Sister-In Law Is No Problem

Cabinet yesterday defended an investigation of the SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. political scandal by a team headed by a Liberal cabinet minister’s sister-in-law. “They feel, in their view, their independence has been preserved,” said Senator Peter Harder (Ont.), Government Representative in the Senate.

“How can Canadians take this investigation seriously?” said Senator Leo Housakos (Conservative-Que.). “For that matter, at this point how can Canadians take this government seriously?”

The Office of the Ethics Commissioner on February 11 said it would confidentially investigate claims senior Liberals sought to quash a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin on fraud and bribery charges to secure Liberal votes in Québec. The acting director of investigations is Martine Richard, sister-in-law to Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

The Office on April 8 confirmed it was aware of the “potential conflict”, and that Richard recused herself from the investigation “in early March out of an abundance of caution” after the probe was underway.

“This is outrageous,” Senator Denise Batters (Conservative-Que.) yesterday told Senate Question Period: “In what world would it be appropriate that the sister-in-law of a senior cabinet minister, Dominic LeBlanc, be involved at that high a level investigating any Trudeau government minister or Prime Minister Trudeau?”

“The Ethics Commissioner’s Office itself has taken the appropriate steps – or steps they feel are appropriate,” replied Senator Harder: “The integrity of their Office and all its staff are accordingly also not suspect, in their mind.”

New Democrat MP Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay, Ont.), the complainant who requested the Ethics Commissioner’s investigation in the first place, yesterday said he considered the probe pointless. “I was surprised and thrown off to find a cabinet minister’s sister-in-law is the chief investigator,” said Angus: “I do not have confidence. They cannot deal with the matter at hand.”

The Commons ethics committee yesterday rejected by votes of 6 to 3 two separate motions to interview witnesses named as lobbying for an out-of-court settlement on SNC-Lavalin’s behalf. The committee’s Liberal majority opposed hearings.

“I’ve been here 15 years and we’ve dealt with all kinds of smut and corruption,” said MP Angus: “This is a political crisis that is unprecedented. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Conservative MP Peter Kent (Thornhill, Ont.) said Canadians deserve some public investigation. “We haven’t heard from the one person in this entire continuing and ever-deepening scandal, and that is the Prime Minister himself,” said Kent: “There is ample reason to invite the Prime Minister first to remove all constraints on any of the potential witnesses, but to continue to look for the truth in this matter.”

The allegations to date have prompted the resignation of a former attorney general, the president of the Treasury Board, the Prime Minister’s principal secretary, and the Clerk of the Privy Council, the head of the federal public service.

By Staff

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