Michael Wernick continues to leave these questions unanswered
OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch called on the media and House and Senate committees to ask former Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick two simple questions that remain unanswered:
1) Did Mr. Wernick talk about SNC-Lavalin, or his phone call with then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould, with Prime Minister Trudeau or other members of the PM’s staff from December 19, 2018 through to the beginning of January 2019 when everyone returned from vacation?
2) Did Mr. Wernick communicate in any way about SNC-Lavalin, or his phone call with then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould, with Prime Minister Trudeau or other members of the PM’s staff from December 19, 2018 through to the beginning of January 2019 when everyone returned from vacation?
The statement issued on Saturday by Mr. Wernick’s lawyer Frank Addario does not answer these two questions. It says, very carefully, only that Mr. Wernick did not discuss SNC-Lavalin with the PM after the beginning of January.
The statement issued by the PMO says, very carefully, only that Mr. Wernick did not brief the Prime Minister on the call with the former Attorney General. This does not answer whether Mr. Wernick briefed someone on the PM’s staff about the call, who then briefed the PM about the call.
The statement says:
“Michael Wernick must answer two key questions about whether he communicated in any way with the PM or the PM’s staff after his call with the Attorney General about SNC-Lavalin,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The answers to these questions are key to both the investigation concerning who may have violated the federal government ethics law, and whether any obstruction of justice occurred.”
Answering these two questions is key for the Ethics Commissioner, and the RCMP, in their investigations. Democracy Watch’s February 8th and March 5th letters to Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion, which are the basis of the Commissioner’s current investigation, requested an investigation of everyone who may have tried to influence the former Attorney General. Ethics Commissioner Dion sent Democracy Watch a letter on February 26th confirming his investigation of its complaint.
Democracy Watch’s position is still that Ethics Commissioner Dion should delegate the investigation and ruling on the situation to a provincial ethics commissioner who has no ties to any federal party, given that he was chosen by the Trudeau Cabinet after a secretive, Cabinet-controlled process that failed to consult with opposition parties as required by the Parliament of Canada Act. Mr. Dion also has a record of 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was federal Integrity Commissioner.
It is a violation for anyone covered by the federal the Conflict of Interest Act, including the Prime Minister and PMO staff, to “use his or her position as a public office holder to seek to influence a decision of another person so as to… improperly further another person’s private interests” (section 9).
Democracy Watch’s position is that stopping the prosecution would clearly further SNC-Lavalin’s private interests, and that it would be improper to pressure the Attorney General to intervene to stop the prosecution because the PPSC was established explicitly to prevent such political interference in prosecutions.