Democracy Watch urges Commissioner Dion to delegate investigation to a provincial ethics commissioner

Photo credit: Jean Gagnon

Democracy Watch recently released the second letter it has sent to federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion calling on him to delegate an expanded inquiry into everyone named by Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould last Wednesday who may have tried to influence her to intervene and stop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC).

The public watchdog's initial letter to Ethics Commissioner Dion, which is the basis of the Commissioner’s current investigation, requested that an investigation be conducted by a provincial ethics commissioner with no ties to the federal Liberals. The letter was sent on February 8th and Ethics Commissioner Dion sent Democracy Watch a letter on February 26th confirming his investigation of its complaint.

Democracy Watch holds this position given that Dion was chosen by the Trudeau Cabinet after a secretive, Cabinet-controlled process that failed to consult with opposition parties as required by the Parliament of Canada Act. Mr. Dion also has a record 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was federal Integrity Commissioner.

“If anyone tried to pressure the Attorney General to intervene and stop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, they violated the federal ethics law, and so a full, independent investigation and ruling are needed,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Ethics Commissioner Dion should not be ruling on any situations involving Liberals as he was hand-picked by the Trudeau Cabinet through a secretive, very questionable process, and has an unethical past enforcement record, and so he should delegate the investigation to a provincial ethics commissioner.”

Conacher also argues that it is a clear violation of section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act. It is a violation for anyone covered by the federal the Conflict of Interest Act, including the Prime Minister and PMO staff, to “use his or her position as a public office holder to seek to influence a decision of another person so as to… improperly further another person’s private interests” (section 9).

The Globe and Mail reported the allegations first on February 7th by unnamed sources in the federal government claim that members of the PMO pressured the Attorney General to intervene. Former Attorney General Wilson-Raybould named 11 people in total in her testimony before the House of Commons Justice Committee on February 27th who may

Democracy Watch’s position is that stopping the prosecution would clearly further SNC-Lavalin’s private interests, and that it would be improper to pressure the Attorney General to intervene to stop the prosecution because the PPSC was established explicitly to prevent such political interference in prosecutions.

Democracy Watch also called for an investigation into whether anyone used secret information they learned from their position in government in an effort to influence the Attorney General (which would violate section 8 of the Act), and whether anyone from SNC-Lavalin has a relationship with anyone in the government that would cause them to give them preferential treatment by trying to influence the Attorney General (which would violate section 7 of the Act).