By: Pierre Poilievre, MP
Why did Justin Trudeau try to shelve the prosecution of SNC Lavalin? He claims it was to “save jobs”. If SNC were forced to stand trial for fraud and bribery, the story goes, the company would be banned from federal contracts and its headquarters would leave Montreal.
But even if you believe that jobs trump the rule of law, there is still a problem with the story: It is false.
Let’s start with the headquarters. Former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould testified that, “The Prime Minister 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 – he said ‘there is a board meeting on Thursday (Sept 20) with stock holders’ … ‘they will likely be moving to London if this happens’… ‘and there is an election in Quebec soon’…”. [All emphasis added]. She reports that the Finance Minister’s Chief of Staff, and a senior Trudeau advisor also told her the headquarters would leave Montreal unless she shelved charges against the company.
Their claim makes no sense. Moving its headquarters would not allow the company to avoid trial or reduce the consequences of conviction.
Furthermore, it is impossible for SNC to move its HQ at present. It must stay in Montreal as a condition of a $1.5 billion loan deal with the Quebec pension fund. A March 2018 SNC report to its shareholders confirms: “SNC-Lavalin has undertaken that, for a period of seven years, the head office of SNC-Lavalin will remain in Montreal and will remain the focus of SNC-Lavalin’s strategic decision-making, a significant portion of SNC-Lavalin’s management team, including its Chief Executive Officer, will be resident in the Province of Quebec…”.
Furthermore, the company has 20-year lease for the Montreal HQ, keeping the company there until 2037. At the same time, it announced a “major workplace renovation” to the space, something you don’t do if you’re moving.
Even after learning that the Director of Public Prosecutions had refused to grant the company a remediation agreement, CEO Neil Bruce told the Toronto Star that SNC is not moving. “Bruce also insisted the company is committed to remaining headquartered in Montreal. ‘We absolutely want to be based here in Quebec, here in Canada,’ he said.”
So why did team Trudeau tell the Attorney General that the headquarters was moving, even though it was plainly not? That question could take the scandal to a whole other level. It is one thing for them to apply undue pressure on the Attorney General. But many times worse if they lied to do it.
Elsewhere, some have claimed that the employees would lose their jobs if SNC is convicted, because the company would face a ban on federal contracts.
That too is false.
The Ineligibility and Suspension Policy, which contains the ban on contracts for corporate criminals, includes a “Public Interest Exception” to avoid “significant adverse impact” on the “…economic or financial well-being of the people of Canada”. All that is required is for the Deputy Minister of Public Procurement to sign an “Administrative Agreement” with the offending company to lift the ban.
In fact, the government had already signed such a deal with SNC in December 2015, allowing the company to continue federal contracts, even though it had been banned for the original corruption charges.
The government is already working on plans to grant further exceptions to companies even after conviction. In other words, the claim that Trudeau needed to block the prosecution so SNC could keep getting government contracts is plainly false.
Also, the Quebec government would continue to do business with SNC even after a conviction, given Premier Legault’s unconditional support of the company. Ontario appears no different. This week, Ottawa City Council backed a $600 million SNC mass transit project. The city did that knowing that the company had been denied a deferred prosecution agreement and the contract will go ahead even if SNC is convicted.
In other words, there is no evidence that going to trial will cost the company its government contracts or workers their jobs.
Trudeau, Butts and Wernick have all been asked for evidence for their claim that “9000 jobs are at stake”. None has offered a shred of proof.
So it is not about jobs. That raises the question: what was the real motivation for this unprecedented interference?
Think about it. Trudeau changed the Criminal Code to allow SNC a deal to dodge prosecution. When the Director of Public Prosecutions refused to grant one, Trudeau tried to get the Attorney General to make it happen; and when she wouldn’t, he shuffled her to another post.
All that, for what?
The proof is clear: he wasn’t protecting jobs.
That leaves the real motive: protecting a powerful Liberal-linked corporation, with an army of lobbyists and friends in high places.