Reality check: No, the RCMP did not confirm an investigation into SNC-Lavalin scandal

The headquarters of SNC Lavalin is seen Thursday, November 6, 2014 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

The Conservative Party of Canada posted and quickly deleted a tweet Tuesday declaring that the “RCMP confirms Justin Trudeau is under investigation for the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal.”

A now-deleted tweet from the Conservative Party of Canada’s official Twitter account.
A now-deleted tweet from the Conservative Party of Canada’s official Twitter account. (Screenshot/Twitter)

The headline-grabbing tweet came after RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki was asked about the SNC-Lavalin affair during a press conference Tuesday on the arrest of Cameron Ortis, a top RCMP intelligence officer now facing seven charges.

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“Today we’re here for the Mr. Ortis investigation so I don’t want to comment very much. But we do take all investigations very seriously and investigate to the fullest,” Lucki said.

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Scheer renews calls for Trudeau to waive Cabinet confidence

However, that comment was not a formal confirmation of any potential investigation. Rather, an RCMP spokesperson said that Lucki’s comment “was a general statement about investigations.”

“The RCMP will not comment on the SNC-Lavalin issue,” said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Caroline Duval.

The Conservative Party said it sent out the tweet before the RCMP clarified their comments. Brock Harrison, director of communications for Andrew Scheer, also deleted a tweet about Lucki’s comments.

“The tweet has been deleted. Unlike Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, we respect the work the RCMP does,” spokesperson Simon Jefferies said in email.

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So what do we know about the RCMP and SNC-Lavalin?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould take part in the grand entrance as the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation commission is released, Tuesday, December 15, 2015 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The RCMP has said it’s examining the SNC-Lavalin scandal “carefully” following a report from the ethics commissioner that found that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act.

“The RCMP is examining this matter carefully with all available information and will take appropriate actions as required,” spokesperson Chantal Payette said in a statement to Global News in August.

“It would be inappropriate for us to provide anymore comments on this matter at this time.”

However, an examination is not the same thing as a formal investigation.

READ MORE: RCMP are ‘carefully’ reviewing SNC-Lavalin affair. What exactly are they looking at?

Last month, ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that Trudeau improperly pressured former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to reach a deferred prosecution agreement with Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin to help the company avoid criminal prosecution on fraud and bribery charges.

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That ruling stated that Trudeau broke federal ethics rules and should not have communicated with Wilson-Raybould about her decision.

The Globe and Mail also reported the night before the election was called that the Prime Minister’s Office was blocking attempts by the RCMP to look into SNC-Lavalin scandal and whether the government’s actions amount to obstruction of justice.

That report prompted Scheer to use his first campaign remarks to media to attack Trudeau over the ethics ruling.

FACT CHECK: Did Justin Trudeau issue largest waiver of cabinet confidence?

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Fact check: Did Justin Trudeau issue largest waiver of cabinet confidence?

Scheer has often accused Trudeau of lying to Canadians over the SNC-Lavalin scandal, saying the prime minister has lost the “moral authority to govern.”

“We know that he’s been found guilty twice of breaking ethics laws and we know that the RCMP is contacting people in his office about his role in the SNC-Lavalin affair,” he said during a campaign stop Tuesday in Manitoba. “I will repeat my call for Justin Trudeau to do the right thing, if he has nothing to hide, and waive those cabinet confidences.”

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The report also said investigators were frustrated because potential witnesses said their knowledge of the SNC-Lavalin affair was covered by cabinet confidence, and that was barring them from speaking fully with anyone looking into the matter.

Trudeau responded to the report by saying his government “gave out the largest and most expansive waiver of cabinet confidence in Canada’s history.”

However, a fact check by Global News found that this isn’t entirely true, noting two examples from past years. Former prime minister Stephen Harper approved confidence waivers for the RCMP to fully investigate the Senate expense scandal involving spending Mike Duffy. And former prime minister Paul Martin infamously granted the Gomery Commission thousands of documents related to the Liberal sponsorship.

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SNC-Lavalin is facing bribery and fraud charges over alleged payments of roughly $50 million to secure government contracts in Libya between 2001 and 2011. The company is scheduled to be back in court Sept. 20.

— With files from David Akin

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