Category "News/Politics"

With an election looming and the SNC-Lavalin scandal showing no signs of letting up, the Liberal government is expected to deliver a budget today that offers supports for seniors and skills training and sets the stage for a national pharmacare program.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s 2019 fiscal plan also is expected to introduce measures to help millennials and other first-time homebuyers get into the housing market.

With a fixed election date set for Oct. 21, many of the multi-year funding promises could serve as campaign platform planks.

Here’s what to watch for when Morneau rises in the House of Commons to table the budget at 4 p.m. ET.

Deficit down?

The Liberals have long since abandoned their 2015 election campaign promise to return to budgetary balance by 2019, but many Canadians will be closely examining this year’s bottom line and looking for a plan to get back to balance.

The deficit projected for the current fiscal year — projected at $18.1 billion — is expected to be smaller than forecast.

Aaron Wudrick, national director of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, said that with an election on the horizon and the SNC-Lavalin controversy still making headlines, he’s not expecting a belt-tightening budget. Instead, he predicts a new burst of spending with no focus on cutting the deficit or returning to balance.

“I expect they will try to frame further deficit spending as an investment necessary to boost or steady the economy,” he said.

“The problem with this argument is that they were also running deficits even when the economy was humming along. It can’t always be time to run deficits and never time to pay them down. The math doesn’t add up.”

Support for seniors

Canadians are living and working longer, and this year’s budget is expected to deliver measures to help seniors enjoy dignified and secure retirements, including possible supports for low-income older adults.

The seniors’ advocacy group CARP has delivered a budget wish list which includes pension protections and an awareness campaign to combat elder abuse.

The group also has pitched changes to the caregivers program and home renovation credits to make them more senior-friendly.

Universal pharmacare

The Liberal government has promised to bring in a national pharmacare program — but don’t expect to see a big-figure budget commitment to finance it this year. Instead, the government is expected to earmark “foundational” funding as it awaits a final set of recommendations from the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare.

Linda Silas, a pharmacare advocate and president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, said she hopes the government will make “start-up” investments to follow up on the council’s interim report. That report recommends creating a national drug agency, developing a comprehensive list of prescription drugs (a national formulary) to harmonize coverage, and obtaining data and information technology systems.

“All of that, the start-up funds, can be done now and then within a year we could have the beginnings of a national pharmacare program,” Silas said.

She added making seed investments now would have the effect of committing future governments to a pharmacare program.

Skills retraining

Many Canadian employers have complained that they can’t find skilled workers to fill their jobs, while many workers have complained they don’t have the skills they need to adapt to a changing labour market.

To that end, the budget is expected to bring in measures to help people take time for skills development and retraining while still paying household bills.

CBC News has learned that the budget will introduce personalized accounts to help Canadians pay for lifelong learning and skills development.

Affordable homes for millennials

Hot housing markets have made buying a first home a pipe dream for many millennials, as the cost of home ownership relative to income continues to rise.

In Toronto, the cost of owning a home will be 79 per cent of the median household income of $71,631 by the end of this year, up from about 76 per cent in 2018.

Morneau has promised to make houses more affordable for millennials and other first-time buyers through various policy and regulatory measures affecting supply and demand.

RBC chief economist Craig Wright said he isn’t convinced this is a problem demanding a fix. He said while there has been a marked decline in the past decade, the home ownership rate among younger households remains high within Canada and compared to other countries, such as the U.S.


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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government will roll out a multi-year plan in the federal budget to give all Canadians access to high-speed internet by 2030, CBC News has learned.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau will outline the specifics in the budget on Tuesday. But a government source said the plan will be paid for with new federal spending and will also rely on the private sector.

A second government source told CBC News the broadband investments will focus on narrowing a growing urban-rural divide. The goal is to help people who don’t live in major cities participate in the modern economy and worry less about having to leave home to find work.

The broadband plan will be a key component of a budget that will also focus on adult skills training, pharmacare, seniors and new measures to make home ownership more affordable for first-time buyers.

The second source said there would be targeted measures in the budget to make home-buying more affordable, with a specific focus on millenials. This has consistently been identified as a top issue for that generation of Canadians who are in their 20s and 30s.

The budget will also include a suite of measures to help promote lifelong learning and adult training. Last week, CBC news reported that the federal government will establish personalized accounts to help Canadians pay for retraining and skills.

Morneau strongly hinted last week that this budget will also include measures to help people take time off while they retrain.

Watch: What to expect in Tuesday’s federal budget

Bill Morneau will introduce the federal budget on Tuesday. Here is @VassyKapelos with some of what you can expect so see in the spending plan. 1:24

The sources said that the government will beat its projected deficit of $18.1-billion for this fiscal year. Economic growth has been flat in recent quarters, but the job market remains strong and there’s been a windfall in higher than expected personal income tax revenues.

The budget will be a hard pivot back to the Liberal government’s middle-class mantra. In last fall’s economic update, the government spent billions to help corporate Canada compete with the deregulation and tax cutting agenda of U.S. President Donald Trump. 

It also comes as the Liberal government faces harsh criticism for efforts to help Quebec-based corporate-giant SNC Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution for bribery and fraud charges related to past business dealings in Libya.

Trying to stifle a scandal

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said he expects to see a budget that sprays money in all directions in the hopes of drowning out the SNC-Lavalin scandal and regaining the Liberals’ polling advantage.

“Trudeau’s betting that Canadians will be stupid and that he can distract them with their own money,” Poilievre said. “He’s wrong. They know that as he’s throwing money around, he’s taking it out of the wallets of ordinary people.”

The Liberals have taken a hit in the polls since the Globe and Mail first published allegations of political interference by the Prime Minister’s Office in the SNC-Lavalin affair on Feb. 7. Senior ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott have both resigned from cabinet, and Trudeau’s former principal secretary Gerry Butts has also quit.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the budget presents a “last opportunity” before the election for the Liberals to prioritize the needs of average Canadians instead of the wealthy. In a letter he sent to Trudeau and Morneau this week, Singh said too many Canadians are struggling to pay their bills and find affordable child care and housing.

Watch: How will the federal budget affect spotlight on SNC-Lavalin probe?

The next meeting of the justice committee probing the SNC-Lavlin affair happens on budget day. So what happens next in the SNC-Lavalin controversy, and how will the government use the budget to reset its agenda? Our At Issue panel is here to discuss. 12:04

“The wealthy and the powerful have so successfully lobbied your government in the last three years, that the gap between Canada’s wealthiest and the rest of Canadians is growing,” he wrote.

“While billionaires in Canada have increased their wealth by $20 billion over the last year, Canadian families are burdened with record family debt loads and many Indigenous communities don’t even have access to drinkable water, safe and affordable housing, and healthy schools.”

The NDP said the Liberal spending priorities should be universal pharmacare, Indigenous communities, affordable housing, environmental projects and tackling tax havens.

When Morneau announced the budget date last month, he said it would include “next steps in our plan to ensure middle-class optimism and an economy that works for all Canadians.”


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The federal government will establish personalized accounts to help Canadians pay for lifelong learning and skills development in next week’s budget, CBC News has learned.

The specific details of the program weren’t shared with CBC, but two government sources say the government’s plan is modelled on a similar program in Singapore.

The Singapore SkillsFuture program sets up personal accounts to help anyone over the age of 25 pay for retraining and skills development.

Under the SkillsFuture program, individual accounts start with a government-funded opening credit of $500 with the promise of periodic top-ups. The credit can be used to help pay for training services selected from a list of pre-approved programs and institutions.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau hinted broadly at the program during a pre-budget event at a shoe repair shop in Toronto today. The Kensington Market shop’s owner, Lorena Angola, had to take time off from her old job to retrain as a cobbler.

“In our budget this year that’s what we are going to be thinking about,” Morneau said. “How do we help Canadians to take time off? How do we ensure that they can continue to live their life while they are taking time off? And how do they pay for their training?”

Government sources would not say how closely the financial support in the Canadian program would align with what Singapore is offering.

Skills development will be one of the four major themes of next week’s budget, along with pharmacare, support for seniors and housing affordability.

Budget to be tabled Tuesday

Morneau announced last month that the final budget of the Trudeau government’s current term will be tabled March 19.

“We know there’s more to do. That’s why I am so pleased to announce that March 19, we will be introducing budget 2019, the next steps in our plan to ensure middle-class optimism and an economy that works for all Canadians,” Morneau said in the House of Commons.

A statement released by Morneau’s office said the budget will focus on investments in people and communities and creating opportunities for future generations, although no specifics were offered.

The Business Council of Canada recently urged Morneau to include measures in the budget to make Canada more competitive and better able to handle the shocks of the next economic downturn.

BCC President and CEO Goldy Hyder said the council remains concerned about skills training, regulation, the energy sector, trade and Canada’s fiscal sustainability.

“Canada’s business leaders are concerned about Canada’s economic future,” Hyder said in a letter sent to the minister Tuesday.

“Budget 2019 is an important opportunity to introduce measures to help Canada reach its full potential while preparing for the next downturn.”


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The United States is working on a plan that lifts steel and aluminum tariffs off Mexican and Canadian products while preserving the gains of those tariffs overall, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Tuesday.

“What I’m trying to do is a have a practical solution to a real problem … get rid of tariffs on these two, let them maintain their historic access to the U.S. market, which I think will allow us to still maintain the benefit of the steel and aluminum program,” Lighthizer told the U.S. Senate Finance Committee in Washington D.C. at a hearing about the World Trade Organization.

U.S. President Donald Trump imposed tariffs — 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum — back in 2018 on national security grounds. Tariffs on both sides of the border have disrupted supply chains and added extra costs for consumers and businesses across a wide range of industries.

This week, the federal government announced $100 million in funding for small and medium-sized enterprise steel and aluminum manufacturers in Canada.

“In the face of unjust and illegal U.S. tariffs hurting businesses and workers on both sides of the border, our government is standing shoulder to shoulder with our hard-working steel and aluminum workers and the users of their world-class products,” Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said in a statement.

The Canadian government says “escalating commodity prices” and “increasing financial and competitive pressures” have significantly affected small and medium-sized producers operating within Canadian steel and aluminum supply chains.


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The prosecution of SNC-Lavalin is proceeding full-steam ahead, with a preliminary hearing already underway in Montreal. A criminal trial is possible within a year.

That is unless the Trudeau government hands the Quebec company a get-out-of-jail-free card in the form of a much-talked-about deferred prosecution agreement.

If a DPA is granted, there won’t be a trial and Canadians may never hear how far up the corporate ladder the alleged corruption went inside the global engineering firm.

And with the current parliamentary hearings so narrowly focused on the “he said, she said” of the Prime Minister’s Office and the former attorney general, Canadians are at risk of never learning the full extent to which SNC-Lavalin may have influenced the government.

1. How widespread was the bribery?

The criminal case looming over SNC-Lavalin is specifically about Libya.  

The company is accused of paying $48 million in bribes to Libyan officials, with executives alleged to have bankrolled yachts and prostitutes for the son of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi in a bid to win lucrative contracts in the country.

If SNC-Lavalin is granted a remediation agreement, the company would face a massive fine — but the public will never get to see the evidence that the RCMP and prosecutors have spent seven years amassing in anticipation of the criminal trial.

What we don’t know — and may never know — is the extent of corruption beyond Libya.

SNC-Lavalin is alleged to have paid millions for travel, hotels and escorts on trips to Toronto and Montreal for Saadi Gadhafi, the son of Libya’s former dictator, shown here in a 2005 file photo. (Tim Wimborne/Reuters)

A CBC News and Globe and Mail investigation in 2013 revealed SNC-Lavalin used secret codes in budgets to hide unofficial payments on projects around the globe, which numerous employees allege were for bribes. The investigation exposed the payments in 13 countries, including Nigeria, Zambia, Uganda, Ghana, India and Kazakhstan.

But Canada has yet to convict anyone from SNC-Lavalin for any foreign bribery — something that is illegal under Canadian law, which aims to stop Canadian companies from propping up corrupt officials and dictators in some of the world’s most underdeveloped, oppressive regimes.

A trial in the Libya case could be the last chance for accountability through a public and opening hearing.

2. What did SNC’s senior management know?

SNC-Lavalin’s former top construction executive, Riadh Ben Aïssa, has already pleaded guilty to bribing Libyan officials and laundering tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks through Swiss bank accounts to win billions in contracts.

But that was in Switzerland, where he was jailed for two-and-a-half years.

What we don’t know is who else was involved.

Former SNC executive vice-president Riadh Ben Aïssa, right, pleaded guilty in Switzerland in 2014 to paying bribes to Saadi Gadhafi, left, in order to land lucrative contracts. The company has said he was a rogue employee. (Radio-Canada)

Ben Aïssa has since become a key witness for the prosecution in the upcoming Canadian trial. He’s ready to point fingers at others in the company who, for years, groomed and promoted him. He can testify about who in the senior ranks knew about the alleged bribery, and SNC-Lavalin’s frequent use of shell companies and Swiss bank accounts to pay “agents” to win global projects.

SNC has long argued that Ben Aïssa was a rogue actor. It denies the charges it is currently facing in Canada.

“All the sources of our troubles [are] coming from him,” Jacques Lamarre, SNC-Lavalin’s CEO from 1996 until 2009, told CBC News in 2014.

Granting SNC-Lavalin a DPA would shut down Ben Aïssa’s testimony.

3. What happened in the Gadhafi smuggling plot?

One of the more bizarre twists in the SNC-Lavalin saga involves two Canadians tied to a plot to smuggle Saadi Gadhafi — the son of the late Libyan dictator and a longtime SNC-Lavalin patron — into Mexico.

In 2011, as civil war toppled the Libyan regime, SNC-Lavalin scrambled to save its projects in the country, as well as its profitable patronage with the Gadhafi family.

Canadian consultant Cynthia Vanier and SNC-Lavalin vice-president Stéphane Roy were detained by police in Mexico City, the pair among a group accused of a conspiracy to forge passports and fly Saadi Gadhafi and his family to a life in hiding.

Canadian consultant Cynthia Vanier spent 18 months in a Mexican prison, accused in a plot to smuggle Saadi Gadhafi and his family out of Libya. But she was released after a court ruled her legal rights had been violated. (Submitted by Betty MacDonald)

But Canadians have never heard the full story.

Vanier, accused of being the mastermind of the plot, was imprisoned in Mexico for 18 months. But she was released after a court ruled her legal rights had been violated.

Back in Canada, the RCMP charged Roy in 2014 in relation to the caper and SNC’s Libya dealings. But his entire case was thrown out last month due to delays.

SNC-Lavalin has argued Roy and Vanier were rogue actors, and have launched lawsuits against them.

The Gadhafi smuggling plot will no doubt be evidence at the company’s upcoming trial.

4. Have lobbyists swayed the Trudeau government?

SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce, named to that post in 2015, vehemently denies the allegations against the company.

“We’ve done nothing wrong as a company and none of our current employees have done anything wrong,” Bruce told investors last month.

“We’ve never asked that the charges be dropped, we’ve never asked for anything to be circumvented outside this judicial system.”

Yet Bruce and others from SNC-Lavalin have been vigorously lobbying the Trudeau government for a way out.

SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce addresses shareholders during the company’s annual general meeting in Montreal on May 3, 2018. In an interview with Bloomberg late last year, Bruce said the pending litigation against SNC has cost his company some $5 billion from lost contracts. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The company has lobbied federal officials on 60 different occasions, pressing the government, among other things, for deferred prosecution and to relax the penalties for corporations convicted of foreign bribery.

What we don’t know is what was said or what influence SNC-Lavalin’s ear-bending may have had on the prime minister, the PMO, or officials within the justice system.

The House of Commons justice committee is currently narrowly focused on the allegations that the PMO attempted to politically interfere in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin by pressuring Jody Wilson-Raybould to offer a DPA. And the federal ethics commissioner is also probing the issue.

But there is no formal probe into how this criminally charged corporation has potentially influenced the government through its extensive lobbying.

5. What about SNC’s illegal political donations?

Amid the latest political drama, few are talking about SNC-Lavalin’s long history of illegal political donations.

SNC-Lavalin was caught making illegal donations to federal parties back in 2013, when executives were instructed to donate to certain candidates, only to be reimbursed through company bonuses.

Elections Canada investigated, charging a lone SNC-Lavalin bagman, who pleaded guilty in November to illegally funnelling $117,000 to the Liberal and Conservative parties.

But we don’t know who else was involved, or the kind of influence SNC-Lavalin expected or may have received in exchange for their illegal donations.

Elections Canada gave the company a pass, agreeing to a compliance agreement in 2016 that closed the case. That lone executive paid a $2,000 fine.

Under the compliance agreement, Elections Canada agreed to not pursue other “certain former senior executives” and didn’t prosecute anyone within the political parties, allowing them to simply pay back the money.


Send tips to dave.seglins@cbc.ca or rachel.houlihan@cbc.ca.


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SNC-Lavalin, the engineering firm at the centre of a political scandal engulfing the Liberal government, has lost its bid for a judicial review of the Director of Public Prosecution’s decision to proceed with criminal prosecution of the company on corruption charges.

The company has been seeking a remediation agreement to avoid criminal proceedings related to bribery charges linked to contracts in Libya.

Today’s court decision means the Montreal-based engineering and construction firm will likely only get a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) now if Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti overturns the public prosecutor’s Oct. 9, 2018 decision. The company does have the right to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

The court ruling by federal Judge Catherine Kane says the decision by the director of public prosecutions is not an administrative decision but an exercise of prosecutorial discretion, “which is not subject to judicial review, except for abuse of power.”

A remediation agreement, according to the ruling, is defined as “an agreement, between an organization accused of having committed an offence and a prosecutor, to stay any proceedings related to that offence if the organization complies with the terms of the agreement.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers a question about whether or not SNC-Lavalin will get a deferred prosecution agreement. 0:26

The court acknowledged that the threshold to strike an application for judicial review is high, but found that the threshold had been met.

Political pressure, veiled threats

Former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould has alleged she faced intense political pressure and veiled threats from various government officials to overturn the public prosecution director’s decision to proceed with criminal charges.

During a news conference in Iqaluit today, where he was delivering a formal apology for past mistreatment of Inuit with tuberculosis, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked if he will act to help SNC-Lavalin in the wake of the federal court decision.

He repeated his line that the government sees creating and protecting jobs as a fundamental responsibility, but he would not intervene in a decision on whether the company should have an alternative to prosecution.

“In the specific question of a DPA, that is the attorney general’s decision to make,” he said. “That is what I have been consistent on for many months. And the attorney general will make that decision.”

Trudeau was also asked if Philpott and Wilson-Raybould can remain in the Liberal caucus. He said they’ve both indicated they want to remain in the Liberal Party and that they share the government’s values and objectives when it comes to economic growth, reconciliation with Indigenous people and the environment.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau comments on Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott remaining in the Liberal Caucus. 1:00

“Obviously there are going to be reflections and discussions but I will remind people that we are a party that values diversity of opinions and perspectives,” he said.

Earlier this week, Trudeau said he was still considering the status of Wilson-Raybould in the caucus after she confirmed she would be seeking re-election in her Vancouver Granville riding under the Liberal banner.

“This is obviously not a situation or a decision to be taken lightly and we will continue to reflect and work on this issue,” Trudeau said during a funding announcement in Charlottetown.

During her testimony before the Commons justice committee, Wilson-Raybould was asked if she still has confidence in the prime minister. She declined to answer, saying the question was not relevant to the hearings.


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A new report questions how well prepared the Canadian military and the federal government are to fight a cyber war that, for all intents and purposes, has started already.

The Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI), which represents major weapons and high-tech manufacturers, warns in a new report that, despite recent investments and policy papers, the country is lagging far behind its allies in preparing to fight a new kind of war.

“The cyber threat to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) permeates domestically through vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure, combat systems and equipment, and extends to where the military is deployed abroad,” said the association’s report, released Thursday.

“Russia have proven their ability to launch attacks that cripple critical systems in seconds or quietly collect intelligence for years. The CAF has only recently received approval to engage in active and offensive operations at scale (though specialized activity has been present for years).”

‘A genuine sense of urgency’

To compile the report, researchers at CADSI conducted 70 interviews with government and military officials, as well as defence industry leaders.

Christyn Cianfarani, the association’s president, said the feedback was frank.

“There’s a genuine sense of urgency for Canada to advance in this space,” she said. Even if the public doesn’t feel the country is vulnerable, she added, “we could stand to be vulnerable by not moving forward very quickly.”

The report comes just weeks after a House of Commons committee heard that online attacks on Canada’s financial system and other key infrastructure could become far more destructive as more militaries around the globe get involved in cyber operations.

That testimony came from security expert and former CIA analyst Christopher Porter, an executive at the U.S. cyber security company Fireeye, Inc.

He said the west’s imposition of sanctions on “some countries” has in the past been met with denial-of-service attacks on financial services websites, but those attacks have only been disruptive.

“In the future, they may respond with destructive attacks,” he testified on Feb. 6.

Cianfarani echoed that warning.

“I think, if you look, other nations are attacking Canada,” she said. “Other nations aren’t just attacking Canada in a short-game play. They are attacking Canada and trying to influence things in our country in a long-game play.”

The defence association report also took aim at the federal government’s ponderous procurement system, noting that adversaries and allies have “demonstrated their ability to deploy new cyber capabilities in months or weeks, while the CAF remains burdened by a years-long and sometimes decades-long procurement cycle.”

Time to ‘blow up’ the procurement system?

Cianfarani said the procurement system has to “be blown up” and “torn apart” when it comes to acquiring cyber equipment and services.

It should take six months, not 10 years, to get those kinds of products into the hands of cyber operators, she added.

The study found “government and industry lack the mutual trust required to effectively collaborate in the cyber defence of Canada” and proposed a series of remedies.

“This distrust has been sown over time through a history of unproductive engagements, limited communications and inadequate mutual understanding of each other’s capabilities,” said the analysis.

The Council of Canadian Innovators has delivered a similar message to the federal government on many occasions over the last two years, but Cianfarani said she believes that the upcoming federal election and the possibility of interference in it — foreign or otherwise — will focus the attention of both the public and decision-makers.

“I think around an election is probably when we have the loudest voice, and it’s when we’re probably, as a country, the most vulnerable,” she said.

The report pointed to other countries, such as the United States, where cyber defence strategies are primarily driven by industry, supported by the academic community and funded by the government without bureaucratic limitations.

“A similar approach for Canada could mobilize a strong, sovereign line of defence against rapidly evolving cyber threats,” the report said.


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Facebook promised to open a data centre in Canada to create jobs, in exchange for the federal government offering assurances that it would not impose its jurisdiction over the company’s non-Canadian data. 

Documents show that Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg was negotiating this deal with the previous Conservative government, namely then-industry minister Christian Paradis. 

The documents were leaked to journalists in the United Kingom. CBC News has not independently verified the contents. 

They show a global lobbying operation carried out by Facebook targeting legislators around the world, including in countries like the U.K., United States, Canada, India and Brazil. 

In Canada’s case, they threatened to withhold investment and job creation opportunities unless Canada adopted data policies that favoured Facebook.

The memos leaked to the journalists detail what went on during lobbying efforts in Canada.

The memos leaked to the journalists detail what went on during lobbying efforts in Canada allegedly involving Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and then-industry minister Christian Paradis. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“Sheryl took a firm approach and outlined that a decision on the datacentre was imminent. She emphasised that if we could not get comfort from the Canadian government on the jurisdiction issue we had other options,” Marne Levine, Facebook’s former vice-president of global public policy wrote in one memo, first reported by Computer Weekly and the Guardian, who have seen the documents.

After this pressure, Paradis allegedly agreed to give Facebook a letter guaranteeing the independence of non-Canadian data by the end of that day.

The documents also show Levine complaining to her colleagues about an unnamed minister’s aide, and explaining how Facebook officials made their way to a government reception to “cut the awful staff person out of the way” and give Levine direct access to Paradis. The dates in question are unknown, but Paradis was a minister from 2007 to 2015.

Facebook, Paradis and the current government’s Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould did not immediately respond to CBC News’s requests for comment. 

‘A real eye-opener’

The lobbyist registry shows no meetings formally reported between Facebook and federal cabinet ministers during the time Paradis was in the role. 

“It’s a real insight, a real eye-opener into how they operate,” Carole Cadwalladr, one of the authors of the Guardian article, told CBC News on Sunday. 

She says they don’t know who leaked the documents, but they appear to have originated from a release under legal discovery rules from an ongoing U.S. court case against Facebook. 

After the letter was promised to Facebook by the Canadian government, Cadwalladr said the documents show Facebook was still debating whether to put the data centre in Canada or Iowa.

Facebook has come under fire for its privacy and data policies, especially after it was revealed last year that Cambridge Analytica had harvested the data of millions of users without their consent for political purposes. 


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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday about American tariffs on steel and aluminum, Trudeau’s office said on Friday, but well-placed sources said there was little sign of progress.

Ottawa strongly objects to the tariffs, which Trump imposed last year citing security concerns, and has pressed many times for them to be removed.

“The Prime Minister raised the issue of steel and aluminum tariffs and expressed the need for the removal of tariffs,” a statement from Trudeau’s office said.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Thursday he was working hard to persuade Trump that the U.S. steel industry could be adequately protected by tariff rate quotas, rather than plain tariffs, on imports from Canada and Mexico.

Canadian industry officials say they are opposed to the idea of quotas.

Trade deal ratification questions

Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau said on Sunday that Canada might find it hard to ratify a new continental free trade pact unless the measures were lifted beforehand. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement was concluded last October.

Yet despite the pressure campaign, two Canadian industry sources with close ties to Washington said they had heard nothing to suggest a breakthrough was near.

“There are no talks planned on this right now,” said one of the sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Canada is the single largest supplier of both aluminum and steel to the United States. Washington worries that countries could try to ship supplies through Canada and pretend the metals had been produced in Canadian facilities.

A government official said the final decision was Trump’s so it was hard to predict what might happen.

“We’re starting to see that there’s an understanding in the United States, that this is something that is a really difficult sticking point with Canada,” said the official.


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Many words have been tossed around to describe the allegations that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould in the SNC-Lavalin affair: bombshell, shocking, explosive, inappropriate.

But one word could take this scandal from a House of Commons committee room to a courtroom: illegal.

In the mad dash following Wilson-Raybould’s dazzling testimony before the House of Commons justice committee Wednesday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer held a news conference calling for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to launch a criminal investigation into the government’s actions.

“I was sickened and appalled by her story of inappropriate and, frankly, illegal pressure brought to bear on her by the highest officials of Justin Trudeau’s government,” he told reporters Wednesday night.

Scheer followed up Thursday with a letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, citing sections of the Criminal Code related to provoking fear in an attorney general and obstructing or defeating the course of justice.

“She confirmed veiled threats of consequences if she did not bend to the political wishes of the Liberal Party and the financial interests of the shareholders of SNC-Lavalin. It was also clear that these actions rose to the highest ranks of the government,” he wrote.

While clearly upset by her government’s handling of the file, Wilson-Raybould, who was at one point Canada’s most senior lawyer, clearly disagrees something criminal occurred.

In front of the committee she was asked multiple times if the pressure exerted on her broke the law.

“In my opinion, it’s not illegal,” she told the committee.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to resign and for the RCMP to investigate, at a news conference Wednesday following Wilson-Raybould’s testimony. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

For legal animals in Ottawa, it’s been a neck-aching round of whiplash trying to figure out who is right.  

“Neither opinion settles the matter,” said Ottawa-based defence lawyer Michael Spratt. “It’s not clearly not obstruction.”

According to the Criminal Code, obstructing justice covers “everyone who wilfully attempts in any manner … to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice.”

In her testimony, Wilson-Raybould said she faced intense political pressure and veiled threats related to the SNC-Lavalin affair, and was warned directly by Trudeau about the negative consequences if the company faced prosecution. SNC-Lavalin was facing corruption charges for contracts in Libya and was lobbying for a remediation agreement as an alternative to criminal prosecution.

Examine the case, Conservative MacKay says

Former Conservative justice minister Peter MacKay said there’s enough from Wilson-Raybould’s testimony to warrant further examination — either through a public inquiry or a criminal investigation.

“What’s happened here is that somebody in the office gave her the impression there would be consequences if she was not to follow the instructions, and when that didn’t happen we know that she did lose her job,” he said.

“I come back to the definition of the Criminal Code section which speaks of perverting justice, it speaks of interference, it speaks of in some way trying to shape the outcome of a prosecution, and the elements appear to be there.”

Criminal defence lawyer Joseph Neuberger said an obstruction of justice charge wouldn’t be hard to prove in court. He pointed to a meeting Gerry Butts, the prime minister’s former principal secretary, had with Wilson-Raybould’s trusted chief of staff Jessica Prince where he allegedly said, “There is no solution here that doesn’t involve some interference.”

“If that is not a smoking gun when it comes to actual interference and obstruction, I don’t know what is,” said Neuberger.

“This has stepped over the bounds of inappropriate; it has certainly crossed into the realm of criminal conduct.”

Spratt said he doesn’t think the case is a “slam dunk,” for police and prosecutors, but “it’s starting to sound a lot like obstruction.”

Canadian Civil Liberties Association executive director Michael Bryant, who in the first few days of the scandal called for a police investigation, now says this issue isn’t as clear cut.

“The evidence for obstruction of justice requires evidence of intent. So you need to have evidence of the prime minister intended to obstruct justice, and we didn’t hear any of that,” he said Thursday.

“I don’t think that we should politicize a criminal investigation by the RCMP any more than we should criminalize a prosecutorial decision against SNC-Lavalin. I don’t think it’s for Parliament to be telling the police what to do.”

Nothing criminal, Liberal Cotler says

It’s a view shared, in part, by Irwin Cotler, another former justice minister.

“I don’t see anything criminal going on,” the former Liberal cabinet minister said. “I do think that what’s been happening here is really a reflection of the ongoing dynamics between the offices of the minister of justice, the other members of cabinet and her responsibilities as attorney general.”

Trudeau told reporters in Montreal on Wednesday he disagreed with Wilson-Raybould’s view that she was inappropriately pressured over SNC-Lavalin. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Cotler said it’s possible officials with the Prime Minister’s Office, Privacy Council Office and minister of finance didn’t intend to exert inappropriate direction on Wilson-Raybould, but over time if felt like concentrated and sustained pressure.

During her testimony, Wilson-Raybould referred to it as “a barrage of people hounding me and my staff.”

“I know this may sound somewhat, perhaps, speaking paradoxically when I say that both sides may be telling the truth, but that was my feeling that she was really telling it as she saw it, as she experienced it,” said Cotler.

The RCMP, as expected, won’t comment on the calls for an investigation, but the force did acknowledge it’s reviewing Scheer’s letter.

“The RCMP does not confirm or deny the existence of a criminal investigation unless charges would be laid,” said a spokesperson.

For his part, Trudeau said no one from his team has been questioned by RCMP officers.

“We have confidence in the processes in place. The justice committee is pursuing its study, and we will of course respect the independence and indeed the work of the committee” he told reporters Thursday.

“We will also look very closely and participate fully in the ethics commissioner’s investigation into this.”

Former AGs weigh in

Meanwhile, late Thursday, two former federal attorneys general — Peter MacKay, who served in the role under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Douglas Grinslade Lewis, who served under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney — penned a letter to the RCMP asking for a police investigation into the matter.

The letter was also signed by three provincial attorneys general: Jonathan Denis, Progressive Conservative, from Alberta; Cecil Clarke, Progressive Conservative, from Nova Scotia; and Colin Gableman, NDP, from British Columbia. 

“We write today to urge you to ensure that you use all resources at your disposal to fully and fairly investigate any potential criminality and provide Canadians with the truth in this crucial matter, as it strikes at the core of the rule of law and independence of our justice system,” the letter said.Mobile users: View the document
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