Hastings-Lennox and Addington MP Mike Bossio is in Justin Trudeau’s corner.
While efforts by the Prime Minister and members of his inner circle to encourage government intervention on the SNC-Lavalin file rankled some in the Liberal caucus and created a public outcry, Bossio defended his party leader.
In testimony before House of Commons justice committee last week, former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould indicated 11 people, including Trudeau and officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, Privy Council and Ministry of Finance mounted a “consistent and sustained effort” to convince her as attorney general to intervene on the Quebec company’s behalf when it was facing fraud and corruption prosecution.
Her testimony suggested they favoured an alternate solution, such as a deferred prosecution agreement, that could allow the company to continue to bid for future federal contracts.
Wilson-Raybould backed the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, which chose to prosecute.
Though Bossio said he’s watching from an outside perspective just as much of the public is, he said he could relate to Trudeau’s position and shared Wilson-Raybould’s own statement that “no laws have been broken.” He argued that not only was the pressure not illegal, he didn’t think it was unreasonable either.
Bossio told the Beaver that when it appeared sanctions by the Ontario’s Metrolinx would threaten Bombardier’s light rail production in Millhaven, he did everything in his power to protect those jobs — and maybe some of his communications with provincial ministers could be considered “inappropriate.”
“I know I can be a dog with a bone as well. We fight on behalf of our constituents. That’s my job as far as I’m concerned: To find solutions to challenges that exist for constituents, my riding and rural Canadians.”
In a statement Bossio released last week, he said if he were one of the 9,000 workers and many more pensioners of the company he would “want to know that my government was doing everything it could to make sure that my job and my pension would still be there.”
He said in his statement that the decision was Wilson-Raybould’s to make, but someone in her position should expect that others would want to make their case.
“Having people make their case, even repeatedly, is something that an MP or a minister experiences on a daily basis and it’s part of the job we do. Similarly, our constituents want us to get things right on a wide range of issues and I rightly feel that pressure.”
Bossio noted that in her testimony Wilson-Raybould said PMO staff said they didn’t want to cross any lines.
The MP also disputed criticism the move was made to appease Quebec. He said more SNC-Lavalin workers are employed outside of Quebec than in it. Bossio also said the government has shown it cares about jobs in all provinces and works to protect them.
“We work to bring benefits to all Canadians no matter where they live,” he said.
From his own perspective, Bossio said a deferred prosecution agreement was an appropriate solution because it would protect those 9,000 Canadian jobs and 52,000 jobs globally. He reasoned the people responsible for the corruption jobs are no longer with the company and they will still face justice.
“Do you punish the innocent employees who had nothing to do with it, or the few that had something to do with it?” he mused. “Some say its a get-out-of-jail-free card. It isn’t. The first thing is admittance of guilt. They have to fess up to what they have done and those who are at fault are held to account.”
He also said German company Siemens is an example of a company fined during a deferred prosecution agreement just over a decade ago that is trusted to do public infrastructure work in Canada, including an Ottawa light rail contract.
Bossio said he doesn’t condone the corruption, fraudulent activity, or bribery SNC-Lavalin was accused of, but said he’d like to see the company rehabilitated to protect those jobs and he’d like to see major infrastructure projects be completed by Canadian contractors with specialized expertise.
Speaking about Trudeau in the wake of Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, the resignation of treasury board president Jane Philpott, and the defection of Toronto-area MP Leona Alleslev to the Conservatives, Bossio reiterated the Prime Minister has “my full support.” He said as a rural representative and Liberal rural caucus chair, Trudeau has delivered everything he asked for, including the largest investment in rural broadband ever, dedicated rural economic development funding, and a minister of rural economic development.
While the turmoil can be difficult in an election year, Bossio is still upbeat about the fall vote.
“At the end of the day, people will have to look at what we have done as a government and the changes we have made and measure that against what they see on the other side and make a decision about which party brings a platform that supports their interests,” he said. “I’m confident when Canadians consider what we’ve done and see the transformational change and generational change we’ve brought about they’ll want to support that.”
Meanwhile, Bossio said he’ll watch further testimony with interest and focus on serving his riding.
“I’m focused on things I can do something about and that is to represent my constituents and rural Canadians to the best of my ability as long as they want me to.”
Bossio’s rival for his seat, Conservative Derek Sloan, took to Facebook on Friday to address the situation. He said Wilson-Raybould “should not have been subjected to ‘veiled threats’ and to sustained, consistent and inappropriate pressure to act against her best judgment in order to further the partisan goals of the Liberal Party.” He also charged it’s time for Trudeau to take responsibility. Sloan also disputed the claim the intervention was about jobs. He said there are “other companies capable of doing the work… more ethical companies without ties to the Liberal party” and also questioned the Liberals’ action to preserve the 100,000 energy sector jobs lost in Alberta and 1,200 manufacturing jobs expected to be lost when General Motors shutters its Oshawa plant this year.