News Releases: Commissioner of Canada Elections
Statement by the Commissioner of Canada Elections
Gatineau, May 2, 2019
In light of renewed media interest in a 2016 decision by the Commissioner of Canada Elections to enter into a compliance agreement with SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and certain allegations made concerning the circumstances surrounding the conclusion of this agreement, the Commissioner wishes to provide clarifications in the interest of maintaining public confidence in the integrity of the Canada Elections Act's compliance and enforcement regime.
The Commissioner carries out his compliance and enforcement mandate with complete independence from the government of the day, including from the Prime Minister's Office or any Minister's office, from any elected official or their staff, and from any public servant. At no time, since the current Commissioner was appointed in 2012, has an attempt been made by any elected official or political staffer to influence or to interfere with any compliance or enforcement decision that did not directly involve them as the subject of the investigation.
"The independence of the Commissioner is a key component of our electoral compliance and enforcement regime. In my time as Commissioner, there has never been any attempt by elected officials, political staffers or public servants to influence the course of an investigation or to interfere with our work. And I want to make it clear that if this ever happened, I would promptly and publicly denounce it."
Yves Côté, Commissioner of Canada Elections
Compliance and enforcement decisions are taken in a manner consistent with the Compliance and Enforcement Policy of the Commissioner of Canada Elections. Paragraph 32 outlines the various factors that go into determining which compliance or enforcement tool is most appropriate in a given case. With respect to SNC-Lavalin, some of the factors that were taken into consideration are outlined in the compliance agreement.
As noted at paragraph 32(b) of the Policy, the evidence gathered during an investigation is an important consideration in determining how to deal with a particular case. This calls for an objective review of the evidence that has been assembled to assess its strength. In this regard, it should be noted that a compliance agreement may be entered into on the basis of evidence meeting the civil standard of balance of probabilities, while the laying of criminal charges requires evidence that meets the criminal standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
It should be noted that through amendments to the Act made with Bill C-23 in 2014, the longstanding practice of the Commissioner to not provide details of investigations was confirmed, with the adoption of clear confidentiality rules. This is consistent with the manner police and investigative agencies treat information related to their investigations.
- The compliance agreement with SNC-Lavalin was entered into in August 2016. At the time, a news release was issued and it received wide media coverage.
- As a result of the information provided by SNC-Lavalin, the illegal contributions were removed from the political financing system, as indicated in the compliance agreement, and five charges were subsequently laid against Normand Morin in May 2018. Mr. Morin pleaded guilty to two of these charges in November 2018.
- The Commissioner and the Chief Electoral Officer have, on a number of occasions since 2013, recommended that the Commissioner be given the power to seek court orders to compel witnesses to provide testimony to investigators. When the Canada Elections Act was amended in 2014, this was not included. However, such amendments were part of Bill C-76 which was adopted in December 2018. These provisions came into force on April 1, 2019.
- Compliance agreements have been used to deal with different instances of non-compliance, involving a wide range of persons and entities. Examples include: corporations; municipalities; political parties; candidates and Members of Parliament. A list of compliance agreements entered into by the Commissioner can be found here.
- The Commissioner of Canada Elections is the independent officer responsible for ensuring compliance with, and enforcement of, the Canada Elections Act and the federal Referendum Act.
For information specific to this matter:
Commissioner of Canada Elections Media Relations
or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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