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Ethics committee will invite 4 commissioners but defers Tory motion for SNC-Lavalin study

Trudeau says SNC-Lavalin plea a positive outcome
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the guilty plea is a positive outcome that won't affect SNC-Lavalin workers. Trudeau reflected on the SNC issue saying that over the last year there are things "we could've, should've, would've done differently."

The House of Commons ethics committee will invite all four of the commissioners under its mandate to testify in the coming weeks.

But the members deferred until their next meeting a vote on a Conservative motion to invite Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion to testify for two hours specifically on his report last year that found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke federal ethics rules in the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

READ MORE: Trudeau broke ethics rules by trying to exert influence in SNC-Lavalin scandal

The Conservatives had said prior to the committee starting that they would make a second attempt to invite Dion to testify.

An earlier attempt this week failed after the Liberal and Bloc Quebecois members blocked it.

Conservative MP Michael Barrett put forward a similar but different motion on Wednesday afternoon asking for Dion to appear, but that came after Conservative committee chair Rachael Harder had already gotten members to agree to invite both Dion and the three other commissioners under the mandate of the committee to appear over the next several meetings.

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That agreement will see Dion testify for two hours along with another two hours for Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien, who is expected to face questions on the use of artificial intelligence.

Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger will be invited to testify for one hour as will Access to Information Commissioner Caroline Maynard.

Barrett argued though that the two hours for Dion were not enough because his motion called for a study specific to the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

“I think it’s separate from my motion because the motion we have in front of us is for a very specific study and the work of the commissioner is not just one issue,” he said. “Canadians don’t consider it case closed.”

Liberal MPs reject motion to have ethics czar testify on PM, SNC
Liberal MPs reject motion to have ethics czar testify on PM, SNC

The committee will vote on his motion at its next meeting but if the past is any indication, it may be unlikely to pass.

Conservatives hold four of the voting seats on that committee, which is also chaired by a Conservative member who doesn’t vote unless there is a tie.

The Liberals hold five voting seats while the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois hold one each.

While the NDP voted with the Conservatives on the earlier attempt to call Dion on SNC-Lavalin, the Bloc Quebecois voted with the Liberals.

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Previous attempts by the opposition to call Dion on the matter were also blocked by Liberals during committee meetings on the scandal last year.

The Liberals used their majority at the time to limit the number of witnesses called to committees and to block attempts to call Dion.

His report in August 2019 marked the second time Trudeau has been found to have broken federal ethics rules during his time as prime minister.

The first was when he accepted vacations for him and his family to the Aga Khan’s private Caribbean island.

While Trudeau apologized for the Caribbean trip, he refused to do so when Dion deemed he had improperly interfered in the bid by SNC-Lavalin to get a deferred prosecution agreement or DPA. The DPA sought by SNC-Lavalin is a new tool created after heavy lobbying by the company. It enables commercial firms accused of crimes to avoid trials in certain circumstances.

READ MORE: SNC-Lavalin pleads guilty to fraud charges

In return, a company obtaining a DPA would have to admit some form of wrongdoing and agree to other conditions, such as a potential fine or conditions to change its behaviour.

SNC-Lavalin did not get a deferred prosecution agreement.

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The company pleaded guilty in December 2019 to fraud related to its business activities in Libya under the regime of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi.

It agreed to pay a $280-million fine as part of that settlement.

SNC-Lavalin pleads guilty to fraud, to pay $280M fine
SNC-Lavalin pleads guilty to fraud, to pay $280M fine