The Current

Protecting jobs is no defence, conservative strategist says in wake of SNC-Lavalin ethics report

Our national affairs panel looks at how the SNC-Lavalin report could affect the fall election, and whether the prime minister's defence that he was looking out for jobs holds water.

House's ethics committee is holding an emergency meeting Wednesday

A report from the ethics commissioner last week found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act in the SNC-Lavalin affair. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's assertion that he was protecting jobs in the SNC-Lavalin affair doesn't add up, a Conservative strategist says.

"It suggests that, you know, there may be no other civil engineering firms in Canada with which these people could have been gainfully employed, which is simply not true," said Kate Harrison, who is also vice president of Summa Strategies.

She told The Current's guest host Matt Galloway that "you can both be a strong advocate for the economy, and make sure that jobs are protected, while also maintaining a fair, ethical balance."

"You can have an ethical prime minister and one that's a champion for jobs."

Last week, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion released a report, which found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by trying to influence then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, directly or through others under his direction, to grant SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has called for the RCMP to investigate the breach. (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

The firm is due back in court Sept. 20, facing bribery and fraud charges related to alleged payments of close to $50 million to public officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011 to secure government contracts. A DPA would have allowed the company to avoid a criminal trial.

Trudeau said he was only trying to protect Canadian jobs, but admits his government didn't handle the situation appropriately. 

While his response did not include an apology, former Liberal strategist Amanda Alvaro said the prime minister "acknowledged that mistakes were made."

Alvaro, who is co-founder of the PR agency Pomp and Circumstance, agreed with the prime minister's concerns about the economic ramifications of a prosecution.

"The public interest — related to what would have been devastating job losses, and also issues related to pensioners and suppliers and infrastructure projects and the families of SNC — all weighed in to why he suggested that the [attorney general] at the time look at a DPA."

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has called for the RCMP to open a criminal investigation, while the House's ethics committee is holding an emergency meeting Wednesday.


Written by Padraig Moran, with files from CBC News. Produced by Julie Crysler, Ashley Mak and Jessica Linzey.

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