VANCOUVER—As another scandal plays out in Ottawa, government watchdog groups are calling for wider scrutiny of SNC-Lavalin’s activities in jurisdictions like British Columbia, where the company donated to the ruling political party at the same time it was being awarded large public infrastructure contracts.
However, the watchdog groups also argue that the evidence and allegations of corruption against the Quebec engineering firm demonstrate why all corporate donations need stronger rules and regular audits.
Quebec’s Charbonneau Commission, which concluded in 2014, found that many companies, including SNC-Lavalin, regularly bribed politicians to get government contracts. (ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
“It’s essentially a form of legalized bribery,” said Duff Conacher, founder of Ottawa-based Democracy Watch, referring to lax rules allowing corporations that benefit from political decisions to donate to political parties.
For years, Democracy Watch has advocated campaign finance limits because of the risk that large donors can wield oversized influence on politicians who start to feel more beholden to the wealthy people, corporations and unions that fund their campaigns than to the wider electorate.
Though Quebec, British Columbia and the federal government have lowered donation limits and banned union and corporate donations, companies have found ways around those regulations. Conacher said the rules end up being a “charade” without regular audits. MORE