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August 22, 2019

Can Canada afford another four years of Trudeau?

The Canadian Charger

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's handling of the SNC Lavalin scandal has been a wake-up call for Canadians as more than ever they're questioning his performance on many of the key issues facing the country and, asking themselves: Can we afford another four years of Trudeau and, if so, at what cost to the country?

With the recent release of Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion's report, finding Prime Minister Trudeau violated Conflict of Interest rules, the debate rages between those who agree with Mr. Dion's conclusion that in intervening in an ongoing criminal prosecution of SNC Lavalin, in order to secure the company a deferred prosecution agreement instead of a criminal prosecution, Mr. Trudeau was “acting in his own political interests”; and those who believe Mr. Trudeau that he was “standing up for Canadian jobs.”

Moreover, opposition Leader Andrew Scheer is demanding that the RCMP investigate Mr. Trudeau for possible obstruction of justice: a criminal offence which includes possible jail time.

Meanwhile, with the release of the Ethic Commissioner's report, it is now a proven fact that Mr. Trudeau's public denials that any pressure was put on then Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Rayboult were lies; and lying to Parliament has traditionally been a cause for resignation or dismissal.

In the August 17, 2019 edition of the National Post, noted historian and political commentator Conrad Black noted that misleading Parliament on such a large scale, with the full support of his caucus – contrary to the conscience of at least some caucus members, voters would hope – coupled with the “even more scandalous and malicious prosecution of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, all overlaid on a very inadequate general performance in government for the past four years, should place the government as clear underdogs in the election in two months.”

Mr. Black then asserted that Canada – in the whole history of the country - has not seen a government as incompetent and deficient in ethics as the Trudeau government and that consequently Mr. Trudeau should be “thoroughly punished and defeated by the voters for a combination of incompetence and deficient ethics that this country has not seen in Ottawa before.”

Although the Ethics Commissioner concluded that Prime Minister Trudeau broke Conflict of Interest rules, he also decided that Mr. Trudeau will face no punishment as a result. Alas, Prime Minister Trudeau awaits the October election campaign and the election results to see whether voters will punish him and his government, and there is much to punish him for.

His tepid response to the Quebec provincial government using the notwithstanding clause to ban provincial government employees in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols, the continuing tariffs on Canada's steel and aluminium – despite Canada's almost total capitulation to U.S. demands in signing the new NAFTA or USMCA agreement - and his callous response to a First Nations women protesting the Trudeau government’s lack of action on mercury poisoning at Grassy Narrow First Nations leave Canadians with second thoughts about a Prime Minister who came to power professing “sunny ways” and claiming “Canada is back” - whatever that means.  

Perhaps his quip to protestor Lana Goldberg - “Thank you very much for your donation,” - as security was escorting her out of the Laurier Club, $1,500 a plate Liberal fundraising dinner on March 27, gave Canadians a window into the true character of a carefully crafted politician – born with a silver spoon in his mouth - who claims he's “concerned” about just about everything Canadians struggle with in their daily lives.

Ms. Goldberg was attempting to raise awareness about people suffering from mercury poisoning in the Grassy Narrows First Nations community. Grassy Narrows has been suffering from mercury poisoning in its local water supply for decades, after an upstream pulp and paper mill dumped thousands of pounds of effluent into the English-Wabigoon river system through the ’60s and early ’70s. Ms. Goldberg was representing an advocacy group called Free Grassy Narrows, which aims to help the community secure a long-term care facility for patients of mercury poisonings.

Mr. Trudeau was compelled to apologized to the Grassy Narrows First Nations community after a video surfaced of him telling Ms. Goldberg he appreciated her donation – which was sarcasm for the fact that she didn't have the money to donate $1,500.

Grassy Narrows Chief Randy Turtle stressed that an apology was not enough to solve the grave problem of people suffering from mercury poisoning at Grassy Narrows.

“I acknowledge Trudeau’s apology, but more importantly he needs to deliver on his government’s promise to build a Home and Treatment Centre so our mercury survivors can be cared for with dignity,” Mr. Turtle said.

He added that said the community needs to have the money put into a trust to ensure that future governments don’t suddenly take away the promised funding.

While his callous quip to a woman protesting lack of government action on the mercury poisoning at Grassy Narrows leaves an indelible impression of an aloof politician, who merely claims concern about issues facing Canadians, it was the SNC Lavalin scandal which really lifted the veil on Mr. Trudeau.

SNC Lavalin is a 108-year-old engineering company with 50,000 employees throughout the world, 9,000 of them in Canada.

In 2015, the RCMP charged the company - a major employer in Quebec—with corruption for allegedly paying various Libyan government officials nearly $48 million in bribes, and defrauding other Libyan entities to the tune of nearly $130 million, all between August 2001 and September 2011 (former employees were also charged in the investigation).

In the wake of allegations published in the Globe and Mail on Feb. 7, 2019, claiming the PMO tried to interfere with the potential criminal trial of Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development announced that it is monitoring the situation, with its working group on bribery saying in a statement March 11 that it is “concerned” by the accusations.

The Globe and Mail article referred to unnamed sources to report that the PMO wanted the Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to step in and help SNC Lavalin negotiate a “deferred prosecution agreement” - whereby the company would admit its guilt and pay a fine, but avoid a criminal conviction. The deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) only became law this past fall after an intense lobbying campaign by SNC Lavalin. Moreover, the company's employees have made illegal campaign donations to the Liberal party in the past. 

When asked if he was apologizing to Ms. Wilson-Raybould for the pressure he and his staff put on her to give SNC Lavalin a DPA, Mr. Trudeau stressed that he continues to believe there was “no inappropriate pressure.” Though, he said, “I’m obviously reflecting on lessons learned through this.”

Meanwhile, after signing the new NAFTA or USMCA agreement on November 30, 2018 and, of course, claiming it was a good deal for Canada, there is increasing concern in the business community and throughout the country that the aluminium and steel tariffs – which were not part of the agreement and will be in a separate side deal to be negotiated later – are still in place.  In other words, the worst possible threat is still there. Five months after agreeing to the USMCA, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is now saying Canada won't ratify the agreement until the U.S. steel and aluminium tariffs are lifted.  Moreover, because the Canadian government signed on to a six-year review of the USMCA, the U.S.  government will have plenty of leverage over Canada at review time:  Does “Agree to our stipulations or we'll withdraw from the agreement,” sound familiar?

Moreover, the U.S. tariffs were applied to protect national security, which means whenever the US decides to claim national security it can impose more tariffs.

But Team Trudeau needed a deal because the Business Council of Canada wanted a deal. Does this sound like corporations dictating Trudeau government policy? In the wake of the SNC Lavalin scandal, in which Mr. Trudeau and his staff stuck their necks out a long way to go to bat for a company with a history of questionable business deals, this becomes increasingly believable.

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