Two polls released this month suggest that the ethics report on the SNC-Lavalin affair has had little impact on voter support in the Oct. 21 federal election.
Both polls – one conducted by Leger and the other commissioned from Ipsos by Global News – show Liberals and Conservatives virtually neck and neck, with no appreciable gains or losses in the aftermath of the report issued last week by federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion.
Meanwhile, in interviews this week with Peace Arch News, South Surrey-White Rock federal candidates weighed in on the report and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s subsequent statements that while he “accepted responsibility,” he does not apologize for his actions, which he claims were to protect Canadian jobs.
Dion concluded that Trudeau broke ethics law by pressuring former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to halt the criminal prosecution of the Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin Group, facing corruption charges with regard to contracts in Libya.
The Leger poll puts both the Conservatives at 33 per cent of voters, with the Green Party at 13 per cent and the NDP at 11 per cent; while the Ipsos poll has the Liberals posting a two point gain over last month, to 33 per cent, while the Conservatives hold at 35 per cent (with the NDP at 18 per cent and the Green Party at nine per cent).
The results of both polls are being interpreted to suggest that voters are adhering to positions already decided on after the scandal broke in February.
South Surrey-White Rock Liberal MP Gordon Hogg acknowledged that Dion found Trudeau “guilty of breaking part of the code of ethics.”
“(The Prime Minister) has accepted that he was responsible for what happened,” Hogg said.
“At the same time, he’s said he was standing up for what he believes is in the best interests of Canadians. The public will make a decision with respect to that.”
But Hogg said that even Wilson-Raybold, who resigned in late February, has said repeatedly that Trudeau’s actions did not constitute a crime.
“She said again this week that, to her knowledge, no laws were broken,” he said.
“That runs contrary to what (Conservative leader) Andrew Scheer has said in calling for a criminal investigation.”
Hogg – who said he has talked with Wilson-Raybold extensively since the SNC-Lavalin affair emerged – said he accepted that Wilson felt she was under pressure to overturn a decision of the director of public prosecutions not to allow a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin.
This step would have, essentially, eliminated the possibility of a criminal conviction – which would have had the result of barring the company from federal contracts for a decade.
“Had I been in Judy’s position I would have welcomed a number of different inputs and different perspectives while making a decision,” Hogg said.
“But she felt pressured, and that’s a call only she can make.”
Federal Conservative candidate Kerry-Lynne Findlay (formerly Minister of Revenue in the Harper government) said that she feels that Trudeau placed Wilson-Raybold in an “untenable” position in which, in accepting a remediation agreement for SNC-Lavalin, she would have had to publicly, and in writing, reject the position of her public prosecutor.
“I am a lawyer, I’ve been a cabinet minister, and I’m a woman,” she said. “I look at this through the lens of what kind of pressure would have been brought to bear on her. When you are a cabinet minister – and particularly when you’re the highest law officer in the land – you have an even higher standard of ethics and responsibility to all Canadians.
“This transcends political partisanship and political considerations,” Findlay added.
“Yes, it’s appropriate to speak to a cabinet minister and present perspective about a decision still to be made, but when she’s made that decision and exercised her discretion, that’s not appropriate.”
Findlay said that Trudeau, as “the only (Canadian) prime minister in history guilty of breaking ethics law,” has shown “an amazing lack of self-awareness, even in light of the ethics commissioner’s report.”
She said that Trudeau apparently accepting responsibility, but refusing to apologize on the grounds that he was doing it for jobs, is “not acceptable.”
“You can’t take full responsibility without taking ownership of your part in wrongdoing,” she said.
“The law is very clear – economic and political considerations are not to be taken into account in such a decision. But Trudeau (a) felt it was okay to interfere for political reasons and (b) for economic reasons.”
NDP candidate Stephen Crozier said the case “quite obviously shows the connection between the Liberal Party and the corporate world” describing Trudeau’s comments as “typical political spin.”
“Both the Conservatives and Liberals are tied to the corporate and business lobby in Ottawa,” he said.
“This is not about protecting jobs, it’s about a corporation and protecting a corporation. We need to level the playing field so that the companies that deal fairly are the ones that receive contracts.”
Crozier rejected arguments that Trudeau and assistants “never put undue pressure” on Wilson-Raybold.
“You never put any pressure on the attorney general,” he said, adding that the Conservative Party has been just as guilty of what it is criticizing.
“I hope (voters) will take a look at their personal values,” he said.
“We should have an expectation that our politics and our economy reflect what those values are.”
Green Party candidate Pixie Hobby said the SNC-Lavalin scandal provides “a rare opportunity to reflect on the state of our democracy, and to assess what changes are necessary.”
She said that while the ethics commissioners report showed that Trudeau “broke the law and acted unethically” it is “equally demoralizing” that testimony from Wilson-Raybould pointed to potential violations by more than just members of the PMO – including the offices of the Privy Council and the Finance Minister.
“Canadians are feeling betrayed and disappointed,” she said.
“Many have less trust in their government. This is a serious matter since trust is crucial for the functioning of a society.”
Hobby said the Greens will push to “end corporate influence over our democracy through checks and balances; to extend the ability to lobby to all Canadians, not just to corporations; to usher in proportional representation, where every vote counts; to push for ethics and transparency systems in government; to diffuse power of the Prime Minister; and to ensure all orders of government and First Nations have a voice in decision making.”