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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

PECKFORD: The public interest is for the elected. The clerk advises the elected. End of story. The clerk erred.

Today we welcome a regular on Merv Unger’s ... former Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Brian Peckford.  We’ll be sharing some of his commentaries on a regular basis right here ... hope you enjoy them.

This is not complicated, notwithstanding those many who want to make it so. As I hinted in an earlier column, I suspected a major damage-control action by the federal Liberal Government.

And we got the first blow from the Clerk of the Privy Council.

The clerk is a Deputy Minister; supposedly non-partisan; providing policy advice to the Prime Minister and Cabinet. He is also secretary to the Cabinet.

He is not in the Prime Minister Office; he is in the Privy Council Office. C’est la difference.

Political advice is the purview of the PMO.

Now many want to spin this and split hairs to somehow have it that the clerk was just carrying out his duties when he essentially intervened. No way.

Listen: SNC Lavalin applied for an exemption under the recently-passed amendment to the criminal code surreptitiously inserted in a budget bill, for which they lobbied.

OK it was passed and is the law. The Director of Prosecutions received the application and made a decision as to whether SNC Lavalin qualified to be considered for such an exemption. The Director decided that SNC Lavalin did not qualify. And, as I understand it, the Minister supported that decision.

That’s should have been the end of it – nada, finis, done, over! 

In my ten years as Premier no such decisions made by the Director of Prosecutions came to my office, or my office to that department. I never once discussed such matters with the minister or he/she with me. It was off limits.

So this “business “carried in the CBC article about the clerk of Privy Council (in my terms clerk of executive council) contacting the Minister about a matter decided or before the Director of Prosecutions is absurd. That the CBC would try to justify this with an anonymous source as I said in my last column is ridiculous.

This is not the Clerk’s job! He overstepped his bounds. And to go on and say the Clerk had to protect the public interest is outlandish, outside his mandate, and responsibilities.

Anyway, the matter of jobs etc. is not the issue. The issue is whether the application met the conditions of the Act. Competent, independent officials said it did not.

The public interest is for the elected. The clerk advises the elected. End of story. The clerk erred.

If the Government of Canada still wants to assist SNC Lavalin they should do the honorable thing and present to Parliament further amendments to the Criminal Code dealing with remediation agreements.

Of course, they cannot do this now with all the furor. Too bad.

Case closed? Not quite. Closed as it relates to the present decision by the Director of Prosecution but not closed in that those in the Government who tried to exert influence must be held accountable.

The mere incident of the PM meeting with the Minister and discussing this type of matter was wrong and undoubtedly approving that the clerk talk to the Minister is also wrong. 

Former Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Brian Peckford writes regularly on


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