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    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a meeting with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Washington

    Analyst: Trudeau’s Office Potentially Damaged Brand of Liberal Party

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    Sputnik discussed the SNC-Lavalin scandal with Tim Powers, Conservative strategist and vice-chair of Summa Strategies, a leading Canadian public affairs consulting firm, and the Managing Director of Abacus Data, an opinion research company, both headquartered in Ottawa.

    Sputnik: How well has Mr Trudeau handled the situation in your view?

    Tim Powers: Not very well. I think he has made this problem bigger than it may actually be. When the national newspaper here in Canada, The Globe and Mail, first broke this story three weeks ago the government immediately denied it and they've had an evolving storyline since then. They have seemingly now settled on the storyline that, "Look, maybe there was pressure, but we were acting to save a leading Canadian business SNC-Lavalin."

    In the process of getting to this decision three weeks later they've lost a federal cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, they've lost the prime minister's principal secretary Gerald Butts, and they've potentially damaged the brand of the Liberal Party of Canada; and that's challenging for them given that we will be having an election here this October.

    Sputnik: Mr Trudeau said that he sought to protect jobs and acted with respect to the country's laws and institutions, were you convinced by his response?

    Tim Powers: Well, I'm sure it won't surprise you or your listeners to hear me say no. Look it's certainly the first job of a prime minister, particularly a Canadian one, I suspect any around the globe to stand up for jobs. That's not an unfair response, but the way this process unraveled and based on what Ms Wilson-Raybould said in her public testimony, the degree of interference that she felt she was being subject to, political interference, was quite high and maybe a bit uncommon, particularly, given that she had argued her department, the Department of Justice here in Canada had made a decision on September 4th.

    She herself had come to the conclusion that it was the right decision on and around September 16th and she was still receiving pressure from the prime minister and his official dating up until December 18-19. So I think they couldn't take no for an answer, and I don't think it's mutually exclusive that you can adhere to both the rule of law while at the same time be out to protect jobs. So I think that's the public relations problem the prime minister now has, trying to explain how the two cannot coexist equally, when Ms Wilson-Raybould, who proved to be a very credible witness when she appeared before the Canadian Justice Committee, made the points that she did.

    Sputnik: What implications could Mr Trudeau face?

    Tim Powers: All manner, I suppose. I suppose the most pressing one for him is that it could impact his re-election chances in 2019 when that vote takes place in October. A year ago people would've said he would have a cakewalk to re-election, I would say today he's still in the frontrunner's position, but it's been made a little bit tougher. So electoral consequences — one. The federal opposition leader here in Canada — Andrew Scheer — the leader of the Conservative Party, has called on him to resign and has also a called for the national police force — RCMP — to investigate him. One of our other leading political parties the New Democratic Party has asked for a public inquiry. If there were a police investigation, if there were a public inquiry depending what either of those endeavours discovered there could be legal consequences, criminal consequences, but neither of those things to the best of our knowledge are happening at the moment.

    READ MORE: Canada's Foreign Minister Supports Trudeau Amid Corruption Case Meddling Claims

    Sputnik: Why would the Trudeau office be interested in intervening in this corruption case?

    Tim Powers: Because as the Canadian electoral map works, Quebec is a significant jurisdiction. The prime minister himself is from the province of Quebec. The liberals believe if they're going to get re-elected in 2019 they're going to need to win more electoral districts in Quebec than they currently have. There's opportunity there for them to do that as two of the parties that have done well traditionally in Quebec are losing support quite rapidly, and the Liberals have been picking it up.

    SNC-Lavalin, the company in question, is a major Canadian business headquartered in Quebec, though it should be noted that only about 15% of its business is actually still in Canada. Nonetheless, they symbolize, and generally despite their corruption scandals, a long and important commercial history in the province. So Trudeau for all of those factors and his officials decided that an extra effort, perhaps, an unprecedented effort at least in the eyes of the former Attorney General Ms Wilson-Raybould was undertaken to save those jobs; to be very specific, if they are criminally convicted in Canada under our current legislation they would be banned from working on federal projects, government of Canada projects in Canada for the next 10 years. So that's what the Liberal government through the prime minister's office was trying to intervene in and change.

    READ MORE: SNC-Lavalin Case Hits Trudeau's Progressive, Transparent Minister Image — Prof

    Sputnik: There have been calls for Mr Trudeau to step down, how likely are events to turn so dramatic as to force the prime minister out of office?

    Tim Powers: I don't see that happening because we are so close to the election. When that call was made the other evening after Ms Wilson-Raybould's testimony, the prime minister made the point, "Look, Canadians will have the opportunity to decide my fate this fall." I don't envision him stepping down, unless there's something new that emerges. I think he still believes, and he's probably not wrong based on the public opinion research that we have done, to believe he still has a lot of credibility in key pockets of the Canadian electorate. So I don't see him stepping down. I think he'll continue to make the argument that, "Look, I was standing up for jobs and this is fair and right, and besides that no decision was actually made to change the course of the legal actions that are pending on SNC-Lavalin."

    The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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