News that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is “concerned” about the SNC-Lavalin affair should serve as a “wake-up call” for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to allow a public inquiry, NDP MP Charlie Angus is urging.
And he says failing to do so will “degrade” the reputation of Canada as a country that upholds the rule of law.
In an open letter to Trudeau, a copy of which was shared with Global News, Angus writes that efforts by Liberal members of the House of Commons justice committee to block former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould from appearing for a second time will be clear to the organization’s anti-bribery officials, who will be watching the handling of the case, and will hurt Canada’s reputation.
“The reputation that generations of Canadian governments have built up is bigger than the short-term, election year partisan considerations of any particular government,” Angus says in the letter.
“We all have a stake in how Canada is perceived on the world stage. If Canada is seen as a jurisdiction soft on corporate corruption, Canadians lose out. I believe that OECD monitoring is a positive step. I hope you will take this transnational scrutiny as a wake-up call and launch an independent public inquiry.”
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Angus’s letter comes as Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion, who has been leading the probe into the allegations of attempted political interference, announced he is stepping back from the role for a prolonged medical leave.
While his office said investigations underway will continue, it did not specify if the SNC-Lavalin investigation will and has repeatedly refused requests from Global News to confirm if it remains ongoing.
Ethics investigations stop if police also begin to investigate allegations.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer asked the RCMP earlier this month to investigate whether there were attempts to obstruct justice or provoke fear in the attorney general, both criminal offences, but the force has not said whether it will do so.
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The Globe and Mail first reported on Feb. 7 that Wilson-Raybould had been pressured by officials in the Prime Minister’s Office to intervene in the decision of the director of public prosecutions not to offer SNC-Lavalin a deal to escape criminal trial and potential conviction for corruption and fraud charges.
She alleged in testimony before the House of Commons justice committee that she believes that refusal is why she was shuffled out of the attorney general position in a January 2019 cabinet shuffle.
Montreal Liberal MP David Lametti was named in her place and has said a deal is still possible for the company.
Following Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, the committee heard from Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick and Nathalie Drouin, the deputy attorney general, for a second time to address the remarks made by the former attorney general.
Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s former principal secretary, also appeared for the first time following her testimony.
But last week, Liberal members on that committee blocked an attempt by opposition members to invite Wilson-Raybould back to address the statements by Butts and Wernick that downplayed her allegations of impropriety.
Both insisted in their testimony that while there were discussions about potential job losses if SNC-Lavalin did not get a deal to avoid trial, as well as the company’s “tanking” share prices, those talks were entirely proper.
The OECD, however, warned on Monday it finds the allegations worrying and plans to closely monitor the case.
Angus said the refusal of the government to rule out giving SNC-Lavalin a deal “will make limited investigations and partisan stonewalling all the more evident to the OECD on close inspection.”
“I urge you to show openness and accountability on this file,” Angus wrote.
“It would be irresponsible to degrade Canada’s international reputation for upholding the rule of law by continuing to block a public inquiry into this matter.”
The House of Commons justice committee is set to meet Wednesday to discuss whether to invite Wilson-Raybould to make a second appearance.