Sunny Daze: The Deceptions Continue

Prime Minister Trudeau’s claim that his intervention in the SNC file is just about protecting jobs at SNC is the original and most egregious deception. The furor over his other statements has distracted attention from the premise on which the whole saga is based.

Trudeau claims that his goal is to save 9,000 jobs at SNC Lavalin, which will otherwise be lost if SNC is convicted of the charges against it, thereby being shutout of federal government infrastructure projects for the next ten years.

The prosecution relates to bribes that SNC is alleged to have paid to get work in Libya. This is not their first offence. In December, a Montreal hospital manager pleaded guilty to accepting a $10 million bribe from SNC.

SNC is a big company. Its earnings come from work in mining and metallurgy, oil and gas, power, infrastructure, and project consulting. SNC reports having 50,000 employees.

About a third of revenues are earned in Canada, of which substantial proportions are in work for private sector resource industries. It seems unlikely that Canadian infrastructure projects, not all of them federal, would exceed 10% of their business.

Would a ten year banishment from bidding for federal contracts bankrupt the company? Investors don’t seem to think so.

Though the stock price has suffered in the past year, in significant measure because of the oil and gas business being in the doldrums, the company still has a market value of $6.3 billion. Many investors look at this as a buying opportunity.

Jody Wilson-Raybould’s testimony shows that other forces were at work:

The Prime Minister asks me to help out—to find a solution here for SNC—citing that if there was no DPA there would be many jobs lost and that SNC will move from Montreal.

In response, I explained to him the law and what I have the ability to do and not do… I told him that I had done my due diligence and made up my mind on SNC and that I was not going to interfere with the decision of the DPP.

In response the PM further reiterated his concerns… I further stated… I am not prepared to issue a directive in this case—that it was not appropriate.

The PM again cited potential loss of jobs and SNC moving. Then to my surprise—the Clerk started to make the case for the need to have a DPA… “They will likely be moving to London if this happens… and there is an election in Quebec soon…”

At that point the PM jumped in stressing that there is an election in Quebec and “I am an MP in Quebec – the member for Papineau”.

Why would SNC move to London? It would not relieve them of the ten-year exclusion from federal contracts. SNC’s talented employees in Quebec, many of whom serve Canada’s resource industries, are a huge asset. Why would they throw it away? And if they did, the talent and the customers they serve would be grabbed by SNC’s competitors.

London is a very expensive place to do business. Many companies are rushing to leave because Britain’s departure from the European Union will mean that they lose tariff-free access to that enormous market. London will not cosset SNC the way Quebec does.

Aside from all that, as pointed out by Barrie McKenna in the Globe and Mail, SNC is required to keep its head office and senior management in Quebec until at least 2024, as part of a loan agreement reached in 2017.

Given the negligible possibility of SNC going bankrupt or the jobs moving to London, it is not easy to understand why Canadian jobs could be lost.

Meanwhile, if SNC doesn’t get the work on federal infrastructure projects, somebody else in Canada will.

Trudeau’s advisers are smart enough to know this. Yet Gerald Butts was selling the same nonsense at his testimony on Wednesday. He told the committee that the Prime Minister’s Office wanted Wilson-Raybould to consider all options, “…in a case like this when so many people’s livelihoods are at stake.”

The reward for Wilson-Raybould’s principled stand was to be demoted to Veterans Affairs, to be replaced as attorney general by David Lametti. Trudeau says he told her “that it was her decision to make and I expected her to make it. I had full confidence in her.”

Apparently not. On Monday he announced that his new attorney general could still negotiate a DPA with SNC.

This may have been the tipping point for Jane Philpott, a widely admired former minister, who could no longer stomach or support the duplicity.

Gerald Butts tells us that “nothing happened here beyond the normal operations of government.”

Two principled former ministers disagree. They do not think it should be normal to politically interfere with the justice system, nor to attempt a cover-up with distractions and deceptions.

Canadians should be grateful to both Wilson-Raybould and Philpott for showing this for what it is—an effort to protect the jobs of Liberal MP’s.


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