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‘A little baloney’ in PM’s claim about solicitor-client privilege on SNC-Lavalin

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OTTAWA — “In the matter of solicitor-client privilege, the member opposite must know that there are real dangers of unintended consequences, particularly on the two court cases currently wending their way through the courts.”

– Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Feb. 19, 2019

Federal opposition parties resumed their demands this week that Trudeau let former cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould speak to allegations that she felt pressured to avert a criminal trial for Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

Wilson-Raybould, who resigned from cabinet last week, has said she cannot comment because she is bound by solicitor-client privilege, which still applies even though she’s no longer the justice minister and attorney general.

The Conservatives and NDP want Trudeau to waive that privilege so Wilson-Raybould can offer her side of the story.

But in response to such a demand from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer during question period on Tuesday, the prime minister said doing so could harm two court proceedings involving SNC-Lavalin.

Those involve the fraud and bribery case against SNC-Lavalin in connection with its work in Libya nearly a decade ago, and the company’s appeal of the decision by federal prosecutors not to negotiate an agreement that would let it avoid a criminal trial in that case.

So is it true that revealing the discussions between Wilson-Raybould and the prime minister or members of his staff and cabinet have “unintended consequences” on the two cases?

Spoiler alert: The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of political statements culminating in a ranking of accuracy on a scale of “no baloney” to “full of baloney” (complete methodology below).

Trudeau’s remark earns a rating of “a little baloney.”

THE FACTS

SNC-Lavalin is facing fraud and bribery charges in relation to business ties between it and Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya and could be excluded from future government contracts here and elsewhere if convicted.

The federal justice minister is unique in that whoever holds the position is also the attorney general, the government’s top lawyer. In that vein, the government can consult the attorney general for legal advice and those discussions can be protected from disclosure.

But the Globe and Mail first reported this month, citing unnamed sources, that Wilson-Raybould felt pressured last fall to intervene and get federal prosecutors to offer the company a deal that would see it pay a fine rather than face a criminal trial. She refused.

Federal prosecutors in October rejected SNC-Lavalin’s request to negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement and pay for the criminal case to be dropped. The company has since appealed that decision and is waiting to find out whether a court will hear its request for a review.

These are the two cases Trudeau mentioned in response to Scheer.

The Liberals have admitted to numerous private discussions about SNC-Lavalin, including a meeting that Wilson-Raybould had with Trudeau in September and another between her and Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s former principal secretary, in December.

Trudeau and Butts have denied directing or otherwise pressuring Wilson-Raybould, who was shuffled out as justice minister and attorney general to veterans affairs last month in a move widely seen as a demotion. She resigned from cabinet Feb. 12.

While Wilson-Raybould has refused to talk about those discussions publicly, citing solicitor-client privilege, she says she has hired former Supreme Court judge Thomas Cromwell to advise her on what she can say.

Trudeau has similarly said that he is consulting Wilson-Raybould’s replacement, Justice Minister David Lametti, on what parts of their conversation can be safely revealed.

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

Whether solicitor-client privilege applies to interactions between the attorney general and other officials depends on the circumstances — and when it is invoked, the circumstances that give rise to the claim of privilege should be spelled out, says Toronto lawyer Lee Akazaki of Gilbertson Davis LLP.

That hasn’t happened in this case, aside from Trudeau saying that he told Wilson-Raybould that the decision whether to stop SNC-Lavalin’s prosecution was up to her and that the potential economic ramifications of a guilty verdict for a major company were raised.

That makes it hard to asses the degree to which waiving solicitor-client privilege could affect the criminal case and judicial review.

Assuming the attorney general was asked for advice about the ongoing prosecution, Akazaki says that advice “should be kept confidential in order to prevent any appearance of interference by the executive branch of government in an ongoing judicial proceeding.”

That is particularly relevant in a criminal case or judicial review such as those facing SNC-Lavalin, said Andrew Martin, an expert on legal ethics at the University of British Columbia, who added that once privilege has been waived it can’t be restored.

“I imagine it would inform SNC-Lavalin’s arguments on the judicial review, depending on what was said,” Martin said, “and they could probably use what was said as part of their application for judicial review.”

University of Ottawa law expert Elizabeth Sanderson, who previously served for many years as a federal-government lawyer, echoed the view that SNC-Lavalin’s lawyers could turn around and use any disclosed conversations between Wilson-Raybould and others in their defence.

All of which assumes, she said, that the discussions did touch on the details of the case and were not simply an attempt by Trudeau or his staff to get the former attorney-general to use her powers to intervene.

“There’s a real distinction between talking about the evidence or the legal opinion they developed to say why they think they have to pursue this case, which may reveal some of their strategy in litigation, versus a flat-out: ‘Don’t pursue this case.’ Which has nothing to do with the case.”

THE VERDICT

Any analysis of the prime minister’s assertion about the impact of waiving solicitor-client privilege is muddied by the fact neither Wilson-Raybould nor Trudeau have elaborated on the nature and context of the discussions that took place around the SNC-Lavalin case.

Still, the fact the case was discussed at the highest levels of government does raise the very real prospect that the contents of those discussions could have an impact on the proceedings and thus any waiver should be carefully considered.

“I think what he said is quite fair,” said Martin. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s politically convenient. I don’t know that he’s unhappy with this answer. But it is the correct answer.”

Akazaki said it is imperative the government provide more information about the nature of the discussions between Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould, but that when it comes to the prime minister’s comment: “Based on what we know at the present time, it is accurate.”

The statement is correct based on what the prime minister has said, but he’s keeping crucial details to himself. For that reason, Trudeau’s comment ranks as “a little baloney.”

METHODOLOGY

The Baloney Meter is a project of The Canadian Press that examines the level of accuracy in statements made by politicians. Each claim is researched and assigned a rating based on the following scale:

No baloney — the statement is completely accurate

A little baloney — the statement is mostly accurate but more information is required

Some baloney — the statement is partly accurate but important details are missing

A lot of baloney — the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truth

Full of baloney — the statement is completely inaccurate

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Storytelling is in our DNA. We provide credible, compelling multimedia storytelling and services in English and French to help captivate your digital, broadcast and print audiences. As Canada’s national news agency for 100 years, we give Canadians an unbiased news source, driven by truth, accuracy and timeliness.

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Economy

In a “Staggering Precedent” Trudeau government dodging parliament with massive “inflation tax” on Canadians

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Federal Conservative Pierre Poilievre has released video from a recent Question of Privilege in the House of Commons where he explains how the Federal Liberal government has been dodging parliament to significantly raise taxes.

Instead of going further into debt or raising taxes to pay for a massive increase in government spending, the Trudeau government worked out a deal with the Central Bank.  Every week the Central Bank prints billions of dollars that go directly to government coffers.  Without a single vote and without consulting Parliament, the federal government is effectively raking in the largest tax increase in Canadian history.

By printing money at this unprecedented rate, the federal government is responsible for driving up Canada’s inflation rate resulting in price hikes for virtually all goods and services.  Poilievre calls it an “inflation tax”.

In this short video, Poilievre describes how the inflation tax hurts low and middle income Canadians, while increasing the value of assets owned by the richest Canadians.

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Alberta

New opinion surveys reveal overwhelming majority of Canadians support our Oil and Gas industry

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News Release from Canada Action

We are very excited to share some recent and encouraging polling results today. According to a July 2021 public opinion survey conducted by Research Co, new data shows that Canada’s public perception of our responsible energy industry is very positive.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Almost three in four (73 percent) Canadians polled agree Canada should be a preferred global supplier of energy because of its climate and environmental record.
  • Nearly seven in ten (69 percent) say they have personally benefited from the oil and gas sector.
  • 70 percent agree that resource development could help alleviate systemic poverty within Indigenous communities.
  • Two thirds of Canadians (66 percent) support Canada’s role as a global oil and gas supplier.
  • Almost three in four Canadians (73 percent) acknowledge Canada’s prosperity is supported by the oil and gas sector and that Canadian oil and gas production helps fund important social programs like health care and education.

Referring to the fact 73 percent of Canadians polled also agreed it’s essential First Nations be included in project development to establish long-term revenue sources for their communities, JP Gladu, acting Executive Director of Indigenous Resource Network, noted the following:

Taken collectively, this is all exceptional news for all of Canada’s natural resource industries. Your support for our positive, fact based message about why the world needs more Canadian energy and resources is helping make a difference.

A Majority of Canadians ‘Agree’ that Canada Should be a Preferred Global Supplier of Energy: POLL

two thirds of canadians support canada's role as a global oil and gas supplier

A new public opinion survey conducted by Research Co. on behalf of Canada Action has found that a majority of Canadians across the country support the vital oil and gas sector! The poll, released on July 14th, showed that 68% of participants ‘agree’ that Canada should be the choice supplier to meet future oil and gas demand, while two-thirds (66%) support Canada’s role as a global oil and gas supplier versus just 19% who were opposed.

Additionally, almost three in four Canadians (73%) acknowledged Canada’s prosperity is supported by the oil and gas sector and that the industry helps fund important social programs such as healthcare and education.

“It’s a strong and very welcome result, and one that shows most Canadians feel proud of the work their energy sector is doing to enhance its record on ESG criteria. The results also show most Canadians believe the world needs more Canadian energy and are aware of the importance of the sector to the prosperity of families and communities right across the country,” said Cody Battershill, Canada Action founder.

Canada Oil and Gas Sector Generated 493 Billion Government Revenues 2000-2018-02

Between 2000 and 2018, approximately $493 billion in government revenues were generated by Canada’s oil and gas industry, capital which has been used pay for schools, hospitals, roads and the workers that make these projects possible/operational. Every Canadian has benefitted from oil and gas in some way, shape, or form; nearly seven-in-ten Canadians (69%) of participants also acknowledged that Canada’s oil and gas sector has benefitted them personally.

Nearly three-in-four Canadians (73%) also agreed that global markets should prioritize jurisdictions like Canada that are leaders in climate action and environmental protection. This is a logical choice as Canada’s oil and gas industry ranks number one for Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices among nations with the largest oil reserves, and of the world’s top 20 producers, 2nd for governance and social progress and 4th on the environment.

“Given the world requires $525 billion of new oil and gas investment per year just to meet current demand, we think we ought to push for Canada to receive a sizeable share of this investment,” Battershill added.

68% of canadians agree that Canada should be the choice supplier to meet future oil and gas demand

Canada’s world-class ESG performance shows that our nation is home to one of the most environmentally conscious and sustainable oil and gas industries in the world. With future supply gaps on the horizon, it only makes sense that ESG-focussed investors look to Canada as a choice supplier for as long as the world needs oil – and it will for many decades to come.

73% of participants also agreed that it’s essential First Nations be included in project development to establish long-term revenue sources for their communities.

“These are heartening results. Indigenous nations and businesses want to be partners in resource development. This poll shows there’s widespread support to work together for the benefit of all,” said JP Gladu, acting Executive Director of the Indigenous Resource Network.

Below is a summary of all poll results collected by Research Co.

Poll Results:

73% of canadians agree that Canada's oil and gas sector helps fund social programs like healthcare and education

Two-thirds of Canadians (66%) support Canada’s role as a global oil and gas supplier, while one-in-five (19%) are opposed

– Almost seven-in-ten Canadians (69%) say the oil and gas industry has benefitted them personally

– Almost three-in-four Canadians (73%) agree that global markets should prioritize jurisdictions like Canada that are leaders in climate action and environmental protection

– Almost three-in-four Canadians (73%) agree that Canadian oil and gas products help fund important social programs like healthcare and education for Canadians

– More than seven-in-ten Canadians (72%) agree that sustainability measures are better served when energy is sourced from Canada compared to less environmentally friendly jurisdictions

three quarters of Canada believe that global markets should favour sustainable oil producers in Canada

Seven-in-ten Canadians (70%) agree that Canada should be the choice recipient of investments due to its climate leadership and environmental policies

– More than two-thirds of Canadians (68%) agree that Canada should be the choice supplier to meet future oil and gas demand

– Over three-in-five Canadians (64%) agree that investing in Canada’s oil and gas sector makes sense if you value climate leadership, social progress and transparency

Fewer than half of Canadians (45%) were aware that Canada is a leader for environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices among countries with the largest oil and gas reserves

– More than two-in-five Canadians (43%) were aware that Canadian energy companies are global leaders in carbon capture, utilization and storage

70% of Canadians believe Canada should be a choice recipient for investments due to ESG leadership

– Just over two-in-five Canadians (41%) were aware that Canadian natural gas exported to Asia can reduce global emissions by displacing coal power usage

– Almost three-in-four Canadians (73%) agree that global markets should prioritize jurisdictions like Canada that are leaders in climate leadership and environmental protection

– Almost three-in-four Canadians (73%) agree that Canada should be a destination of choice for energy investment due to its climate leadership, worker safety and environmental policies

– More than two-thirds of Canadians (68%) agree that Canada should be the choice supplier to meet future oil and gas demand

– Almost three-in-four Canadians (74%) think Canada should act in a similar fashion to Norway when it comes to energy practices, as the nation has said they will continue to maximize the value created from their oil and gas reserves

Canada ESG Record vs. Top Global Oil Exporters

– Almost three-in-four Canadians (73%) agree that Canada’s prosperity is supported by the oil and gas sector practices

– Almost three-in-four Canadians (73%) agree that it is essential that First Nations be included in project development to establish long-term revenue sources for their communities

Seven-in-ten Canadians (70%) agree that Systemic poverty within Indigenous communities could be alleviated with resource development

– Almost seven-in-ten Canadians (69%) agree that Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Canada should play a role in supplying our energy to meet domestic and global demands

More than half of Canadians (56%) agree with the decision related to the TMX expansion, while one-in-five (21%) disagree, and a similar proportion (22%) are undecided. Support for the decision is highest in Alberta and Atlantic Canada (each at 63%), followed by Ontario (57%), Saskatchewan and Manitoba (56%), British Columbia (55%) and Quebec (52%)

– Over three-in-five Canadians (62%) think the Indigenous communities support the Trans Mountain Pipeline (TMX) project

– More than three-in-ten Canadians (31%) are more likely to support the Trans Mountain expansion upon learning of the views of Indigenous communities, while 7% are less likely to support. More than two-in-five (47%) say their position has not changed as a result of this fact

Results were based on an online study among 1,000 adults in Canada, conducted July 7 to 9, 2021 and weighted for age, gender and region. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.1 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty.

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