North Island politicians are weighing in on the SNC-Lavalin affair, with NDP MP Rachel Blaney calling for a public inquiry and Conservative candidate Shelley Downey saying that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should resign.
“I think the Prime Minister has to do the right thing, which is make sure that Canadians understand what happened, and that should be done in public,” Blaney said, echoing NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
Downey, who was acclaimed as Tory candidate for the North Island-Powell River riding in December, repeated Conservative Party leader Andrew Sheer’s demand for Trudeau to step down.
|North-Island Powell River MP Rachel Blaney at a community event in Campbell River, Feb. 28, 2019. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror|
“If he was an honourable man, he should resign,” said Downey, a Port McNeill town councillor who runs a pharmacy with her husband.
Meanwhile, Green Party leader Elizabeth May has also called for a public inquiry.
The Globe and Mail reported on Feb. 7 that when Jody Wilson-Raybould was serving as attorney general and minister of justice, she came under pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to stop a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, a multinational engineering firm based in Montreal.
Wilson-Raybould was reassigned as minister of veterans affairs in January, but quit that position on Feb. 12. She provided a detailed account of phone calls and meetings about the SNC-Lavalin affair at the House of Commons justice committee on Feb. 27, accusing Trudeau and senior government officials of political interference in the case.
This week, former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott resigned from cabinet, saying she had “serious concerns” about the Prime Minister’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin issue.
The scandal also led to the resignation of Gerald Butts, who was Trudeau’s principal secretary. During hearings by the House of Commons justice committee on Wednesday, Butts said that Wilson-Raybould’s reshuffling was unrelated to the SNC-Lavalin case and that nothing inappropriate took place.
Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion is probing allegations of political interference. But that doesn’t go far enough, said Blaney, the North Island-Powell River representative.
“I think saying that the conflict of interest commissioner is going to look into this – that’s a real hidden process you’re not going to hear a lot about,” she said. “And if anything’s found, it’ll be a small fine.”
Office holders who violate provisions of the federal Conflict of Interest Act are subject to a fine of up to $500.
Downey said the case raises serious questions about the Trudeau government.
“I do have concerns about what we’re witnessing in our Parliament today, with Trudeau’s involvement and how he has interfered with our system of justice, and meddling in the SNC affair,” Downey said.
|Shelley Downey, Conservative candidate for North Island-Powell River. File photo|
“We all have to ask ourselves the question, is it okay for the Prime Minister of Canada to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion?”
Blaney praised Wilson-Raybould, saying that people from the riding admired her decision to speak out.
“She stepped up and talked about things that were incredibly hard,” Blaney said. “I cannot imagine the pressure for her right now, to be in the spotlight the way that she is, and the sense of, I would assume, betrayal of the government that she supported, worked hard for for many years.”
Blaney noted the local roots of Wilson-Raybould, a member of We Wai Kai Nation and former band councillor.
“Knowing that somebody that’s from this traditional territory is going through that is really upsetting to people who have known her for a very long time,” she said. “I have deep respect for the position of integrity that she has taken.”
Asked about the former attorney general’s decision to speak out, Downey said, “I watched the proceedings that morning when she spoke to the justice committee, and I found her to be very credible.”
The Liberal and the Green party riding associations for North Island-Powell River haven’t yet chosen candidates for the upcoming federal election, which is slated for Oct. 21.