SNC-Lavalin – Oh so much has happened

Last week the Justice Committee refused to revisit the question of further testimony from Ms. Wilson-Raybould. Liberal MP Frances Drouin appeared on the Sunday shows and was adamant the she had said all that was necessary and that there was nothing further to be heard. From this many concluded that the Government’s strategy in this matter was to try and close the file and move on.

Then there was Monday. Around midday Monday the Clerk resigned citing the breakdown of his relations with opposition leaders. The Prime Minister then announced that he was appointing Anne McLellan appointed as Special Advisor to the Prime Minister to examine questions regarding the relation between the federal government and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. Ms. McLellan appears to have ongoing work with the federal government having just completed a role as Chair of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation. She is due to report by June 30, 2019. Ms. McLellan was a four term Liberal MP and was Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Public Safety, Minister of Health, Minister of Justice and Attorney General and Minister of Natural Resources in the Chretien and Martin cabinets.

Ms. McLellan is a senior advisor at the law firm of Bennett Jones. As was reported by Rachel Gilmore of CTV News Ms. McLellan was scheduled to host a Liberal Party of Canada fundraiser on March 31, 2019 but after her appointment decided that “she would not report as the event’s special guest”. I am guessing from the fact that lawyers from Bennett Jones have written commentary articles on SNC-Lavalin that they do not have any conflicts on this file.

It is interesting that Ms. McLellan is a member of the Board of Directors of Cameco which has ongoing contractual relationships with SNC-Lavalin in relation to a number of nuclear reactors.

There are a few interesting things about this appointment. The first is that, despite media reporting to the contrary, there is no mandate to investigate or review conduct in relation to SNC-Lavalin. The mandate purely relates to structural issues relating to the Minister of Justice and the Attorney-General.

Ms. McLellan is not being retained as a lawyer. However, she is still a member of the Privy Council. An argument can be made that any work or communications that she has with cabinet ministers or agents of cabinet ministers is covered by obligations of confidentiality that applies to all Privy Councillors in relation to the affairs of the Privy Council.

I remain confused about the government’s strategy in this matter. On the one hand it seems they are trying to wrap this matter up. However, they continue to do things that will keep the controversy alive. One live question is whether the Ethics Commissioner, who has an open inquiry, will have access to any documents gathered or produced by Ms. McLellan in the course of her analysis. Further, if the RCMP has opened an investigation, will these documents be provided to investigators?

Finally, will the government extend to Canadians the privilege of being provided with the documents and report, for which there is no doubt they will pay handsomely, from Ms. McLellan

Author: Tom Jarmyn