I thank Mr. Erskine-Smith for his intervention.
He claims that the Prime Minister was acting in the public and not the private interest. Of course, the Ethics Commissioner finds exactly the opposite. He finds that the Prime Minister was acting in the private interest of SNC-Lavalin, and improperly so, thus the guilty finding under section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act. Yet Mr. Erskine-Smith goes on repeating what he admits he has no proof to state, which is that this was about jobs.
I reiterate that the top four players on the Prime Minister's team who tried to get a special deal for SNC-Lavalin admit they have no evidence that jobs would be lost. The Prime Minister admitted it during a press conference. His top bureaucrat admitted it before committee. His top adviser, Gerald Butts, admitted it before committee, and his finance minister admitted it right to the Ethics Commissioner's face.
Again, I will read the quote, from paragraph 126:
When asked if he, or his office, had undertaken a study or analysis of the economic impacts of the Director of Public Prosecutions' decision, Mr. Morneau testified that none had been conducted.
We know why. It's because they would not have gotten the answer they were looking for.
SNC-Lavalin's work is rooted in construction, which typically has to be done on site, and therefore the jobs associated with that construction could not simply vanish into thin air. The headquarters is bound to stay here until 2024, and the company just signed a multi-decade lease on that headquarters in the city of Montreal.
As for the excuse that SNC would be banned from federal contracts and therefore all kinds of jobs would be lost, one, obviously those contracts would go to companies that also employ Canadians, but two, that ban on bidding for federal contracts is a cabinet policy. If the Prime Minister simply wanted to preserve SNC's ability to bid on federal work after conviction, he could have allowed them to do so. He could simply have changed that policy to give the company an exemption and allow it to continue to bid on federal work.
Mr. MacKinnon and Mr. Erskine-Smith both admit that they have no evidence whatsoever to substantiate the jobs claim. The jobs claim is Mr. Erskine-Smith's purported public interest, but if there is no evidence to support that this public interest actually existed, then there must have been a private interest at work.
What motivated it? Let me quote a recent story from The Globe and Mail on this subject:
Mario Dion, the federal ethics watchdog, laid bare the all-too-cozy underside of Corporate Canada in finding the Prime Minister and his team violated the Conflict of Interest Act by relentlessly pushing former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to drop a criminal case against SNC-Lavalin. By naming names and detailing exactly what played out behind closed doors last fall, Mr. Dion showed how top executives at one of the country's largest banks came to feature prominently in this political drama.
Mr. Dion's report details the role that Bank of Montreal board chairman Robert Prichard and BMO vice-chair Kevin Lynch played in lobbying the Trudeau Liberals on behalf of SNC-Lavalin, including multiple pitches the pair made to former president of the Treasury Board Scott Brison last October and November.
Here's where things get far too cute: Mr. Brison stepped down as cabinet minister early this year to become vice-chair of the investment banking arm of, you guessed it, Bank of Montreal.
The article continues:
According to Mr. Dion, Mr. Prichard and Mr. Lynch first reached out to Mr. Brison in mid-October “on an unrelated matter,” then used the conversation to persuade the politician to give SNC-Lavalin a “remediation agreement.”
Mr. Brison later told the Ethics Commissioner that “the company's concerns appeared sensible,” and he contacted Ms. Wilson-Raybould the same day “to bring the company's concerns to her attention.”
And Ms. Wilson-Raybould said something to the effect of the lady's not for turning, explaining she could not interfere in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
Here we have just one instance. The chairman and the vice-chairman of one of Canada's most powerful banks, who also happen to be linked to SNC-Lavalin, ask the Treasury Board president to help the company get a deal. The same day he called the Attorney General and carried out their request, and what do you know? A few months later, he's all of a sudden a vice-chairman at that same bank.
The members across expect us to believe blindly that the Prime Minister was just waging a war in favour of the public interest when he relentlessly hounded his Attorney General to interrupt the prosecution of the company.
This is just one example of where there were clearly private interests at stake, clearly cozy relationships between extremely powerful people, and reciprocal back-scratching. We want to know, given that this whole jobs excuse has been debunked and the government, including Mr. MacKinnon, admits there is no evidence for it, what was the real motivation here? Why did the Prime Minister go to such lengths to protect this company? If there are more stories like this one where top bankers go to a cabinet minister who then jumps as soon as they ask him to and then gets a job at that bank four or five months later, then this government has a lot more to answer for, and if it's not afraid of the truth, all the members on the other side will vote to let us see that truth.