Andrew Schneer – Canada is facing a moral and ethical crisis of leadership

Political Opinion Piece

Andrew Scheer - Photo Andre Forget
Andrew Scheer - Photo Andre Forget

OTTAWA – OPINION – Canadians do not expect their prime ministers to be perfect, but they do expect them to be honest.

They expect their prime ministers to be fair. To be in command of their office. To be accountable for their actions. To know right from wrong. To recognize corrupt special interests and to summon both the courage to stand up to them and the strength to shut them down.

What Canadians have seen from Justin Trudeau over the last month — since the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal broke and consumed his entire government — is a prime minister who possesses none of these abilities.

The accusations against him are severe.

He stands accused of the kind of corruption more common in third-world dictatorships than in countries like Canada where the rule of law is supposed to be supreme.

He has used the power of his office to subvert the law and secure special treatment for a well-connected company.

Here are the facts:

First, Justin Trudeau led a government-wide campaign — involving his highest-ranking officials and advisors — to politically interfere in SNC-Lavalin’s criminal prosecution on corruption charges.

Second, he did so by pressuring, harassing and threatening former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould into using her power to stop the prosecution and get SNC-Lavalin off the hook.

And third, when Ms. Wilson-Raybould refused to back down, he fired her.

In attempting to contain the damage, the real Justin Trudeau has emerged.

Not the model of openness, transparency, feminism and reconciliation he pitched to Canadians during the 2015 election. Canadians now know that was a carefully scripted and choreographed performance to win votes.

The real Justin Trudeau avoids accountability, shifts blame, suppresses dissent, pushes falsehoods and rationalizes corruption.

Over the past four weeks, Trudeau has refused to take the stand at the Justice committee to answer questions under oath and blocked attempts from MPs to call on other key witnesses from his office.

He has accused Ms. Wilson-Raybould for not alerting him to his own office’s bullying and intimidation — though she did on several occasions.

He continues to censor Ms. Wilson-Raybould, refusing to waive the full solicitor-client privilege that prevents her from telling her side of the story.

He continues to push a debunked argument that thousands of Canadian jobs would disappear if SNC’s prosecution is allowed to continue.

And he has described the sustained, coordinated and politically motivated harassment of Ms. Wilson-Raybould to stop SNC’s prosecution as his government “doing our job.”

I appreciate that the legalities of the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal are layered and complex. But the moral implications are obvious.

I believe that Canada must be a country where the powerful and politically connected are held to the same standards and laws as everybody else.

I believe Canadians deserve a government that refuses to be manipulated by high-priced lobbyists and corporate executives trying to escape punishment under the law.

And I believe Canada needs a prime minister who rejects the idea that political interference in the justice system is simply routine government business.

As the scandal has rocked the government, leading to two high-profile cabinet ministers resigning, and grinding the government to a halt, Trudeau hides behind one excuse after another.

He has also used his power to block attempts to shine the light of day on this sordid affair. He has shut down attempts for a public inquiry and used his majority on the Justice committee to prevent key witnesses from testifying.

And he continues to prevent Ms. Wilson-Raybould to fully disclose details about key conversations and meetings after she was fired as attorney-general. On Wednesday, the Justice committee will meet to decide whether or not to invite Ms. Wilson-Raybould to testify for a second time.

We know Ms. Wilson-Raybould was threatened. Who made those threats and what were they? We know she was fired as attorney general. What reason was she given? We know she then resigned from cabinet. Why?

She testified there were important details that are key to this case that happened during the portion of her time in cabinet that Trudeau has not allowed her to divulge. What are they?

Only she can answer these questions. Right now, she can’t.

If Justin Trudeau truly has nothing to hide, he must allow Ms. Wilson-Raybould to speak again.

He must waive the privilege and cabinet confidence that is protecting him from the full truth coming out.

We have launched a new website — — where Canadians can tell Justin Trudeau to lift his gag order.

In his crisis of leadership, it’s the least he can do.

Andrew Scheer
Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada

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