Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is still refusing to waive cabinet confidentiality to allow former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to discuss the government’s handling of ‘Deferred Prosecution Agreements’ beyond the narrow case of the Montreal based engineering giant, SNC Lavalin.
At Justice Committee hearings in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Wilson-Raybould was unable to discuss the government’s desire to use the agreements in other cases of corporate bribery and fraud. Wide-ranging improprieties that surround the Bank of Montreal and the Trudeau government’s acquisition of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, continue to worry senior cabinet ministers.
She can’t talk about the tawdry details that surround Treasury Board President Scott Brison‘s sudden departure, either.
Trudeau has cited Brison’s resignation as the reason that he removed Wilson-Raybould as leader of the Justice Ministry. That logic continues to confuse many Canadian political observers who wonder why the Treasury Board President’s resignation would impact the tenure of the Justice Minister?
Among Ottawa-area political operatives, it is widely known that the Trudeau government’s sudden and unexpected acquisition of the Kinder Morgan pipeline — at a top dollar valuation and without the consent of more than one hundred indigenous communities — was rife with improprieties.
The project’s financial backers included Canada’s largest banks and public pension funds. BMO had invested more than $400 million dollars into the project. In August of 2018, it became apparent that the project would not be able to secure the consent of the indigenous communities that would be required to accommodate the pipeline. At the same time, BMO officials feared that third-party business practices (ostensibly endorsed by the bank) could be construed as bribing the elected officials of governments established under the Indian Act.
It’s widely suspected that BMO has been using intermediary business service providers to ‘effectively bribe’ the elected officials of Indian Act-governments, in exchange for pipeline approvals, federally guaranteed lending, and the financing of land claims against the Crown. The practice has been a source of outrage among indigenous people in the Province, who remain vehemently opposed to carbon-based energy infrastructure.
Worried that the practice violates the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the United States, banking executives hurridly lobbied Finance Minister Bill Morneau in March and April of 2018, and were able to quickly secure a transaction that effectively nationalized the pipeline while offering exceedingly favorable terms of indemnification to the investors involved in the project.
Months later, Trudeau and Morneau would propose selling the same pipeline to Canada’s Indian Act governments — at similarly inflated equity valuations and with positions to be financed by Canada’s big banks, including BMO. The motivation was to recoup the investment capital lost by the exit of the Kinder Morgan investors by lending Indian Act governments the cash to purchase a pipeline that, in the end, is unlikely to ever be built.
Sources close to the Conservative opposition leader have told The Chronicle, on the condition of anonymity, that Andrew Scheer has reason to suspect that Brison’s resignation on January 10th was part of a wider effort to shield the government and BMO executives from wide-ranging improprieties related to the firm’s engagement with Canada’s indigenous people.
When it became apparent that Wilson-Raybould would be unwilling to offer a deferred prosecution agreement to BMO and other worried corporate actors, on grounds similar to her refusal to offer such an agreement to SNC Lavalin, Trudeau was terrified that the scandal could take down his government. By late December, he became determined to remove Wilson-Raybould at all costs.
Trudeau’s now infamous cabinet shuffle was announced on January 10, and by February 14 Brison was hired by BMO Capital Markets as Vice Chairman of the firm’s investment banking business. Opposition committee members want Trudeau’s former Principal Secretary, Gerald Butts, who is rumored to have played a role in arranging Brison’s ‘soft-landing’, to testify as well.
Despite calls from opposition party leaders for a more expansive waiver of cabinet confidentiality, Trudeau has rebuffed those demands. Political staffers close to Scheer expected that he will call for Wilson-Raybould to appear before the committee a second time — with the protections of a ‘complete waiver’ of cabinet confidentiality.