Quebec just allowed SNC-Lavalin to escape criminal prosecution. Such an announcement would have hurt Justin Trudeau if it had come before the vote, as it reminds us of a similar crisis he was indulged in in 2019.
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Yesterday, the Director of the Criminal and Criminal Prosecution Office (DPCP) announced the arrests of two former vice presidents of SNC-Lavalin, Norman Morin, and Kamal Francis. They are suspected of offering a $2.23 million bribe to renovate the Jacques-Cartier Bridge between 1997 and 2004.
According to the DPCP, SNC-Lavalin and SNC-Lavalin International bear “criminal responsibility for the actions of their former directors.” But unlike Messrs. Moran and Francis, they risk not having a trial.
Instead, the Crown wants SNC-Lavalin to negotiate a confidential compensation agreement, upheld by the Supreme Court. This may be, for example, a fine.
If this story sounds familiar, it’s because a very similar incident occurred in federal justice rather than regional justice in 2018 and 2019.
In February 2019, Ottawa’s former attorney general, Jodi Wilson-Raybould, said he had come under “continuous” pressure from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his entourage to obtain a compensation agreement for SNC-Lavalin. Corruption linked to contracts in Libya.
The prime minister wanted to avoid job losses if SNC-Lavalin was criminally convicted and thus disqualified from public contracts.
It is the same argument made yesterday by the DPCP to justify its desire to conclude a reform agreement with the company.
Such an agreement “allows the enterprise to continue doing business and to bid in public tenders. […]It also reduces negative consequences for employees, retirees, customers and shareholders of organizations.”
In 2018, Secretary Wilson-Raybould refused to give in to pressure because federal prosecutors wanted to prosecute SNC-Lavalin. She was transferred to another ministry before her resignation from the Council of Ministers.
The crisis led to the washing of dirty clothes in public by federal liberals. I followed them until the general election in October 2019, when they lost their majority in the House of Commons. They were re-elected to another minority term on Monday evening.
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