Trudeau breached Conflict of Interest Act, says ethics commissioner

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The federal ethics watchdog says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by improperly pressuring former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to halt the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

Mario Dion says Trudeau's attempts to influence Wilson-Raybould on the matter contravened section 9 of the act, which prohibits public office holders from using their position to try to influence a decision that would improperly further the private interests of a third party.

He says there's little doubt that SNC-Lavalin's financial interests would have been furthered had Trudeau succeeded in convincing Wilson-Raybould to overturn a decision by the director of public prosecutions, who had refused to invite the Montreal engineering giant to negotiate a remediation agreement in order to avoid a criminal prosecution on fraud charges related to contracts in Libya.

Dion says Trudeau also improperly pushed Wilson-Raybould to consider partisan political interests in the matter, contrary to constitutional principles on prosecutorial independence and the rule of law.

Wilson-Raybould quit Trudeau's cabinet in February over the affair; friend and cabinet ally Jane Philpott resigned soon after.

Trudeau subsequently kicked both women out of the Liberal caucus; they are running for re-election as independent candidates.