Wilson-Raybould on SNC-Lavalin ethics report: 'Canadians need to have their trust rebuilt'
A day after a report was released that found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke federal ethics laws in the SNC-Lavalin affair, the woman at the centre of the scandal is still looking for one thing: an apology to Canadians.
In an interview with Global News Thursday, former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould said Trudeau’s continued refusal to say he’s sorry for his actions is glaring after the report from ethics commissioner Mario Dion, which backed up the now-Independent MP’s version of events.
“I was always taught that when you do something wrong, you apologize for it,” Wilson-Raybould said. “I think it would have gone a long way.
“I think it’s important to ensure Canadians have a measure of trust in their public officials. I think it’s an opportunity to apologize to Canadians and rebuild some trust that has been lost.”
Dion found that Trudeau broke the Conflict of Interest Act, specifically Section 9, which bars public office holders from “using their position to seek to influence a decision to improperly further the private interests of a third party.”
Wilson-Raybould testified before the House of Commons justice committee this spring that she faced a campaign of inappropriate pressure from Trudeau and 10 of his most senior officials last year to offer a deferred prosecution agreement to SNC-Lavalin.
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Dion’s report reinforces Wilson-Raybould’s concerns about her interactions with the prime minister and his staff, noting a specific desire to “improperly further the interests of SNC-Lavalin.”
Trudeau has said he accepts the report, but disagrees with some of its findings, including that he shouldn’t have raised concerns Wilson-Raybould should consider when making her decision.
Now that the report is out, Wilson-Raybould said the only regret she has is that it’s taken so long for the truth to come out.
“The regret I have is that this has preoccupied the country for now some eight months, and it didn’t have to,” she said.
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“Something went seriously wrong here, and this could have been resolved. Actions could have been taken to remedy this situation and to acknowledge it wouldn’t happen again, and potentially seen the prime minister apologize back as early as February. That, to me, is a regret.”
The scandal led to Wilson-Raybould being shuffled out of the justice minister role, before being booted from the Liberal caucus altogether in April. She is now running for reelection as an Independent in her riding of Vancouver-Granville.
Despite facing a historically tough hill to climb towards a second term without a party to back her, Wilson-Raybould said she’s hopeful the report on the scandal that made her a household name will lead to a different political climate.
“The undercurrent of what the report represents, or the desire of what I heard, is people want to do politics differently and in a less partisan way,” she said.
“As an Independent, I see myself somewhat as a bridge builder, trying to work towards addressing fundamental issues that aren’t particularized to one particular party. Like climate change: the only way we’re going to find a solution to that is to take off, as much as possible, our partisan hats.”
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Despite being barred from raising money until the writ drops for the October election, the Independent candidate said she has a team of 300 volunteers knocking on doors around the Vancouver-Granville riding four days a week to get the word out.
She said the report and the scandal itself isn’t at the top of her constituents’ minds, instead pointing to high-profile issues like affordable housing and the environment.
Beyond winning reelection, Wilson-Raybould said she wants Canadians to learn from what happened between her and the prime minister.
“We need to be very vigilant in terms of making sure our institutions are independent, that we underscore and enforce the fundamental tenants of our democracy and uphold the rule of law,” she said.
“I want individuals to act in a manner that makes sure we keep what’s sacred to us as Canadians, which is our democracy. Everybody has a role to play in that.”
— With files from Amanda Connolly and Nadia Stewart