Federal Ethics Commissioner Investigating Prime Minister’s Role In SNC-Lavalin Case

Canada’s federal Ethics Commissioner, Mario Dion, announced Monday that he is opening an investigation into allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office pressured former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to help SNC-Lavalin (TSX:SNC) avoid criminal prosecution.

The ethics probe follows a report in The Globe and Mail newspaper last week that claimed the Prime Minister's Office leaned heavily on Wilson-Raybould to instruct the Director of Public Prosecutions to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin. That would have allowed the Quebec-based engineering company to pay reparations but avoid a criminal trial on charges of corruption and bribery in relation to its efforts to win government contracts in Libya.

After the investigation was announced on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he "welcomed" the probe and that he continues to have "full confidence" in Wilson-Raybould, whom he moved to the Veterans Affairs portfolio in January.

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer also welcomed the investigation and said it's "imperative" that the Ethics Commissioner get to the bottom of the SNC-Lavalin situation.

In addition to the ethics probe, Scheer said the House of Commons Justice Committee also needs to launch an investigation into the matter. The Conservatives and NDP have joined forces to get a committee meeting in Parliament on Wednesday to consider a motion calling on nine high-ranking government officials to testify on the controversy. The list includes Wilson-Raybould, the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff Katie Telford, and his Principal Secretary, Gerald Butts.

And it isn't just opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) calling for an investigation. New Brunswick Liberal MP Wayne Long said in a statement posted to social media that he was "extremely troubled" when the allegation surfaced last week and nothing he has heard since has made him feel more settled.

Government officials have confirmed that Wilson-Raybould was involved in intensive internal discussions last fall about whether to instruct the Director of Public Prosecutions to drop her insistence on a trial and negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin.

The ethics probe is scheduled to conclude this spring.