Monday, February 11, 2019

UPDATED: Where Is The Public Good In All Of This?

H/t Greg Perry

His fulminations about the need for a public inquiry notwithstanding, it should surprise no one that Conservative leader Andrew Scheer met with officials of SNC-Lavalin to discuss the criminal charges they were facing. But to simply accuse him of his obvious hypocrisy and dismiss the controversy of Justin Trudeau's alleged attempt to interfere with the pursuit of justice is surely to ignore the increasingly fetid odour emanating from his office.

Consider, for example, what Canada's top prosecutor has to say about political and corporate interference in prosecutorial decisions:
In Federal Court documents obtained by the Star, [Kathleen] Roussel responds to SNC-Lavalin, saying that it has no legal right or entitlement to any deal; that prosecutors are independent with broad discretion on how to proceed with charges; and that under the Constitution, prosecutors are free from political or judicial interference.

She says the law passed last year allowing for what is called “deferred prosecution agreements” (a new regime that was stuffed into an omnibus budget bill) [the very kind of bill the Liberals railed against while in opposition - funny how the perch of power changes one's perspective, eh?] is explicit about what factors prosecutors must not consider in corruption cases:

“The prosecutor must not consider the national economic interest, the potential effect on relations with a state other than Canada or the identity of the organization or individual involved” where an organization is charged under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, as in SNC-Lavalin’s case.

In other words, the the director of public prosecutions is arguing that, while the law sets out other criteria Roussel could consider when weighing the public interest, she’s not allowed by law to consider whether a company is too big to fail.
Implicit is that the administration of justice should be the guiding principle behind the pursuit of cases, neither corporate nor political considerations being part of the formula.
The written brief also takes a strong stand against any political interference in prosecutorial decisions, saying it “could erode the integrity of our system of prosecution.”
And it is integrity that should be our uppermost consideration. We have, in this country, the likely accurate perception that there are two kinds of justice: one for the powerful and entitled, and another for the rest of us. To willfully and cravenly defer prosecution on the basis of who the accused is would further erode public confidence in our institutions at a time when there are many forces, both within and without, committed to sowing division and disunity.

More cynicism is the last thing we need today. It is time for the Trudeau government to pull in its neoliberal horns, respect the independence of the federal prosecutor's office, and allow the corporate chips to fall where they may.

UPDATE: An interesting new development:
The federal ethics commissioner has launched an investigation into allegations that former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould was pressured by the prime minister’s office to seek mediation instead of pursuing criminal charges against Quebec construction giant, SNC-Lavalin.

Mario Dion, the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner, confirmed in a letter to two NDP MPs that he would probe allegations that became public last week.

In his letter, Dion says that based on the complaint by the two MPs, media reports and other information, he has “reason to believe” that a possible contravention of section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act has occurred.

That section prohibits a public office holder from seeking to influence a decision of another person to improperly further another person’s private interests.


  1. I wonder if the prosecutorial service resisted political interference when they ran the farcical, 33-count prosecution of Duffy only to see him acquitted of every last charge? That entire business was ginned up.

    On Lavalin, I think these deferred prosecution agreements are missing one critical element, a provision that the "too big to fail" corporation be broken up, a divestiture of divisions, so that it will never again be able to put the government over a barrel. Corporations do that routinely when it's in their interests. Why ought they not to be compelled to do it when it's in the public interest and they've been caught out?

    1. I agree, Mound, but I imagine such a move would send the rabid-right howling: "How dare a government interfere in the sacred operations of private enterprise!"

  2. Those who Leona Helmsley famously called "the little people" receive no such consideration, Lorne.

    1. I guess the message is that we should all know our place, Owen, and not question our 'betters.'

  3. .. I maintained from the very beginning of the Lavalin furor.. That all was well, Ms Roussel and Ms Wilson-Reubould did exactly the right thing, at the time the issue was being generated.

    Of course I understand the political furor.. & that there's a huge economic issue that could enwrap Lavalin employees. In the meantime, for whatever reason, Veteran's Affairs has gained a truly worthy advocate.. one hopes our government can profit accordingly.. of course the petty politics are in play within the Trudeau hierarchy.. but we shall see.

    In the meantime I expect Andrew Scheer to 'be given what he deserves' ie a stiff 'flock off' from the Liberal side.. and all the pundits in MainMedia can join him on their fainting couches. The matter is before the courts now.. and perhaps many an appeal may be launched in the future.. to mitigate the penalty, revise the law suitably, for important exceptions.. BUT .. the Law must be served and upheld.

    All the whiny political animals can pound salt, howl & grieve.. try to wring votes out of the Globe and Mail failure.. I did send Mound an interesesting treatise on the matter.. by Graig Forcese.. I used that excellent reference to frame much of my perceptions on the matter.. rather than the flawed wordology of the Globe 'report'. The whole mess smacks of 'vote hysteria' in my view.. Mucho posturing and jockeying & faux outraged by Opposition who were asleep at the wheel. Perhaps Andrew Scheer will hump his learned middle class ass to Question Period for a change BUT he faces the inevitable questions re his own meeting with the CEO of Lavalin to discuss the deferred prosecution potentials.. if only he were in charge..

    1. There is no doubt that politics in its worst manifestations is at work in the outrage of Mr. Scheer et al., Sal. Nonetheless, I do see this allegation, if true, as part of a pattern on the part of Mr. Trudeau and his ilk. When you consider his facile dismissal last year of suggestions of wrongdoing by his good fundraising friend, Mr. Bronfman, as well as the CRA's lack of rigor in the pursuit of offshore tax cheats compared with the striking results other jurisdictions are getting, one is left with the impression that some are given a special consideration that others are denied.