Credit to Author: Cheryl Chan| Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2019 02:30:50 +0000
A day after he was presented as the Liberal’s shining new hope to regain a Vancouver riding, Taleeb Noormohamed didn’t want to speak about the effect a damning report by Canada’s ethics commissioner could have on his chances in Vancouver-Granville on Oct. 21.
Noormohamed, a 42-year-old tech entrepreneur acclaimed by the party Tuesday, told Postmedia he was busy knocking on doors in the riding, and needed to read the report first.
He later responded in a prepared statement, which ignored questions about the report and any potential impact on the campaign.
Instead, he suggested the ethics case was not top of mind among voters he talked to Wednesday.
“What I’m hearing from people in Vancouver-Granville is a real focus on investing in affordable housing, building better transit, fighting climate change, and making life more affordable for the middle class, and those are my priorities, too,” Noormohamed said in the statement.
The bombshell report by Canada’s ethics watchdog, Mario Dion, found that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by improperly pressuring then-attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould to stop the criminal prosecution of Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.
“The prime minister, directly and through his senior officials, used various means to exert influence over Ms. Wilson-Raybould,” Dion wrote. “The authority of the prime minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the director of public prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson-Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer.”
Wilson-Raybould resigned her cabinet post and was subsequently booted out of the Liberal caucus after going public with conflict-of-interest allegations against senior aides to the prime minister.
She is seeking re-election in Vancouver-Granville as an independent.
In a statement Wednesday, Wilson-Raybould said the ethics report “represents a vindication of the independent role of the Attorney General” and “confirms critical facts, consistent with what I shared with all Canadians, and affirms the position I have taken from the outset.”
The report contributes to a narrative by critics and opposition parties that the Liberal government is heavy-handed and corrupt, said David Moscrop, a political scientist at the University of Ottawa.
It’ll damage the Liberals in the short-term, but whether it will have long-term repercussions remain to be seen, he said. “You have to assume on balance this will hurt the Liberals and, to some extent, improve (Wilson-Raybould’s) chances.”
While independent candidates fare poorly without the resources and name recognition of a federal party, Wilson-Raybould stands a better chance than most.
“People are going to see her as a fierce political player who plays it straight and acted as a counterweight to everything they see wrong in Ottawa,” said Moscrop. “That’s a pretty powerful narrative and identity.”
Vancouver-Granville, a new riding in 2015, was won by Wilson-Raybould with 44 per cent of the vote.
Moscrop said the riding is shaping up to be the “must-watch race of the election” as it is ground zero for the SNC-Lavalin scandal and because it could come down to a tight race between the Liberals and the independent candidate — one that could end up being pivotal if it ends up being a close race nationally.
“I think it will be a slugfest between Wilson-Raybould and the Liberals,” he said, noting the eventual winner could end up needing only 30 per cent of the vote to win.
Trudeau’s political rivals, all of whom are jockeying for position with the start of an election campaign now just weeks away, wasted little time in seizing on what appeared to be a golden opportunity.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer renewed calls for an RCMP investigation, while NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Trudeau violated the trust of Canadians.
In Vancouver-Granville, the Conservative candidate, Zach Segal, said the people of Vancouver-Granville deserve better. “Today’s ruling makes Justin Trudeau the first and only prime minister in Canadian history to be found guilty of breaking ethics law,” he said.
Green candidate Louise Boutin and NDP candidate Yvonne Hanson did not respond to requests for comment. The People’s Party of Canada candidate, Naomi Chocyk, said she joined the party because it has a plan to end corruption in government.
With files from CP