The polls are out, and so far the SNC-Lavalin affair doesn’t appear to have made a bit of difference for any party. In fact the Liberals were up a couple percentage points as were the Greens, go figure. Although yes, it’s still early.
Actually, I should say the release of the ethics commissioner’s report saying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went too far in pressuring the attorney general to seek another opinion on a possible remediation agreement, instead of a criminal trial, for Lavalin’s misdeeds in Libya has been a non-factor in the campaign, so far. In fact, he broke the rules. Trudeau then took responsibility for the mess that caused the loss of two cabinet ministers, one best friend and several bureaucrats, but has so far refused to apologize.
He has been rightfully slammed for being two-faced on this one, but it’s also ironic that the prime minister has been accused, again accurately, of being a human apology machine since forming government. The front page of the National Post on Saturday featured Trudeau apologizing on nine different occasions, but not this time. Wrong? Right? Left? Big deal? Small deal? Politics over ethics? Who cares?
We’ll see, as the debate and campaign continues, but what I do know is this so-called scandal has got Canadiana written all over it.
I mean President Donald Trump creates three more scandalous and troubling news items than this one every day before breakfast. Although, to be fair, he’s an early riser and he tweets a lot.
And sometimes his scandals involve strippers, payoffs, Russians, lying under oath, dictators with nuclear weapons, racism, personal gain, family members, former personal lawyers behind bars and calling fellow Americans mean names that never used to be uttered by the occupant of the Oval Office.
I don’t know if Trump was involved in something the equivalent of SNC-Lavalin in the States, if it would even make the news at all,, although that doesn’t let Trudeau off the hook so much as reveal the sad state of American politics these days.
Nevertheless, despite all the hullaballoo in the SNC-Lavalin affair, nothing really happened. They are still facing a day in court and despite the best efforts of the construction giant and its Liberal besties, and they all tried very hard, SNC-Lavalin didn’t get a remediation agreement, and still haven’t got one.
The fact that the corruption charges stem from incidents in Libya between 2001 and 2011 I find kind of amusing and not that surprising. I’m sure bribery was budgeted in as the price of doing business for more than one or two businesses during Gaddafi’s reign.
And some might wonder why the Quebec firm is even facing charges here for misdeeds there. Shouldn’t this be dealt with in Libyan courts?
One might even start to wonder if a deferred prosecution agreement or remediation, where the firm acknowledges guilt and pays a fine, instead of a costly criminal trial at our expense, isn’t the better way to go in this case for all involved, but what do I know?
What I do know is that Trudeau looking like he’s fighting for jobs in Quebec won’t hurt him in la belle province and even the fact he got his hands dirty doing it is okay too in a province that isn’t foreign to political affairs a lot more scandalous than this one. He’s already way ahead in the polls in Quebec.
In fact Trudeau not apologizing, although ironically he should on this one, and maybe learning from this affair could help his standing as a leader going into an election campaign, a category he did not score that well on for many Canadians.
One could argue that this whole mess was due to his lack of leadership skills. A Stephen Harper or Jean Chretien would never have let this Ottawa soap opera get the air time it did. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have pursued a remediation agreement for SNC-Lavalin, it’s just nobody would have heard about it as they demanded loyalty and party unity above all. So which approach is more ethical? Neither, of course. But one could surmise that Chretien and/or Harper would have had a remediation program in place by now.
Certainly the whole deal has clouded Justin’s sunny ways and idealistic standing, if that hadn’t happened already anyway, but I don’t think this scandal has hurt him that much. Ironically, it may have even helped make him a little more real and a tad more electable.
Glenn Mitchell is the former editor of The Morning Star