Trudeau's largest political scandal continues

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is accused of interfering in criminal proceedings. Some are calling it immoral; some say he had the right to interfere.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, with former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould. Photo credit: Adrian Wyld for The Canadian Press/AP Photo.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is at the center of an ongoing political scandal, just before election season.

Trudeau allegedly attempted to influence former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to make a deal with SNC-Lavalin, instead of proceeding with criminal charges.
SNC-Lavalin is a Canadian engineering company. The company had been accused of using bribery to obtain business in Libya. If convicted, SNC-Lavalin would be unable to bid on Canadian government business, thus losing money and jobs, says CEO Neil Bruce.
Blake Roberts, a resident of Windsor, Ontario, teaches political science at the University of Windsor as well as Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Roberts says Trudeau did not break any laws,
"The issue here is whether they were going to make a deal with SNC-Lavalin so the company could avoid criminal prosecution," Roberts said. "They would essentially be admitting that something bad was done like 10 years ago, and say, ‘Okay, our bad, we’ll pay a fine.’ That’s essentially what the Prime Minister was pressuring Wilson-Raybould to do. It would be entirely legal if she'd said ‘Yes, we’ll do that, we’ll accept this agreement.’ [SNC-Lavalin would] pay a fine, get a slap on the wrist, and then they’d just carry on. Wilson-Raybould, as Attorney General and Justice Minister, did not want to give them that option. She wanted to proceed with full-blown criminal charges. In Trudeau’s eyes, it was okay to take the other option that she didn’t want to do."
Wilson-Raybould stepped down from her position January 14, and was moved to Veterans Affairs. She resigned altogether February 12. She says she faced "veiled threats" from Trudeau's cabinet members. Wilson-Raybould was Canada's first Indigenous woman Attorney General.

"There is the question of whether, as Prime Minister, he has the right or authority to influence the Minister of Justice," Roberts said. "It would appear that she felt he did not, and so she quit."
However, Roberts said Prime Minsters hold some level of influence to begin with.
"The prime minster selects the cabinet, and they essentially serve at his pleasure. He has the right to remove any of them that he wants, but in this case, they quit," Roberts said. "There have been lots of examples of lots of prime ministers influencing their cabinets over the years. Whether or not you think that’s an issue sort of lies in the eye, or the interpretation, of the person who’s being influenced."
At a March 7 press conference, Trudeau cited an "erosion of trust" as the reason for Wilson-Raybould's resignation.
"These are the types of situations that make governing a challenge," Trudeau said. "And when there's an erosion of trust within the people involved, it further complicates what is an already difficult decision for the attorney general."
The Canadian Federal Election will be held on Monday, October 21.
Trudeau will be running with the Liberal party to maintain his seat as Prime Minister. Despite a dip in opinion polls, Roberts believes Trudeau still holds support.
"I think that a lot of Liberal party supporters — those who support [Trudeau] as prime minister — are probably quite willing to cut him a little bit of slack," Roberts said. " Conservatives would probably say, of course not, and they have been saying this. They’ve been quite upset about this because they think they can portray him as being corrupt, so they would say the prime minster was trying to interfere. Quebeckers would probably say, ‘Good on you, Justin, for taking the step you did.’ SNC-Lavalin is a very important company in Quebec. It’s a major engineering firm. Trudeau has a lot of votes in Quebec; he’s from Quebec."
The Office of the Prime Minister did not return requests for comment.

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