(Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke the nation’s conflict of interest law by pressuring his former attorney general to help SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. settle corruption charges out of court, Canada’s ethics watchdog ruled.
Since the Montreal-based engineering firm would have benefited financially from Trudeau’s efforts, the prime minister’s actions contravened the act, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said in a report released Wednesday in Ottawa. Trudeau is scheduled to speak to reporters at 2 p.m.
The watchdog’s reprimand is a blow to Trudeau, just 10 weeks ahead of an October election, and will bring renewed focus to what has been the most damaging scandal of his Liberal Party administration. The prime minister has seen his popularity sink this year amid accusations of judicial interference, though his poll numbers had been lately recovering, as the controversy settled over the summer.
Dion concludes Trudeau and his staff pressured the former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to intervene in the legal case involving SNC. The Canadian leader has claimed he did nothing wrong and was only attempting to protect jobs, but the scandal cost him two high-profile cabinet ministers, including Wilson-Raybould, and his top aide.
The report doesn’t outline any sanctions related to the decision. “It is up to the Prime Minister to implement any further action,” it said.
Dion called Trudeau’s actions “troubling,” and said the evidence showed on at least four separate occasions that political interests were put before Wilson-Raybould, directly or indirectly.
“The authority of the Prime Minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson‑Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer,” the commissioner said in the report.
It’s not the first time Trudeau has violated the act. In a separate 2017 decision, the ethics commissioner found Trudeau broke rules when he and his family vacationed on an island owned by the Aga Khan.
In a tweet, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer admonished Trudeau for being the first prime minister in history to be found guilty of breaking federal ethics laws.
Polling averages compiled by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. show the Conservatives and Liberals are statistically tied in voter intentions. After trailing the Liberals for most of the past four years, the Conservatives led by as much as seven percentage points at one point this summer.
(Updates with poll numbers in final paragraph.)
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