He is viewed by many as a classy leader with a smile which could charm even the coldest of critics, but Justin Trudeau’s time as Prime Minister of Canada could be ending abruptly due to a scandal of significant proportions.
The timeline is an extensive once, starting back in February 2015. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) lined up charges of fraud and corruption against an engineering company based in Montreal. SNC-Lavalin were accused of using bribery in order to be awarded a contract for government work in Libya. Later the same year, in October, Trudeau’s Liberal government came into power. Trudeau appointed Jody Wilson-Raybould as both minister of Justice and attorney general of Canada. She is the first Indigenous person to hold the post, which combines duties as a politician (heading the Department of Justice) and a legal official (overseeing prosecutions). It is a combined role which was held with pride by Wilson-Raybould.
The following December one of the top advisors to the Prime Minister (Gerald Butt) met with Wilson-Raybould to discuss the SNC-Lavalin incident and Butt passed the issue on, telling her to take it up with the Privy Council clerk.
By 2018 the investigation into the company’s act was in progress and in October the prosecution made it clear that SNC-Lavalin would not be invited to negotiate at the remediation agreement.
At the start of 2019 the resignation of Treasury Board president Scott Brison. Jody Wilson-Raybould is moved from Justice Minister to Veterans in a move which was looked upon as a downgrade.
In February, Butt resigned as Trudeau’s principal secretary amid mounting pressure and speculation with the ongoing investigation. Claiming that his time in the PM’s office has become a distraction. Things became even more unusual when Wilson-Raybould attended a meeting of the same cabinet which she had resigned from just the week before. An investigation into whether the Prime Minister’s Office pressured Wilson-Raybould out of the cabinet was prevented through the Liberal Parties use of their majority in parliament on the 20th of the month.
Conveniently, the following month, Liberal members of the House of Commons ethic committee prevented further investigation into the SNC-Lavalin incident after the committee completed its enquiry. One of the first major blows to the Trudeau government came out later in March of this year as 17 minutes of a conversation between Wilson-Raybould and public servant Michael Wernick, in which Wilson-Raybould said the following:
“Michael, I have to say, including this conversation, previous conversations I’ve had with the PM and people around him are entirely inappropriate. It is political interference.” The consequences for the pair was being kicked out of the kind of inner circle which exists within the Canadian Liberal Party.
The attempts to quash comments from Members of Parliament from telling the truth, making the Trudeau government look increasingly guilty, continued just days later. Andrew Scheer, the MP for Regina — Qu’Appelle, confirmed in a news conference that there had been an attempt by the Trudeau’s lawyers to silence him:
“I stand by every single criticism I have made of Mr. Trudeau’s conduct in regards to this scandal, including those Mr. Trudeau’s lawyer cites in his letter,”
This was back in April and the speculation even then was rising against the Trudeau administration over the rumours of bribery. The scandal took its toll on the Liberal Party with a Leger Poll at the end of the month putting them 13 points behind the Conservatives. Even Trudeau’s charm was unable to steer his party away from a PR disaster and national outrage, it was reflected heavily within the public.
It was earlier this month, the fourteenth to be precise, that the final report from the ethics committee was released. The 60-page document gave a damning summary of how the Trudeau government broke national ethics laws. Commissioner Mario Dion of the committee summed up the findings:
“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,”
Looking ahead, it is more than possible that the scandal could be taken into a court of law under the jurisdiction of the RCMP. However, with a General Election looming in October, any further investigation could be a double blow. Justin Trudeau was hardly nailed on to be victorious in the next election, yet a national scandal over government distributed work may well seal his and his parties’ fate. A promising political career could soon be about to take a monumental blow.