Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Very briefly, I wanted to follow up on a point from Mr. Erskine-Smith in his very first intervention, regarding improperly furthering private interests. I do so because we're not going to hear from the Ethics Commissioner to defend his report, so I thought I'd step into his shoes for a quick two minutes.
The Ethics Commissioner, on page 45, for those who care, does go into a deep understanding and a deep dive on what is improperly furthering private interests. What may be of interest to the committee is that the former ethics commissioner Mary Dawson in fact wrote a paper and gave a number of speeches with respect to whether or not there had been improper furthering of private interests. I would just like to read this into the record, because this is the important part.
It is agreed by the Ethics Commissioner, and I think by a number of people around the table, that indeed the conduct of the Prime Minister was improper in the way he tried to further the interest. I do believe it's also agreed in plain that the private interest of SNC-Lavalin is very evident as well. They stood to receive a huge gain should they be successful in getting the criminal charges diverted in another direction. That's why they put so much effort into it.
Therefore, we know that it was improper. We know that there was a private interest involved. The question comes down to how we can do anything as politicians if we're not allowed to stand up for the public interest. I would just read this to the committee, because I think Mary Dawson did it well when she talked about this fact:
We have had several cases focussing on the general prohibition, found in both the Act and the Members’ Code, against improperly furthering the private interests of someone who may not be a friend or relative. The qualifier “improperly” reflects that fact that Members and public office holders routinely and legitimately further the private interests of particular groups or individuals through the formulation and implementation of public policy. Politicians, in particular, should be able to voice their support for fellow politicians and particular political agendas, and should not be restricted from doing so on the grounds that it may incidentally result in furthering particular private interests.
However, this is a very different situation because the focus of the action in question was really only ever on the private interests of SNC-Lavalin. The improper steps that the Prime Minister took in four different instances, which the Ethics Commissioner enunciates in his report, and the number of times political considerations came into the motivation for seeking to make the Attorney General change her mind clearly show that it was improper. It fails the test of improper. It is clearly within the realm of private interest, and the Ethics Commissioner I'm sure would be able to explain, as I have, that it is not about whether or not a politician can lobby on behalf of their company, or a situation. What it comes down to is whether or not you do it in a proper manner, and this clearly was improper.
That is the crux and the nub of the entire report. The Ethics Commissioner found that the Prime Minister broke the law because he improperly furthered the private interests of SNC-Lavalin and attempted to get them diverted from a criminal case into a different stream that would be more beneficial for them financially and, I would expect, reputationally too.
Thank you for that.