Who’s Investigating Justin Trudeau — and What Do They Hope to Find?
In Canada, the House of Commons’ justice committee generally goes about its work in earnest obscurity. Jody Wilson-Raybould, a former cabinet minister, dramatically changed that with her appearance on Wednesday, which stretched on for almost four hours.
Here’s a look at who’s seeking answers, what they could uncover, and who else might still take a peek:
What’s Already Underway
• Parliamentary hearings: The House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Justice is where Ms. Wilson-Raybould finally broke her silence this week. It’s also where other key players are set to appear, notably Gerald Butts, Mr. Trudeau’s friend who stepped down last month as his top political adviser amid the scandal.
But the justice committee isn’t set up to run a full-scale investigation. It has neither a team of people digging up evidence, nor the power to order up internal government documents.
And, as the opposition has repeatedly pointed out this week, the Liberals control the committee. This makes it unlikely that anything the panel does will inflict much harm on Mr. Trudeau.
• An ethics investigation: After a request from two New Democratic Party lawmakers, the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner, Mario Dion, is also on the case. But by law, he can only look for possible conflicts of interest.
Simply applying pressure for political advantage doesn’t amount to such a conflict, earlier commissioners have ruled. Past investigations by the ethics commissioner’s office have dragged on for more than a year, and the office has no power to order serious sanctions.
What May Come Next
• A criminal investigation: The Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and others have asked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to look into possible obstruction of justice. The police force, citing standard policy, will not confirm whether it’s started an investigation or plans to do so.
And there’s a good chance that we’ll never know whether the Mounties made Mr. Trudeau the target of an investigation. The reason goes back to 2005, when the force sent a fax to a New Democratic member of Parliament confirming that it was investigating then-Finance Minister Ralph Goodale in connection with illegal stock trading. Arriving in the midst of a federal election campaign, the fax exploded like a bomb. Mr. Goodale was cleared; a public servant in the finance department later pleaded guilty to insider trading charges.
An investigation later found no fault with the police force, but the Mounties were widely criticized as having meddled in politics. They have been more circumspect about politically sensitive investigations since then.
Today, as Mr. Trudeau’s public safety minister, Mr. Goodale oversees the Mounties.
•An independent public inquiry: Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the New Democrats, was the first to push for an independent special commission to look into the affair, and the idea has support from other opposition parties.
Mr. Trudeau has taken the position that the Justice Committee hearings and the conflict of interest investigation are all that’s needed.
An inquiry is the least appealing option for the Liberals, who remember all too well the Gomery Commission. Then-Prime Minister Paul Martin meant for it to clear the air around the Liberals after a corruption scandal involving the previous Liberal government. But it backfired. Evidence presented at the inquiry only highlighted the corruption, and Mr. Martin’s loss in the 2006 election was widely attributed to the hearings.
Any inquiry into the current scandal is unlikely to be finished before October’s vote. But the hearings would certainly provide the kind of publicity the Liberals don’t want leading up to, and during, an election campaign.
This week’s Trans Canada and Around The Times highlights were compiled by Lindsey Wiebe, the Canada audience growth editor.
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