NDG-Westmount Conservative candidate Neil Drabkin and Liberal Transport Minister and incumbent MP Marc Garneau battled it out on several subjects during a federal election debate held last Friday at Montreal West Town Hall.
The Rotary Club of Montreal West and NDG put on the event, and on hand were MoWest Mayor Beny Masella and members of the town council, and former MP Marlene Jennings. CJAD talk show host Elias Makos moderated.
The candidates, including Garneau and Drabkin, André Valiquette (People’s Party of Canada), Jennifer Jetté (BQ) and Robert Green (Green Party of Canada) debated several subjects, including immigration, the environment, the economy, health care and others. The NDP was nominating its candidate that night and could not be present, the large audience was informed.
But tension was highest during the debate on ethics. Drabkin blasted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — and by extension Garneau — in light of the recent ethics report finding that Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act in his and the PMO’s efforts to pressure former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybauld to have SNC-Lavalin avoid prosecution for bribing Libyan officials years ago and instead pay a fine.
Drabkin, a lawyer by profession, sharply went on the offensive.
“One of the most fundamental principles we have in our democracy is the rule of law,” he said. “That means everyone is equal before the law. What the Prime Minister of this country attempted to do was interfere in a criminal prosecution. This is unprecedented! And he was found guilty of that by the Ethics Commissioner. And he fired his Justice Minister when she tried to fight back! Mr. Garneau thought it was a good idea for the Justice Minister to be ejected from the caucus. No one is above the law, including Justin Trudeau. He has to be held accountable, and he will be held accountable Oct. 21.”
“Hear, hear!” said an audience member.
Garneau denied that the Liberal government is “cozy with big business.”
“We saw the [Ethics Commissioner’s] report, who took the view that it was not acceptable to have any contact with the Attorney General on this particular matter,” he said. “We disagree with that. We were motivated by the fact that there were a lot of jobs at stake here. There are some corporate leaders within SNC-Lavalin who are alleged to have committed crimes about 10-15 years ago who must stand trial or go through a deferred prosecution agreement, which is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card. But not to be able to interact within cabinet with your fellow members, to us, is not the way governments actually operate.
“From our point of view, it was perfectly legitimate for us to explore the possibility of a deferred prosecution agreement to ensure innocent people would not be punished, along with those who are actually guilty.”
“Is there no limit to Liberal arrogance?!” he said. “Did you hear Mr. Garneau say he disagreed with the verdict of the Ethics Commissioner? For God’s sake, even Justin Trudeau said he accepted that. Maybe you should get up to speed on that. This is unprecedented in the history of our country. For a Prime Minister to think he can interfere with the criminal justice system for political gain... he told the former Justice Minister, ‘I’m a Quebec MP, remember?’, implying she needed to make the right decision. She said No — why couldn’t he take that for an answer?! No means No, Mr. Trudeau!
“Mr. Garneau, you’re just as complicit as he is in this whole affair because you’re denying the verdict of the Ethics Commissioner. Shame on you!”