Ethics commissioner ready to testify to committee today: NDP critic
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, August 21, 2019 10:04AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 21, 2019 11:23AM EDT
OTTAWA -- Ethics commissioner Mario Dion could testify to a parliamentary committee as early as Wednesday afternoon about his findings on the prime minister's breach of the Conflict of Interest Act, the NDP's Charlie Angus says.
But whether the House of Commons ethics committee moves ahead with the study of Dion's report rests in the hands of the Liberal MPs who hold the majority of seats.
Dion had said he would make himself available to testify when MPs meet, but Angus said he spoke to the chair of the committee to ensure that would be an option.
Angus said Dion would likely appear by video conference.
"I am hoping, and I expect that, Mr. Dion will be able to provide testimony ... and then we can finally get some clear answers," Angus said.
Dion released a scathing report last week that concluded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau breached a section of the ethics code by improperly pressuring former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to end criminal proceedings on corruption charges against the Montreal engineering giant.
For his part, Trudeau has said he disagrees with, but accepts, Dion's findings and was acting to protect Canadian jobs.
In his report, Dion also disclosed that he couldn't get all the information he required, as potential witnesses and Trudeau's office claimed cabinet confidence stopped from them from sharing everything they knew.
"This is a very important report, it is a very damning report and it also raises questions about the fundamental powers of the ethics commissioner in terms of the interference and obstruction that was laid in his path by the Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council," Angus said.
Trudeau has shown a complete disregard for the rule of law, Angus added, noting that's what got him into trouble: "He needs to really grow up and assume the role of prime minister here and not just a public figure who thinks he's impervious to accountability."
Conservatives and New Democrats pushed for the emergency committee meeting to be held early Wednesday afternoon. Agreeing to invite Dion to appear would mean keeping the SNC-Lavalin controversy in the headlines as MPs gear up for the Oct. 21 election.
On Wednesday morning, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer reiterated his call for the Liberals to put partisan interests ahead of their own and let the study proceed.
"We will learn today whether or not scandal and corruption is limited to just the Liberal party's leader in the form of Justin Trudeau, or whether or not this rot has infected the entire Liberal caucus and the entire Liberal party," Scheer said at an event in Richmond Hill, Ont.
Scheer said that if the study fails to go ahead, he hopes to be able to convince voters to hold Trudeau accountable on voting day this October.
"We cannot have a lawmaker who is a lawbreaker."
Trudeau has suggested voters want to move on.
A new poll suggests Dion's report hasn't so far hurt the Liberals' chances of re-election this fall, nor has it helped the Conservatives.
The Leger poll suggests the two parties were locked in a dead heat, with the support of 33 per cent of voters, as they jockey for position at the starting gate for the Oct. 21 vote.
Liberal support was unchanged from last month, despite Dion's report, and Conservative support was down three percentage points from last month, despite the party's best efforts to re-ignite public outrage over the affair.
The online survey of 1,535 eligible voters was conducted Aug. 16-19 for The Canadian Press and weighted to reflect the makeup of Canada's population; it cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.
It is unhelpful to apply the frame of a political horse race to a question of the rule of law, Angus said.
"I'm less concerned about whether Mr. Trudeau is up one point or down one point," he said. "My concern is if he interfered with a prosecution and we have to have some manner of accountability, whether it is him or for future prime ministers. Otherwise, we don't have the rule of law in this country."