Ethics commissioner eyes spring return after stepping away for medical reasons
In this file image, Canada’s new ethics watchdog, Mario Dion, is seen at the Commons estimates committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday December 13, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Adrian Wyld)
Published Thursday, April 4, 2019 4:24PM EDT
OTTAWA – Federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said he is confident that he will be able to fully return to his work "later this spring," after announcing in March that he would be taking a "prolonged" absence from his role as the government’s conflict of interest watchdog, for medical reasons.
This means he could return before Parliament rises to continue his investigation into the SNC-Lavalin scandal, should it not have already been concluded.
"While I am still on medical leave to complete the healing process, I am very pleased with the progress made and confident that I will be able to fully resume my professional activities later this spring," Dion said in a new statement to CTVNews.ca.
When he announced his leave, he vowed that the work of his office would continue, including gathering information for any ongoing investigations.
"In the meantime, I am able to steer key issues and have been consulted on several occasions. I have full confidence in my staff and am quite pleased with the way we have managed a difficult and unusual situation," Dion said in the new statement.
The probe was announced in February, days after the news broke that Jody Wilson-Raybould faced inappropriate attempted political interference from senior officials in the SNC-Lavalin case.
At the time, Dion's office stated that there was "reason to believe that a possible contravention" of the Conflict of Interest Act has occurred. Specifically, in regards to whether or not a public office holder sought to improperly influence a decision of another person.
In a letter to the NDP confirming the probe which they sought, Dion said that he thought it was a possible contravention of Section 9 that may have taken place. "Section 9 prohibits a public office holder from seeking to influence a decision of another person so as to improperly further another person's private interest. As a result, I have initiated an examination … and have so informed Mr. Trudeau," Dion wrote.
His examination will include allowing the public office holder in question — in this case Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and possibly Wilson-Raybould as well — to present the details of the situation from their side, and, if needed, summoning witnesses and compelling them to provide evidence.
The solicitor-client privilege waiver Trudeau issued prior to her Feb. 27 testimony allows Wilson-Raybould and "any person who directly participated in discussions with her," to speak about the case to the ethics czar.
Trudeau has said he "welcomes" the investigation and has since repeated in question period that he views it as the most apt venue for further consideration of the SNC-Lavalin affair after Liberal MPs shut down the House Justice Committee study.