On April 2, 2019 Jody Wilson-Raybauld and Jane Phillpot were removed from the Liberal Caucus by the Prime Minister of Canada. A scandal had been growing like cancer in the Liberal Party of Canada since Jan. 2019. It was a growing drama with a new twist almost every day. Even the presentation of the budget after their firing failed to change the political focus. The media has spent much energy on the topic, but how thorough have they been? There have been many allegations, but there are still more questions than there are answers. Despite the amount of time spent on the scandal, I’m convinced that there is another story that needs telling before the affair can be given closure.
It is significant to know that Export Development Canada (EDC), the country’s export credit agency, was created in 1944 to promote Canadian business overseas. It has 12 offices across Canada and 19 regional offices around the world. It is obvious to note that the central figure in this scandal is SNC Lavalin and according to CBC reports have borrowed billions of dollars since the mid 1990’s from EDC. SNC Lavalin resulted from a merger of Surveyor, Nenniger, Chenevert and Lavalin all based in Quebec in 1991 instantly becoming one of the five largest engineering/construction companies in the world. They have been doing work in countries where bribery and corruption are common practice. They conform to the culture of the country and perform with their own questionable behavior. SNC Lavalin have been working on a slippery and shady slope. Even when applying for loans, they insert unsupported contingencies which seem to infer bribery money.
Their worsening reputation worldwide was highlighted in 2011 and 2012 with high profile executives being arrested and jailed in Switzerland, the corporate head office of their construction division. Corruption had been uncovered for work being done in Mexico, Libya and Bangledesh. A result of this incident was the World Bank suspending a 1.2 billion dollar loan application for a proposed project in Bangledesh. In April, 2012 the World Bank suspended SNC Lavalin from bidding on any other bank projects. It would be interesting to see a complete list of their ongoing allegations!
There are also consequences in Canada. The Quebec government has offered its provincial pension plan as security to aid the operations of SNC Lavalin. Sask. Power have over 700 million dollars in contracts with SNC Lavalin, some of which have resulted in legal challenges.
SNC Lavalin, as strong supporters of the Liberal Party of Canada, have also enjoyed easy access to the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau. A former clerk of the privy council was named as chairman of the board of directors of SNC Lavalin in Dec., 2017 making access to Michael Wernick, the past clerk of the privy council very convenient. Was this former relationship a factor in Michael Wernick’s recent retirement? So with SNC Lavalin in mind, the government introduced the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) in June, 2018. It was slipped through with other money bills and both the media and the opposition parties failed to react to it. DPA’s can be negotiated between federal prosecuting attorneys and a corporation under the supervision of a judge. The purpose is to protect a corporation from consequences which might result from troubling allegations. Why do governments entertain slippery slope situations or worse yet, why do they create legislation to enable them? The company began seeking a remediation agreement in an attempt to avoid criminal proceedings related to charges linked to contracts in Libya.
It is necessary to note that in 2006, following the Sponsorship Scandal, Stephen Harper, as the newly elected Prime Minister, initiated the passing of the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. This created the office of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) which was to act as an independent body to prevent criminal interference in political matters. It was the DPP which rejected the process of a DPA. This rejection was communicated formally to the Attorney General in Sept., 2018. The content of the letter was not made known to the public but was persuasive enough for the Attorney General to unquestionably accept it. However the lobbying from the PMO, and the undue pressure continued until the story broke in early Jan., 2019. The story consumed the Canadian political scene, as the Liberal dominated parliamentary justice committee allowed JWR to tell her truth. Her testimony has been accepted as true and has left the Liberals with a scandal that still is seen as a cover up.
JWR faced three more months of harassment, being fired from her appointment as Attorney General of Canada before being kicked out of the caucus. It is commonly accepted that the government was secretly supporting and promoting a DPA for SNC Lavalin. As a matter of fact according to JWR, Gerald Butts had told her that the Prime Minister didn’t like that legislation initiated by Stephen Harper. She held firm asserting that it was the law! This of course has been denied by the prime minister. This is the price she paid for honesty and not being willing to join the “old boys club” of the Liberal party! After all, Trudeau had promised that things were going to be done differently, but somehow it resembles the Sponsorship Scandal of the Chretien-Martin era in the early 2000’s.
It was only in late March 2019, that EDC announced it was going to begin investigating the many allegations that have been laid against SNC Lavalin on an international scale. In addition to that and posted April 3, 2019 in a CBC article titled “SNC Lavalin insiders bribery allegations...”, an insider has alleged that billions of taxpayer dollars have been loaned to SNC Lavalin to use at their discretion which would include bribery in dealing with contracts. Is it possible that SNC Lavalin have been manipulating our EDC at our expense for years? It was reported by the insider that prior to 2012 the EDC was supporting many SNC Lavalin projects which were known to have slush funds to support bribes. So what is the real story? Is it about an attorney general doing her job in an honest manner or is the story much deeper and about powerful corporations and their influential control of government and their stripping of our taxpayer dollars? As the opposition parties are requesting, there are enough unanswered questions to justify a public inquiry or even an RCMP investigation. So far the Liberals with their majority have been able to keep the real story covered up.
Although coverage seems to be taking a break, there is so much more to come. It will be interesting to see when/if the new attorney general will attempt to activate the DPA. If he dares, it would surely be political suicide before an election. It’s a guarantee that if the Liberals stay in power they will trigger it but only after they get re-elected. They can’t afford to betray SNC Lavalin and we can’t afford to let them! Corruption has no place in our justice system. It is a lesson that the Liberals did not learn and so they are CAUGHT AGAIN!