

On Sunday, Lametti told CTV’s Question Period it’s still possible he could direct the prosecution service to make a deal with SNC-Lavalin that would avoid a criminal trial.

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