Month: August 2019

Did Our Prime Minister Violate the Conflict of Interest Act?

Background

Canada’s Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner (EC), Mario Dion, released his bombshell report on August 14 [EC Report]. He found that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had violated section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act by attempting to pressure former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould (JWR) to terminate the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin for his own political benefit. Errol Mendes, a well-regarded constitutional law professor, has criticized the EC’s report, arguing that Dion misinterpreted his own act and exceeded his jurisdiction [ Mendes Opinion ]. However, in my view, Dion got it right, and Mendes got it wrong. Here’s why.

If it was ethical for a PM to try to end a criminal prosecution for political benefit to himself and his party it would also be ethical to try to start a prosecution for political benefit. Neither type of political interference is consistent with the rule of law in a democracy.

 

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Confirmation Hearings for Canadian Appeal Court Nominees

It is not every day that I have, respectfully, to disagree with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), but today is that day.

The Globe and Mail newspaper this morning quoted SCC Chief Justice Richard Wagner saying that he would like to see public nomination hearings for appeal court judges, much like the ones held for the SCC.  Such hearings for SCC nominees are largely a waste of time. Why expand an essentially useless and potentially harmful process?

Chief Justice Wagner was quoted as saying that explanations are necessary “Because people need and deserve the information. There is no reason we should not give it to them. We have nothing to hide.” I agree with those sentiments as far as they go, but all the relevant information can be provided in a printed bio or CV or by reading Wikipedia. The questions politicians really want answered have nothing to do with information. Rather, it is about the nominees’ views on politically controversial issues. Yet these views are almost never obtained on questioning.

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