The House

SNC-Lavalin, take two

This week on The House, MPs Jane Philpott and Marc Miller join us to talk about the SNC-Lavalin report. We take a look at the situation in Hong Kong, and get the latest on the Manitoba provincial election. Finally, the strategists are back to look ahead to the writ drop.
Federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion released a damning report about the SNC-Lavalin affair, finding that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was guilty of violating the Conflict of Interest Act. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode49:59

A Montreal Liberal MP says the report released this week by Canada's ethics watchdog could create confusion about what colleagues can and can't discuss with the attorney general.

In his long-awaited report released on Wednesday, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion concluded that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by trying to influence former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould and get her to overrule a decision not to grant a deferred prosecution agreement to Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

"The authority of the prime minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the director of public prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson-Raybould as the Crown's chief law officer," Dion wrote in his report.

But Marc Miller, a long-time friend of Trudeau who was elected in 2015, told The House that he has trouble with that conclusion.

The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has found that Prime Minister Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by pressuring his former Attorney General to change her position on the prosecution of engineering giant SNC Lavalin. Liberal MP Marc Miller, says his boss won't apologize because he didn't do anything wrong. 9:18

"When I see the facts laid before me, I see the attempts of the Prime Minister's Office to ensure that work is being done, that the proper attention is given to a very, very important matter. I do not see any furtherance of private interests in the way I understand it. And so I am dismayed at the conclusion," Miller said.

"If I were the current attorney general and minister of justice, I would be in a very difficult position now in talking to my colleagues. I would want to know what I can (and) what I can't talk about."

While Miller defended Trudeau's steadfast refusal to apologize for his role in the SNC-Lavalin affair, Jane Philpott, who resigned from her cabinet post over the prime minister's handling of the matter and now sits as an independent MP, said she and many Canadians believe such an apology is warranted.

"The ethics commissioner determined that the prime minister violated the Conflict of Interest Act and my take from what I hear from Canadians is that they would appreciate greatly an apology from the prime minister for having breached that obligation that he had to comply with the act. I hope that it's forthcoming," Philpott told The House.

The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has found that Prime Minister Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by pressuring his former Attorney General to change her position on the prosecution of engineering giant SNC Lavalin. Former Health Minister Jane Philpott tells us that Canadians deserve an apology from their Prime Minister. 8:41

All eyes on Pallister's leadership as he campaigns for second term as Manitoba premier

Progressive Conservative leader Brian Pallister announces a commitment on Friday morning to create 40,000 private sector jobs over the next four years. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister rolled the dice on a second term in office this week, plunging the province into an election campaign a year ahead of schedule.

Pallister announced in June the election would be moved from its scheduled date in October 2020 to Sept. 10.

The former MP brought the Progressive Conservatives to power in 2016, delivering a crushing blow to the NDP. The PCs won 40 of the legislature's 57 seats.

But that doesn't mean Pallister is beloved as premier, Mary Agnes Welch, a partner at Winnipeg polling firm Probe Research, told The House.

Progressive Conservative Premier Brian Pallister has decided that his province needs an election a year ahead of schedule. Probe Research pollster Mary Agnes Welch tells us what kind of campaign Manitobans can expect. 5:05

"We don't have warm and fuzzies for the premier. I think he's seen as competent. I think he's seen as authentic. But he's been doing some pretty radical things and he is prone to foot-in-mouth syndrome. And so I think this is also a test of how much we have forgiven the NDP because there was a significant level of anger towards the party in the last election and I don't think we've quite forgiven them."

The opposition Manitoba NDP are led by Wab Kinew. Dougald Lamont is the provincial Liberal leader and James Beddome is the leader of the Green Party of Manitoba. Welch described them all as policy wonks and said she is looking forward to an "intellectually rigorous" campaign.

"There's actually four guys who are reasonably intellectually solid people which is a little bit refreshing sometimes in politics."


The Strategists: Focusing on the front lines

Top row, from left: Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer, Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. Bottom row, from left: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, Bloc Québécois Yves-François Blanchet.

The federal leaders are about to shift from the barbecue circuit to the campaign trail — and where they choose to launch their campaigns and spend most of their time will be key to learning which regions of the country are set to become battlegrounds in the coming election.

This week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer were in New Brunswick and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was in British Columbia. 

In the 2015 election the Liberals swept all 32 seats in Atlantic Canada — mostly at the expensive of the Conservatives. And with long-time Liberal MPs retiring in several maritime ridings, Scheer is looking to make inroads in the region and  spent the last two weeks campaigning there. 

"I think we're going to surprise a lot of people there," Conservative Campaign Chair Hamish Marshall said.

With everyone waiting for Prime Minister Trudeau to announce the date when the federal campaign will officially Conservative campaign director Hamish Marshall, Liberal campaign director Jeremy Broadhurst and NDP campaign director Jennifer Howard tell us how they're positioning their parties for the race to come. 14:08

Though, for their part, the Liberals say the Tories should not expect any easy victories.

"We are going to be in Atlantic Canada and talking about the things that are important to the people there," campaign director Jeremy Broadhurst said.

But one strategy doesn't fit the entire country, and the parties know that devoting too much time in one region comes at the expense of the others.

"It's a big country, a lot of very different regional dynamics and I think all of us [strategists] have to be alive to all of that," Marshall said.

Tailoring your message to diverse pockets of the country is something the NDP is prepared for. 

"I think Canada is such a vast country that every campaign does come down to focusing on regional realities," said Jennifer Howard, who is heading the NDP campaign. 

Read the full story here.

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