Friday, 3 Jul 2020

Scheer repeats call for Liberals on ethics committee not to block watchdog testimony

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is renewing his call for the Liberal members of the House of Commons ethics committee not to block an opposition request for the ethics commissioner to testify on his scathing SNC-Lavalin report.

Six of the 10 members of the committee are Liberals, and Scheer called on them in a press conference on Wednesday to support opposition calls to invite ethics commissioner Mario Dion to answer questions about his report, which was released last week.

That report found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke federal ethics rules by repeatedly interfering in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

“We know he broke the law so it’s time for the Liberals on the ethics committee to now take a stand, to do what is right and what Canadians expect of you,” Scheer said. “There are still so many unanswered questions.”

The three voting opposition members of the committee need at least two Liberals to support their motion in order for it to have any chance of succeeding.

Flipping two Liberals would tie the vote, which would trigger a tie-breaking vote by the chair of the committee — Conservative MP Bob Zimmer.

In particular, Scheer said he wants to hear more from Dion about the fact he was denied access to cabinet confidences during the course of his probe.

Dion said in his report that he repeatedly asked for access after nine witnesses came forward, telling him they had relevant information about the allegations of political interference in the case but could not disclose it because of cabinet confidentiality rules.

When Dion asked Trudeau and the clerk of the Privy Council for access, he was denied.

Trudeau has since repeatedly refused to apologize for breaking the rules.

He says that while he accepts the findings of the report, he does not agree that it was inappropriate for him to have raised the issue of how to save the company from a criminal trial with former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould after she made her decision not to intervene.

Scheer said he spoke with one Liberal member of the committee on Tuesday while in Toronto.

Beaches-East York MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith gained a reputation as a maverick early on in the Trudeau mandate for taking positions that conflicted with the party’s official stance, but earlier this year, he voted with his Liberal colleagues on the committee to shut down an opposition request for a continued probe.

That came after Liberals on the House of Commons justice committee shut down its limited probe of the allegations.

Scheer said Erskine-Smith gave an indication of which way he plans to vote.

More to come.

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