As Justin Trudeau reiterated Thursday that he has no intention of apologizing outright for acting unethically during the SNC-Lavalin affair, former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who blew a hole in the Liberal caucus with her testimony on the scandal earlier this year, expressed her disappointment in the prime minister’s stance.
In a scathing report Wednesday, Canada’s ethics watchdog concluded Trudeau violated a portion of ethics law by improperly pressuring then-attorney general Wilson-Raybould to stonewall criminal prosecution against Montreal engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.
Trudeau has addressed the findings with reporters twice since, twice saying he accepts the findings but will “not apologize” for protecting Canadians jobs.
Wilson-Raybould said she expected more.
“In this case, something did go seriously wrong as reflected in the commissioner’s report and I would’ve liked, as a Canadian, to have heard an apology,” Wilson-Raybould said in a phone interview on CBC’s The Early Edition on Thursday morning.
“I was not expecting to get a personal apology but I think that Canadians expect their politicians to make decisions based on integrity.”
Wilson-Raybould called ethics commissioner Mario Dion’s report a “vindication” in a statement Wednesday. In February, she testified before the justice committee and said she faced intense pressure and “veiled threats” from the prime minister’s office over the issue, which was first reported by the Globe and Mail earlier that month.
She said Trudeau warned her about negative consequences if SNC-Lavalin were to be prosecuted, and she accused top Liberal officials of inappropriate, excessive political interference. She ultimately quit Trudeau’s cabinet over the affair and was later kicked out of the Liberal caucus.
Dion concluded that Trudeau’s attempts to influence Wilson-Raybould contravened Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act, which prohibits public office-holders from using their position to try to influence a decision that would improperly further the private interests of a third party.
“The prime minister, directly and through his senior officials, used various means to exert influence over Ms. Wilson-Raybould. The authority of the prime minister and his office was used 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 as the Crown’s chief law officer,” Dion wrote.
Trudeau doubled down on his response to the commissioner’s report during an event in Fredericton on Thursday. He told a reporter he accepts the ethics report and takes full responsibility for what happened but will not apologize, echoing his initial reaction the previous day.
“I’m not going to apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs, because that’s my job: to make sure Canadians and communities and pensioners and families across the country are supported, and that’s what I will always do,” the prime minister said during a brief news conference.
“I disagree with the ethics commissioner’s conclusions, but he is an officer of Parliament doing his job and I fully accept his report, which means I take full responsibility.”
Watch the prime minister’s Thursday response:
Wilson-Raybould agreed most politicians hope to protect jobs, but said leaders’ decisions need to be rooted in the rule of law.
“For individuals that are provided with the public trust to make decisions, we need to know that decisions — whether they’re around jobs, whether they’re within the justice system — are being made on a foundation of principle of values, of a recognition of what is important to our democracy, and that is upholding the rule of law and prosecutorial independence.”
Asked if she thinks the prime minister understands the gravity of the commissioner’s report, Wilson-Raybould said she couldn’t answer.
“The gravity of this is incredibly significant and I would hope that the prime minister and all public officials understands the importance of upholding the rule of law [and] prosecutorial independence. These are the foundations of our democracy,” she said Thursday.
Wilson-Raybould is set to run as an independent in the upcoming federal election in the Vancouver Granville riding, which she still holds.
SNC-Lavalin is currently facing bribery and fraud charges related to alleged payments of close to $50 million to public officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011 to secure government contracts. The company is due back in court Sept. 20.
Listen to the full interview with Wilson-Raybould below: