Ethics watchdog probing SNC-Lavalin affair taking 'prolonged' medical leave

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion, the man looking into potential violations of federal ethics rules in the SNC-Lavalin affair, is stepping away temporarily from his duties for health reasons.

Mario Dion 'will resume his duties as soon as he is able,' says his office

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion is taking a leave from his duties for medical reasons, according to his office. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion, the man looking into potential violations of federal ethics rules in the SNC-Lavalin affair, is stepping away temporarily from his duties for health reasons.

A statement issued by his office today says Dion will be away for a "prolonged period for medical reasons."

"Commissioner Dion will resume his duties as soon as he is able to do so," says the release. "We hope you will join employees of the Office in expressing our best wishes for Commissioner Dion's health. We would request continued respect for the privacy of Commissioner Dion and his family at this time."

Dion's office said it will continue to gather information on ongoing investigations and offer MPs and other public office holders advice.

"Despite these exceptional circumstances, the work of the Office will continue," says the statement.

Last month, Dion announced he'd investigate claims that the Prime Minister's Office pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution.

The NDP asked the ethics watchdog to look into the matter after a Globe and Mail report alleged the PMO wanted Wilson-Raybould to direct federal prosecutors to draft a "deferred prosecution agreement" (DPA) to avoid taking SNC-Lavalin to trial on bribery and fraud charges.

Dion said there was sufficient cause to investigate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a possible contravention of Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act. That section prohibits any official responsible for high level decision-making in government from seeking to influence the decision of another person to "improperly further another person's private interests."

A spokesperson for Dion's office said the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Privy Council Office have been told of Dion's absence.

Dion took over the job in early 2018.

With files from the CBC's JP Tasker

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