The most recent scandal involving the Canadian government consists of senior officials allegedly attempting to persuade the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to allow Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin to take a corporate plea deal against their corruption charges. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ran for office he vowed that if we were elected he would make sure that he brought transparency back to Canada. Whether the intent was genuine or not, the Trudeau government has found itself wading in a bog of bad public relations and scandalous behaviour for much of their time in office.
After the story initially broke on Feb. 7, the following two and a half weeks saw the Prime Minister’s Office changing stories multiple times while Wilson-Raybould was relegated to silence under legal privilege. Wilson-Raybould eventually broke her silence in a Feb. 27 presentation to the House of Commons during which time she alleged that multiple high ranking officials from the government pressured her on her decisions regarding the SNC-Lavalin case.
“For a period of approximately four months between September and December 2018, I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the Attorney General of Canada in an inappropriate effort to secure a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with SNC-Lavalin,” Wilson-Raybould said as part of her statement to the House. “[Ben Chin, Bill Morneau’s Chief of Staff] said to [Jessica Prince, Wilson-Raybould’s Chief of Staff] that if they don’t get a DPA, they will leave Montreal, and it’s the Quebec election right now, so we can’t have that happen.”
The deferred prosecution agreement in question refers to a remedial clause that was included in Canada’s 2018 omnibus budget bill. The DPA would be used similarly as a plea deal would but for corporations. SNC-Lavalin has reportedly taken meetings and tried to evoke this new clause in their current court case.
The Montreal based engineering et al firm has been mired in controversy and impending corruption charges for over a decade now. They were the perpetrators of what has been deemed the largest fraud case in Canadian history, the McGill University Health Centre scandal. Their scope of fraudulent behaviour extends beyond domestic borders and even involved collusion with foreign dictator Muammar Gaddafi and his son. From 2001 until 2011 internal court documents divulged that SNC Lavalin had spent over $45 million to influence senior officials in the Libyan government.
If SNC-Lavalin is found guilty of the charges, they will be unable to take on federal projects for ten years. As it stands right now, SNC-Lavalin has already won several federal contracts in various sectors, including most prominently a $6.3 billion dollar infrastructure project in Montreal.
SNC-Lavalin has long been a huge player in Quebec. Their current headquarters is based in Montreal and the company employees 3,400 people in the province. As uncertainty looms over the continuation of a Liberal government, Quebec will prove to be a significant player in the upcoming election.