A few weeks ago I commented on a report that said that ““A Liberal-dominated Parliamentary committee has quashed an effort by opposition parties to further probe the SNC-Lavalin affair … [and] … The House of Commons Ethics Committee, on which the governing Liberals hold the most seats, voted down a proposal to hear from federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion and up to nine witnesses who have been prevented from offering some testimony because of cabinet confidentiality.“” I titled my comment “Of course.”
Now I see, in a report by Robert Fife and Daniel Leblanc in the Globe and Mail, that “The RCMP has been looking into potential obstruction of justice in the handling of the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., but its examination has been stymied by the federal government’s refusal to lift cabinet confidentiality for all witnesses … [and] … This means individuals involved in the matter cannot discuss events or share documents with police that have not been exempted from the rule of cabinet confidentiality, according to sources, who The Globe agreed not to identify so they could discuss the RCMP inquiries.“
The Good Grey Globe‘s journalists explain that “In Canada, the principle of cabinet confidentiality is intended to allow ministers to debate decisions freely in private. As a result, discussions involving cabinet matters must be kept secret unless a waiver is granted. ” This is a very important point and I need to repeat what I said back on 22 August: “I do not disagree with those who oppose tinkering with rules of cabinet confidentiality,” because as I had explained a few days earlier, “The Queen’s Privy Council is the group that shares the greatest secrets of the state; it is a most exclusive group and its deliberations, which are central to our, Westminster form of responsible, parliamentary government, are and must always remain beyond the reach of anyone not sworn to be a member. If parliament had wanted M Dion or anyone else to have access to these most secret deliberations then parliament would have said that he must be a privy councillor. Parliament didn’t mandate that which means that he does not need such access. I am absolutely sure that, no matter how much some Canadians may be outraged, a Conservative government will not change that. Notwithstanding his own sense of his own importance, M Dion is not a sworn privy councillor and, therefore, some things, some information is not available to him, he must do his duty as well as he can without that information.“
But, here is that troublesome part: Messers Fife and Leblanc say that “A source who was recently interviewed by the RCMP told The Globe that investigators indicated they are looking into possible obstruction of justice. The Criminal Code says obstruction of justice occurs when an effort is made to “obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice in a judicial proceeding.”” So, the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau was being investigated for an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada for which, according to §139 of that code, the punishment is up to two years in prison or a lesser punishment.
I’m not at all sure that a way cannot and should not be available to allow sworn law-enforcement officers to delve in to even the deepest political secrets when they are investigating a crime. Will some copper, eventually, inevitably leak something damaging? Yes, of course … and there must be remedies, extraordinarily harsh punishments to warn others who might to misuse or be careless with their authority. I think there needs to be a balance between the very real requirement for cabinet confidentiality and the people’s need to see our laws enforced, even, perhaps especially, when politicians are involved. Right now I have no trust at all, none whatever, in anything that any Liberal will say; that means that for me, and I suspect hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Canadians, politics, the whole democratic system is broken. If I, if you cannot trust Marc Garneau and Ralph Goodale and Ginette Petitpas Taylor then who can you trust in government?
The Globe also says that “The national police force will pause the operation because of the coming election campaign. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to go to Rideau Hall Wednesday to ask the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament and call the vote for Oct. 21, and the RCMP has a policy to suspend politically sensitive operations during campaigns.” This has been a worry for many Liberals for some time, according to an article in the Hill Times which says that “An RCMP investigation into the SNC-Lavalin affair would “kill” the Liberal party’s re-election chances in the upcoming campaign if it were to become known to the public.” Everyone remembers the RCMP investigation of 2006 and many Liberals believed, then, that it cost them the 2006 election.
The Globe and Mail report says that “In the SNC matter, the Liberals say that the Clerk of the Privy Council, who heads the bureaucratic agency that serves the Prime Minister’s Office, made the decision not to offer a broad waiver to either the RCMP or to the Ethics Commissioner, and that the PMO played no role.” I simply do not believe the last bit. I am sure that it was the Privy Council Office (PCO) that refused to waive cabinet confidentiality but I am 99.99% certain that the PMO was deeply involved in the decision, step-by-step-by-step, just as I am sure that the PMO has been behind the cover-up ever since Robert Fife and other Globe journalists broke this story back in early February.
Liberalism and democracy, itself are under attack in Canada … they are being attacked by Justin Trudeau and his team in Ottawa, which, sad to say, may include Ian Shugart, the Clerk of the Privy Council, the one person in Ottawa to whom all Canadians should be able to look, with confidence, for political probity.
More to follow in the coming days, I’m sure … sadly.