Even though he disagrees with “some of the conclusions” contained within it, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he “fully accepts” a report by the ethics commissioner into the SNC-Lavalin case, adding he takes responsibility “for everything that happened,” and saying that “what happened over the past year shouldn’t have happened.”
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday afternoon, Trudeau said the point of disagreement for him “is where [the ethics commissioner] says that any contact with the Attorney General on this issue was improper.”
Trudeau said that as Prime Minister, his job “is to stand up for Canadians and defend their interests.”
And while it’s “essential that we do that in a way that defends our institutions, we need to be able to talk about the impacts on Canadians right across the country of decisions being made,” he added.
In his report, Canada’s Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by influencing the Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould in her decision on whether to intervene in a criminal prosecution involving SNC‑Lavalin.
Dion found that Trudeau contravened Section 9 of the act, which prohibits public office holders from using their position to seek to influence a decision to improperly further the private interests of a third party.
Asked whether he had any plans to resign – or at least apologize – as a result of the findings released in the report, Trudeau didn’t answer directly, saying that “many lessons” were learned.
“I recognize that this was a situation that shouldn’t have happened, but my desire to protect Canadians, and at the same time, to protect the integrity and independence of our judicial institutions remained throughout,” he said. “We recognize that the way this happened shouldn’t have happened, I take responsibility for the mistakes that I’ve made.”
With the report revealing that Trudeau used his position of authority “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,” the Prime Minister was asked if he would be firing his top officials who were involved with the case.
“As I said, I take full responsibility and the buck stops with the Prime Minister,” he responded. “I truly feel that what happened over the past year shouldn’t have happened, but we, at the same time, have a system in which we have to make improvements.”
Trudeau repeated that there are “many lessons” to be learned from the case, and “that’s why we will be moving forward with the recommendations on how to both advocate for the public interest and defend the integrity and the independence of our judicial and prosecutorial process.”
These things together, he furthered, “are important lynchpins of our system and they shouldn’t be out into conflict, as they were, as spelled out by the ethics commissioner.”
Moving forward, Trudeau said his government will be taking steps to ensure something like this “never happens again” under his government, or “any government in this country.”
In the report, Dion said Trudeau was “concerned about the issue of potential job losses and the repercussions to the company’s employees, pensioners, and shareholders.”
The Prime Minister’s overall aim, the report continued, “was to consult with the Attorney General to ensure that she had properly considered the option of negotiating a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin.”
Trudeau, along with his senior officials, “subsequently sought over a period of many months to have the Attorney General overrule the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision to not invite SNC-Lavalin to enter into negotiations towards a remediation agreement.”
Dion’s report also concluded that “SNC-Lavalin’s considerable private financial interests would undoubtedly have been furthered had Mr. Trudeau successfully influenced the Attorney General in her decision to overturn the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision relating to the company.”