Why Has Trudeau Risked So Much for SNC-Lavalin?

Four related mysteries fuel flames of an ever more ruinous scandal.

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Cartoon by Greg Perry.

Justin Trudeau has hit the panic button.

Unicorn sightings during Question Period are down to zero.

After weeks of being drubbed by the opposition over LavScam, the prime minister is now threatening a lawsuit against Andrew Scheer, his chief detractor in this misbegotten affair. What’s next? Suing Andrew Coyne?

They say drowning people will clutch at anything. But a threatened lawsuit against Scheer? The Michelin Tire Man is more menacing than the leader of the Official Opposition. This guy edits his tweets when he gets a paper airplane thrown his way.

And didn’t this PM promise a new, open way of doing politics? Dumping MPs who won’t bend to his will, effectively firing a cabinet minister who didn’t take the hint on a big file, shutting down the justice committee investigation of this travesty, and now waving a libel action around does not exactly conjure up sunny ways.

Having already claimed two star female federal cabinet ministers, the clerk of the privy council, and the PM’s principal secretary, it appears the next victim of LavScam could be Justin Trudeau himself. And all because one way or another, the PM seems determined to spare SNC-Lavalin a criminal conviction for its alleged bribery and corruption in Libya. Why?

MORE

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Andrew Coyne: Trudeau’s lawsuit threat all part of a cunning play for sympathy

For the gambit to pay off, the Trudeau team had to exceed previous expectations of ineptitude. Never let it be said that they were not down to the challenge

David Suzuki: Carbon, climate, and corruption coalesce in concrete


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The recent scandal facing Canada’s government has concrete at its base. As one of Canada’s largest engineering and construction companies—employing 50,000 people through offices in more than 50 countries and operations in more than 160 countries—SNC-Lavalin uses a lot of concrete. Infrastructure projects are important to industry and governments. They provide employment, keep GDP and the economy growing, and offer “concrete” proof that progress is being made.

But, as the Guardian points out: “As well as being the primary vehicle for super-charged national building, the construction industry is also the widest channel for bribes. In many countries, the correlation is so strong, people see it as an index: the more concrete, the more corruption.”

SNC-Lavalin, which has already been sanctioned by the World Bank for bribery and corruption, faces similar charges at home. But as a major Quebec-based employer with its hand in some of the country’s largest infrastructure projects, it’s seen by provincial and federal governments as too important to fail. MORE

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Five Facts to Help You Assess the SNC-Lavalin Affair

Did Trudeau and his people do wrong? Some points to consider.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
The spinmeisters are out. Let’s go over what we know. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

One thing we learned in the wake of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s testimony is that Canadians should quit feeling smug about the hyper-partisan, fact-free state of politics in the U.S.

The reaction, from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s immediate and unsupported call for Justin Trudeau’s resignation to Liberal attacks on Wilson-Raybould’s ability to withstand the pressure of her former job as attorney general — when, in fact, her ability to withstand pressure seems one of the few certainties at this point — was marked mostly by partisan rhetoric. Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault went full Trump, calling the justice committee’s investigation a “witch hunt.”

Ignore the tidal wave of spin and misinformation. Here are five things to consider as you assess the rights and wrongs of the SNC-Lavalin affair.

First, it was legitimate for the prime minister, cabinet members and political staff to try to persuade Wilson-Raybould to step in and reverse the decision that SNC-Lavalin should face bribery and corruption charges over its activities in Libya. MORE

Wendy Holm: Connecting the dots—SNC Lavalin, the Site C Dam, and continental water-sharing

The proposed Site C Dam, southwest of Fort St. John on the Peace River in northwest B.C.
The proposed Site C Dam, southwest of Fort St. John on the Peace River in northwest B.C.GOVERNMENT OF B.C.

Water has no substitutes. When you need water—for crops, for
households, for industry, for fish and wildlife habitat, for tourism—nothing but water will do. Its value is limitless, and this writing has been on this wall for generations.

Follow the money.  If the value of water is limitless, the incentives to stay in the game are huge. In February 2015, the RCMP laid fraud and corruption charges against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. for massive fraud ($48 million) and corruption ($130 million) in its procurement of contracts in Libya.

This month, former Canadian attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet following alleged pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to shelter SNC-Lavalin by allowing it to enter into a Deferred Prosecution Agreementa “pay the fine, don’t do the time” manoeuvre that would rescue SNCL from a 10-year ban on Canadian government work if found criminally guilty.

SNC-Lavalin has been one of the principal engineering firms behind the Site C Dam from the outset—the dam that sound economics, science, logic, communities, professionals, First Nations, scholars, international organizations (UN), and good public policy seem incapable of even slowing down.

You’ve got to ask yourself whyMORE

Jody Wilson-Raybould and the paradox of reconciliation in Canada

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Hayden King is Anishinaabe from Beausoleil First Nation on Gchi’mnissing in Huronia, Ontario. He is the Executive Director of Yellowhead Institute, based in the Faculty of Arts at Ryerson University.

…At the end of her meticulous recounting of what she called “inappropriate” pressure her colleagues applied in an effort to defer SNC-Lavalin’s prosecution, Ms. Wilson-Raybould linked these two threads: “my understanding of the rule of law has been shaped by my experience as an Indigenous person and leader. The history of Crown-Indigenous relations in this country includes a history of the rule of law not being respected … And I have seen the negative impacts for freedom, equality, and a just society this can have firsthand.”

Knowing these dynamics better than most, and despite any of her efforts, Ms. Wilson-Raybould has been a part of a government responsible for perpetuating lack of respect for the rule of law, in this case in relation to Indigenous issues. How can all of this be reconciled? MORE

Earlier this year, in response to widespread outrage, “rule of law” was official government messaging when the RCMP served a pipeline company’s injunction in Uni’stot’en territory, on lands the clan has not agreed to share in a treaty (what the Supreme Court calls “title” lands). From Oka, through Ipperwash, Caledonia, Elsipogtog, and two dozen other examples of conflict over land, the rule of law is a prime-ministerial invocation that twists the law.

On criminal justice, the Supreme Court has demanded that the over-incarceration of Indigenous peoples be addressed with unique sentencing protocols known as the Gladue Principle. The directive is overwhelmingly ignored by lower courts, provincial and federal officials, and incarceration rates continue to rise.

Law after law dating back to the Gradual Civilization Act in the mid-1850s have discriminated against Indigenous women. Canada has argued in court that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms doesn’t apply to First Nation women. Indeed, there is still gender discrimination in the Indian Act.

Indigenous children are somehow invisible to the rule of law, too. Last week the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued its seventh non-compliance order against Canada for failing to fully and completely end discriminatory policies.

Late last year, in a speech to First Nation leaders in B.C., and on the eve of her demotion to Veterans Affairs, Ms. Wilson-Raybould called out those among us who have little faith in Canadian institutions and laws. These individuals, she said, “in the name of upholding Indigenous rights, critically oppose almost any effort to change [within the Canadian constitutional framework].” This is an apt characterization, though to be fair, the heretics have ample evidence of corrupt institutions on their side. MORE

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Wilson-Raybould’s place in Liberal party at risk after SNC-Lavalin testimony

Liberals try to bend the rules again to save SNC-Lavalin from corruption charges

Quebec police working with DCPC to lay charges on SNC-Lavalin

The Liberal government has its eyes on changing the ethical procurement rules that regulate the length of time a company can remain banned from bidding on federal contracts, a revision of policy that could offer SNC-Lavalin another means of dealing with the fraud and corruption charges it faces.

SNC-Lavalin faces charges stemming from an RCMP investigation into shady business dealings done in Libya. If SNC-Lavalin is found guilty, it could be banned from bidding on federal contracts for 10 years.

Trudeau’s turning a blind eye to allegations of corruption has led to a media fiasco.

Public Services and Procurement Canada is proposing granting itself more flexibility in deciding how long a company is banned from bidding when convicted.

SNC-Lavalin is seeking out a type of “plea bargain,” in which they admit wrongdoing and pay a fine, but also get to avoid going to trial by doing so. Last September, the federal director of public prosecutions rejected the request to do so. With this, the prosecutions would continue in court. MORE

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Trudeau government clears Wilson-Raybould to give details to Commons committee on SNC-Lavalin

Justin Trudeau: What is SNC-Lavalin scandal – How Canada has turned into House of Cards

JUSTIN Trudeau’s reputation is under fire as he is forced to deny any wrong-doing in the escalating SNC-Lavalin scandal – but what is it all about?

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Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing allegations senior aides within his Liberal Party acted inappropriately. The claims first surfaced two weeks ago but have gained traction within the last few days after a second official left the government this week. Mr Trudeau’s right-hand man Gerry Butts quit as the Liberal’s principal private secretary on Monday, stressing he had no involvement in the SNC-Lavalin scandal. But a Liberal legislator, who spoke to Reuters under the condition of anonymity, stressed the seriousness of the situation.

The crisis centres on Canada’s former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould who was allegedly pressurised to drop planned charges against a large construction company.  Ms Wilson-Raybould is said to have been told to ditch bribery and corruption trial charges against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc concerning projects in Libya and levy them with a fine instead. MORE

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Wilson-Raybould sought to limit PMO involvement in judicial appointments