Are Justin Trudeau and His PMO Insiders Above the Law?

The Niagara Independent, September 13, 2019 — The dark clouds of the SNC-Lavalin scandal rolled in once again, the day the Prime Minister officially called the federal election. Canadians were informed by Globe & Mail headlines that the government was thwarting the efforts of the police to investigate wrong doings of the Prime Minister’s Office. So, on the launch day of the campaign, Canadians were prompted to query the infallibility of Canada’s democratic institutions and the country’s rule of law. Are Justin Trudeau and his PMO insiders above the law?

In their in-depth news report, “Ottawa blocks RCMP on SNC-Lavalin inquiry” G&M journalists Robert Fife and Daniel Leblanc revealed that the federal government is blocking attempts by the RCMP to look into the potential political involvement in the SNC-Lavalin scandal. The police “are being stymied” — restricted in their interviews with potential witnesses, who say they cannot speak of any details because of cabinet confidentiality rules. Former RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson is quoted, “In my experience, particularly, cabinet privilege is over-asserted and I guess more widely applied than it deserved.”

In a follow-up news report, the G&M quoted former Attorney General and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould as saying she was interviewed by the Mounties on Tuesday and she had concerns about cabinet confidences that will shield witnesses from answering RCMP questions. Wilson-Raybould suggests the Liberal government must waive the cabinet confidentiality that is blocking the RCMP from fully investigating so that the truth of the matter can be heard.

This is the third time in weeks that the SNC-Lavalin scandal made headlines. First, last month, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion found Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act. His report stated that “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.” Second, the Liberal-dominated Ethics Committee of the House of Commons voted down any further review by Parliament of the PMO wrong doing in the SNC Lavalin scandal. And now third, the RCMP is frustrated in carrying out its duty to investigate the PMO.

Essentially, the Prime Minister has side-stepped the Ethics Commissioner’s findings, shut down the House of Commons committee and now has blocked the RCMP investigation. The appalling significance of this third strike is that Trudeau is supporting the obstruction of an investigation into obstruction of justice.

In answer to questions about the G&M news, Justin Trudeau stated he is simply adhering to the direction of his Clerk of the Privy Council: “We respect the decisions made by our professional public servants. We respect the decision made by the clerk.”

It appears Clerk of the Privy Council Ian Shugart has determined, on his own accord and by his own authority, that cabinet confidence is more important than a police investigation into obstruction of justice in a case involving corruption. Shugart maintains that the RCMP are to be blocked from questioning certain details because of “cabinet confidentiality.”

However, in our parliamentary institution, the Clerk works for the PM, not the other way around. Ian Shugart works for Justin Trudeau. The PM holds the authority to decide when and under what circumstances the Clerk is to exert “cabinet confidentiality.” The PM can waive this issue of cabinet confidence and allow people to speak freely to the police.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer launched the first day of his campaign by accusing Justin Trudeau of having lost the “moral authority” to govern. Scheer called on Trudeau to act immediately to restore confidence in our Canadian rule of law: “I’m calling on Justin Trudeau to do the right thing and immediately waive full privilege so those individuals can testify to the RCMP. If he had nothing to hide, he would waive the privilege and let the RCMP do their work.”

“We know that the power to waive cabinet confidence and the power to waive privilege rests with the prime minister. That is clear. It’s within his power to do so,” Scheer stated. When asked about the significance of the G&M report, he said, “What today shows is that you just cannot trust Justin Trudeau. He will say anything to cover up his scandals and he’ll say anything to get re-elected and Canadians cannot believe the things he says.”

National Post political columnist Andrew Coyne suggests the dark clouds of this scandal are sure to follow Justin Trudeau around throughout the campaign. Coyne makes the point: “The issues involved in the SNC-Lavalin affair are too important to be treated so flippantly. This isn’t about whether to raise or lower taxes or some other question of policy on which people of goodwill can differ, but whether we are to have an impartial system of justice, or one in which powerful corporations can wriggle out of prosecution by lobbying the right politicians.”

Footnote: Canadians will hear more on the SNC-Lavalin scandal in coming weeks. On September 20 the company is back in court to face its $50 million bribery and fraud charges relating to the government contracts in Libya. On the same day, former Attorney General and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould will release a book that promises to provide her vision of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples (and, perhaps, this will offer another chance to hear her perspective on the scandal and what is being hid from Canadians).

 

Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK: https://niagaraindependent.ca/are-justin-trudeau-and-his-pmo-insiders-above-the-law/

Liberals campaigning without mention of PM Justin Trudeau

Liberal MP Connie Denesiuk with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Denesiuk has already published media spots without Trudeau.

The Niagara Independent, August 30, 2019 — In 2015 the Liberals successful election campaign was energized with the images of Justin Trudeau. Indeed, many unknown Liberal candidates rode the Leaders’ popularity to victory and to their seat in Ottawa. But this is 2019 and today the image of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prompts more grimaces and frowns than it does smiles.

A slew of national opinion polls report that the Canadian electorate is divided between the Liberal and Conservative parties. However, the same polling suggests there is a growing consensus of distrust in and dislike for Trudeau.

A new poll this month from Angus Reid found that PM Trudeau’s support has sank significantly and that two of every three Canadians (65 percent) disapprove of Trudeau’s performance in office. Nearly one in two Canadians (47 percent) “strongly disapprove” of Justin Trudeau. Parsing the data, we learn Trudeau remains most popular with millennials (39 percent approval). But among those aged 55 and older, his 2015 approval rating of 63 percent has dropped like a stone to 30 percent.

Liberal-friendly Abacus Data recently found similar polling results: there are twice as many Canadians saying they disapprove of the PM as those who say they approve of him. Only 32 percent of Canadians have a positive impression of Trudeau, down 12 points in the last four months.

Yet it is the American polling firm Zogby Analytics that perhaps illustrates best just how bad things are for the Canadian PM. The firm notes that there are more Canadians who disapprove than approve of Trudeau’s time in office. Zogby analysts underline the fact that now Trudeau is less popular than US President Donald Trump (who has a current approval rating of 51 percent.)

All the pollsters suggest that at the core of the sudden, sharp drop in Justin Trudeau’s approval ratings is the PM being found guilty of breaking conflict of interest laws in the SNC Lavalin scandal. To this point, the Liberals are doing everything they can to turn the page on the Ethics Commissioner’s damning conclusions that Trudeau and his senior PMO staff inappropriately pressured then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. The Liberals hope they may have buried the story for good. Last week in Ottawa a Liberal-majority voted to block any further parliamentary committee review of the Ethics Commissioner and his findings. With that, the PM can move forward from this mess and ask Canadian voters to “Choose Forward.”

Still the PM’s remarkable unpopularity has some Liberal MPs disassociating themselves from Justin Trudeau. Ottawa-based paper The Hill Times recently ran a feature story in which sitting Liberal MPs (who wished to remain anonymous) are quoted as saying, “Some [candidates] are not going to use Trudeau’s name or picture in their campaign material.” The paper mentions B.C. Liberal candidate Connie Denesiuk, who is running in South Okanagan-West Kootenay. Denesiuk has removed the image of Mr. Trudeau from a painting on her 2019 campaign car that has previously featured her alongside the Liberal leader.

Another example can be found with Ottawa-area MP Karen McCrimmon. She represents Kanata-Carleton and is one of those sitting MPs who has already published media spots without PM Justin Trudeau. In fact, McCrimmon’s newspaper ads have no reference to the PM, no Liberal Party emblem, and do not mention that she sits as a Government MP. And unlike her 2015 election campaign materials where the PM adorned everything from her canvass literature to her campaign office windows, McCrimmon has, with the exception of her website, stripped all images of Justin Trudeau from her re-election materials.

Yet there is an ironic twist to this Liberal backbencher’s story. MP McCrimmon sits on the parliamentary committee that last week discussed the Ethics Commissioner report respecting the obstruction of justice activities surrounding the PM, the PMO and SNC Lavalin. She is one of those Liberal-majority committee members who voted to shut down any further inquiry into the PM’s role with the scandal. So, on one hand McCrimmon is disassociating herself from her Leader; and on the other hand she is complicit in attempting to protect the PM’s bruised reputation.

With Justin Trudeau’s approval numbers as they are today, Liberals recognize that to win this election it cannot become a referendum on the Prime Minister and his character. It is why Liberal candidates want voters to think of anything but, “A vote for the Liberals is a vote for Justin Trudeau.” It is why some of those candidates have dropped mention of PM Trudeau altogether.

MP Karen McCrimmon’s newspaper ads have no reference

to the PM, no Liberal Party emblem, and do not mention

that she sits as a Government MP.

 

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK:  https://niagaraindependent.ca/liberals-campaigning-without-mention-of-pm-justin-trudeau/

Prime Minister Attempting to Defuse Ethic Commissioner’s Findings

The Niagara Independent, August 16, 2019 — It was an explosive spectacle this week when Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion made public his findings on the conduct of the Prime Minister and his Office respecting their obstruction of justice in the SNC Lavalin scandal. It was as if all of Ottawa was caught up in some WWE SmackDown extravaganza. Though the core issue may be a question of ethical leadership and a non-partisan judiciary, it was raw politics that overshadowed every public statement on the Commissioner’s work.

The Ethics Commissioner report found the Prime Minister violated Canadian law by attempting to influence the former Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould. The PM and his Office exerted continuous pressure on the former minister to advance a deferred prosecution agreement for Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin. The Commissioner concluded: “The evidence showed there were many ways in which Mr. Trudeau, either directly or through the actions of those under his direction, sought to influence the attorney general.”

Commissioner Dion stated: “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.”

The report cited strong-armed tactics by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office – Canada’s most senior public office-holders. The inappropriate pressure by the likes of the PM’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts and former Privy Council Office clerk Michael Wernick was for “partisan political interests” all to give SNC Lavalin (headquarters in the PM’s riding) a deal that would avoid prosecution on bribery and corruption charges.

Within Commissioner Dion’s report there are many facts that are now being made public, such as: SNC Lavalin lobbyists began their discussions with PM Trudeau in 2016 shortly after the Liberal Government was elected; and, the PMO pressure campaign continued long after Jody Wilson-Raybould told the PM and his officials that their actions were improper, and should cease.

Canadians now know “LavScam” has been an orchestrated and sustained political power-play by PM Justin Trudeau and his PMO operative Gerald Butts that spans years. Though the detailed report named many conspirators in the sordid activity, Commissioner Dion concluded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau bears the blame.

The PM’s response to the Ethic Commissioner’s conclusion was swift and the news headlines in the Toronto Star and with CBC heralded his key message: “I take responsibility.” Indeed, PM Trudeau stated he accepts full responsibility for what transpired. However, in his media conference, this assertion was nuanced and PM Trudeau remained unapologetic to his former minister and to Canadians for what he now acknowledges was his obstruction of justice.

Justin Trudeau said, “We recognize the way that this happened shouldn’t have happened… My job as prime minister is to stand up for Canadians and defend their interests. Yes, it is essential that we do that in a way that defends our institutions and upholds prosecutorial independence, but we need to talk about the impacts on Canadians right across the country of decisions being made. I can’t apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs.”

The following day the Prime Minister repeated the rationale that his sense of “what is in the public interest” will trump any notion of an unencumbered Canadian judiciary. “I’m not going to apologize for standing up for Canadians’ jobs because that’s my job — to make sure that Canadians, communities and families across the country are supported, and that’s what I will always do.”

Many found this response incredulously inappropriate. As political columnist Brian Lilley puts it: “Apparently to Trudeau, helping a company that has a long history of bribery and corruption avoid criminal charges is in the best interests of the country. In Trudeau’s world, having politicians decide which individuals or corporations get prosecuted criminally, based on electoral considerations, is in the interests of the country.”

For her part, Jody Wilson-Raybould responded in a written statement that the Ethic Commissioner’s report was a vindication as it “ confirms critical facts, consistent with what I shared with Canadians, and affirms the position I have taken from the outset.” Wilson-Raybould observed: “In a country as great as Canada, essential values and principles that are the foundation for our freedoms and system of government should be actively upheld by all, especially those in positions of public trust. We should not struggle to do this; and we should not struggle to acknowledge when we have acted in ways that do not meet these standards.” 

The fall-out from the initial news of the Ethic Commissioner’s report has been a score of opinion pieces that reassess the circumstances surrounding the SNC Lavalin scandal. Opposition Leaders are calling for a RCMP investigation and claiming Justin Trudeau has lost his moral authority to govern. In response, the Liberal campaign machine has launched a social media campaign “IStandWithTrudeau” to defend the PM, and deflect and devalue the facts within the report.

It is a SmackDown. Ottawa’s political spin-masters know that in the arena of public opinion, whoever wins this round will have the momentum going into the election campaign. The fact that the Prime Minister is guilty of obstruction of justice is secondary to the political match playing itself out. In one corner, PM Trudeau and his BFF Gerald Butts; and, in the other corner Madame Justice (not Jody Wilson-Raybould, but the fundamental principles that should underpin our Canadian justice system). It would be remarkable entertainment if it was not so very important.

 

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK: https://niagaraindependent.ca/prime-minister-attempting-to-defuse-ethic-commissioners-findings/

Deja Vu in Ottawa: Is PM Trudeau’s Bill C-69 His Father’s NEP?

The Niagara Independent, November 16, 2018 – Parliament Hill is seized with pipeline politics. Our country’s oil and gas sector is pitted against Ottawa’s bureaucracy. Western Canadians are feeling betrayed and victimized by Prime Minister Trudeau. It’s déjà vu all over again!

This drama is unfolding in the Senate of Canada where a piece of legislation is being hotly debated on the floor of the Upper House. Bill C-69, the Impact Assessment Act, will establish new federal government environmental assessment processes for the development of all major resources projects in Canada. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna claims it will restore public trust and provide greater transparency in government approval processes, for it ensures greater public input, greater participation by Indigenous peoples, and it is intended to ensure decisions will be informed by scientific evidence.

However, critics point to the fact Bill C-69 creates more federal bureaucracy and a new regulatory agency. The legislation also dictates new timelines and specific steps for full public hearing processes that will be all-inclusive, including international groups and interests beyond Canada’s borders. It will put “gender considerations” on an equal footing with economic factors at hearings on pipelines and other megaprojects.

Most concerning for the oil and gas sector, and its investors, is the fact Bill C-69 enshrines in law that all new pipelines and major projects will be subjected to a National Energy Board review of upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions tied to the project.

The legislation was introduced in early February and sailed through the House of Commons with support from the Liberal majority. However, now, in the Senate, it has come under close scrutiny – particularly by senators representing Western Canada. In echoing the strong resistance from leaders in Canada’s energy, mining, forestry and port expansion industries, Alberta’s Independent Senator Doug Black recently told the Financial Post, “This bill is so seriously flawed – you’d have to have hundreds of amendments.”

“Under this proposed legislation, we’re not going to need to worry about the time for projects and the opposition of projects because we’re hearing from companies that would be natural proponents to develop the Canadian resource industry, simply saying: ‘We’re not even going to apply.’…Canada has a sign in the window which says, ‘Closed for business’.”

Opposition to Bill C-69 is mounting, fueled by the growing frustrations within the oil and gas sector, and from Western Canadians who feel Ottawa is deaf to their calls for changes to the bill.Hal Kvisle, former CEO of TransCanada Corporation said: “Bill C-69 is an absolutely devastating piece of legislation.” While Rick Peterson, spokesperson for a national not-for-profit group of resource sector investment professionals said: “The reality is this bill…radically and negatively reworks the environmental assessment requirements for new resource projects. It is terrible legislation that needs to be re-done…C-69 must die in the Senate.”

Rich Kruger, Imperial Oil Ltd. CEO added: “A cloud of uncertainty hovers over whether or not global investors would choose to sink their money into Canadian energy.” While Jim Davidson, the recently-retired chairman of energy-focused investment bank GMP FirstEnergy, called the capital flight from Canada’s oil patch “the worst he’s ever seen.”

In a Calgary Postmedia editorial this week, Licia Corbella has best captured the exasperation of Westerners and those working and investing in Alberta’s oil fields when she observed:Like father, like son? When it comes to instituting policies considered disastrous to Alberta’s energy industry, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not unlike his father – former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who announced the devastating National Energy Program on Oct. 28, 1980, almost 38 years ago to the day…”

 

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK:  https://niagaraindependent.ca/deja-vu-in-ottawa-is-pm-trudeaus-bill-c-69-his-fathers-nep/

The Canada-U.S. Trade Talks Saga

The Canada-U.S. Trade Talks Saga is a three-part series first printed in The Niagara Independent.

 

Part One

In Ottawa, there are two prevailing threads of thought on what has become the never-ending saga of the Canada-U.S. Trade Talks. One is rallying behind Prime Minister Trudeau and supporting the Liberal Government’s attempt to reason with an unpredictable U.S. President. The second is highly critical, suggesting that the Liberals are purposely sabotaging the negotiations for their own domestic political gains. The next three columns will review the political gamesmanship between Canada and the U.S. and assess what all the public posturing may mean for the outcome of the trade talks – and for the 2019 federal election.

CLICK:  https://niagaraindependent.ca/the-canada-u-s-trade-talks-saga-part-one/

 

Part Two

This is the second of a three column series on the Canada-U.S. trade talks. This column reflects on the criticism that the Liberals have purposely sabotaged the trade negotiations for their political gain in an election year.

Not all are supportive of the Trudeau Government’s trade negotiation tactics with the United States.

CLICK:  https://niagaraindependent.ca/the-canada-u-s-trade-talks-saga-part-two/

 

Part Three

This is the third of a three column series on the Canada-U.S. trade talks, reviewing our National Leaders’ political gamesmanship and assessing what it means for the outcome of the trade talks – and for the 2019 federal election.

CLICK:  https://niagaraindependent.ca/the-canada-u-s-trade-talks-saga-part-three/

 

Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer or experienced communicator? 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.