SNC-Lavalin tentacles reach deep into B.C.

Banned internationally, jailed in Quebec, controversial in Ottawa — but it’s business as usual in B.C.

It isn’t a surprise to anyone familiar with the company that SNC-Lavalin is back in the news again. The allegations coming out of Ottawa against the engineering giant are fascinating, but not shocking. SNC-Lavalin featured prominently in Quebec’s Charbonneau Commission and is internationally infamous for corruption and fraud. Given their torrid history, it’s no small stretch to imagine they could have pressured the Prime Minister’s Office.

With such a lengthy rap sheet, why has SNC-Lavalin continued to be awarded massive government contracts in B.C.? And why are they still being considered for upcoming projects in our province, including the Pattullo Bridge replacement and the Broadway subway station?

Lavalin’s latest scandal

In February 2015, the Montreal-based company was charged with corruption and fraud by the RCMP for work they had done in Libya. SNC-Lavalin is accused of embezzlement and bribery paid to dictator Muammar Ghaddafi’s family in order to receive construction contracts. If they were to be convicted, the company would no longer be able to bid on Canadian government contracts, which makes up a significant chunk of their business. Government contracts were estimated in 2016 to make up about 20 per cent of the corporation’s business. They signed at least $68 million in contracts for the federal government last year alone.

When the Liberals won the federal election and Justin Trudeau moved into the Prime Minister’s Office, SNC-Lavalin lobbied the new government for a change to the Criminal Code that would allow what are essentially plea bargains for corporations accused of serious crimes. This became law in June 2018 — tucked away in a corner of a massive omnibus budget bill — and SNC-Lavalin set out to secure one of these “deferred prosecution agreements.” But prosecutors refused to play ball.

That’s when, sources allege, the most senior figures in the Liberal government embarked on a months-long campaign to pressure the Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to call off the prosecution.

It is worth noting that in 2016, Elections Canada found $118,000 in political contributions to the Liberals and Conservatives were donated illegally by SNC-Lavalin. It seems company employees and their spouses were asked by company leadership to donate to the political parties and then were reimbursed by the company, a practice that started as far back as 2004.

The vast majority of these donations went to the Liberal Party of Canada. Of the $118,000 found to be in violation of the Elections Act, almost $110,000 went to the Liberal party, its riding associations or leadership candidates.

Bad reputation

It is worth examining the company at the heart of this scandal — and it makes you wonder what kind of politician would make a deal with them. SNC-Lavalin is recognized as a bad actor both at home and abroad.

The multi-million dollar bribes for the Ghaddafi family in Libya — including a luxury yacht and penthouse apartments in Toronto — provide just one window into how the corporation operates. SNC-Lavalin was blacklisted by the World Bank for corruption in Bangladesh and Cambodia. It has been accused of bribery for a power station project in Kerala, India.

In 2013, Canada topped the World Bank corruption list — 117 of the 250 blackballed companies were based in our country. 115 of those 117 belonged to SNC-Lavalin and its affiliates.

And they’re not just accused of bribing officials in tin-pot dictatorships overseas. As a major contractor in Quebec, SNC-Lavalin was at the centre of the Charbonneau Commission. The company is facing charges in Quebec for fraud related to Montreal’s Jacques Cartier Bridge. Earlier this month, former CEO Pierre Duhaime pleaded guilty to bribery related to a contract to build the McGill University Health Centre, a $1.3 billion superhospital. He is now serving 20 months on house arrest. Senior executive Riadh Ben Aissa pleaded guilty to using forged documents related to the hospital and is currently serving 51 months in prison.

Next stop, British Columbia

You’ve probably seen SNC-Lavalin’s signs a little closer to home. While the company is not allowed to work on World Bank contracts, and still faces a possible ban on Canadian government contracts, it continues to be involved in a number of projects in B.C.

In the past, the company enjoyed a good relationship with the BC Liberal government. Former Transport Minister Todd Stone publicly defended them. Former Premier Christy Clark was very close with SNC-Lavalin’s board chairman, Gwyn Morgan, who advised her on her leadership transition and, along with his wife Patricia Trottier and his company EnCana, was a huge donor to her party. All told, Morgan’s personal, family and corporate donations to the BC Liberals totalled more than $1.5 million.

SNC-Lavalin itself donated more than $27,600 to the BC Liberals — during the same period of time that they were donating to politicians in Quebec in exchange for contracts, and circumventing federal donation laws. Of course, back then B.C. had no limits on political contributions.

During the BC Liberals’ time in office, SNC-Lavalin received a number of high profile government contracts including Kelowna’s William R. Bennett Bridge, the Canada and Evergreen Skytrain Lines (where employees say they were poorly treated), the Sea to Sky Highway and the John Hart dam in Campbell River. They were also involved in the development of the Compass Card system, as well as projects with BC Ferries, and both the Kelowna and Vancouver airports. SNC-Lavalin was also an environmental consultant for Site C, and performed the environmental assessment for the recently cancelled Fraser Surrey Docks project, during which they were accused of bias.

But the company is not in our rearview window yet. SNC-Lavalin is currently being considered by the provincial government for the contract to replace the Pattullo bridge. And Metro Vancouver mayors are alarmed by the possibility the company could still get work on the massive UBC subway project.

We need answers

It seems SNC-Lavalin believes they can operate with impunity. They have been accused of bribery, embezzlement, corruption and fraud in every corner of this country and the world. It would be naive to think B.C. is exempt. We need to ask some serious questions about how SNC-Lavalin has conducted its business here.

If Jody Wilson-Raybould had not stuck to her principles, we might never have known what was really going on in Ottawa. What will it take to learn the truth about our province? Protection for whistleblowers, the ability to subpoena witnesses and have them testify under oath, uncensored access to documents — all things available with a public inquiry.

With headlines flowing in weekly about fentanyl dealers laundering their dirty cash through B.C. real estate, casinos and supercar dealerships, the calls for an inquiry have been deafening. British Columbians want to know what happened to make our province such a fertile hotspot for crime.

But what if it didn’t stop at money-laundering? The power of an independent public inquiry is that once it’s set in motion, it can follow the trail of breadcrumbs wherever it leads. In a province where corrupt and greedy corporations had free rein for so long, I wouldn’t be surprised to see major government contracts, political donors and titans of industry come under the microscope before too long.

Sign our petition for a corruption inquiry

11 Responses to “SNC-Lavalin tentacles reach deep into B.C.”

  1. Donald Mills says:

    So many questions, with Liberal Party no answers, Lies and cover-ups. Oh how we need to have all political reps. give a meaningful REAL pledge to be truthful and honest. Justice is missing all over our Canada.

  2. Nicole St-Hilaire says:

    Si la corruption n’existait pas, la planète s’en porterait mieux. Les CORROMPUS n’apprennent pas. Malgré que plusieurs se font prendre, eux, les CORROMPUS, sont persuadés qu’ils vont s’en sauver. Malheureusement plusieurs, chez SNCLavallin, qui ne sont pas corrompus, vont en souffrir lorsque la compagnie sera démantelée et qu’ils perdront leur emploi. Cependant, les CORROMPUS EUX, vont s’en sortir avec une grosse prime de départ. C’est ce qu’on appelle LA JUSTICE. Quel bel exemple nous donnons à nos enfants et à la planète toute entière! SHAME ON US.

  3. Lonnie Young says:

    The Compass Card system for TransLink has not worked the way it was supposed to – tap on, tap off. Why can a city like Hong Kong with a population many times larger than Vancouver develop a system which can compute tap on and tap off without the problems we have faced for over three years and have not only tap on as the developers could not fix the problem.
    The BC Liberal Party did not plan long term as each of the SkyTrain, Millenium Line and Canada Line were announced and development began almost immediately. As they were purchasings, appropriating and demolishing buildings along those routes, they were also being sued as the projects were being developed. No long term planning, just same old business practices with their old cronies.

  4. Tony Gallagher says:

    Getting politicians to be truthful and honest is oxymoronic don’t you think? In the same way as expecting psychopathic m/n corporations to act ethically without thought to their greed. If this country was governed in the best interests of all its citizens SNC Lavelin- a too big to fail criminally managed corporation would be nationalized or better yet expropriated

  5. Darryl R Taylor says:

    If proportional representation had passed I would have had a brutal promise to fulfill: to start a narrow focus provincial party, Accountability BC.

    The primary platform point would be to have an alteration to our legislation regarding elected officials (possibly others) and their accountability to truth, to whit:

    Every elected official when making statements in the public demesne in their capacity as or regarding their position, should be considered to be under oath as though they were on the stand in a court of Justice.

    This would be primarily in terms of being subject to investigation and charges of perjury should they knowingly utter falsehoods or withhold information that the public should feel entitled to know given the standards of the reasonable person as is used in endangerment cases.

    In such cases as ended in a conviction, the maximum penalty for any given crime would be the minimum penalty, given the betrayal of the public trust entailed (so for perjury alone it would be automatically a 14 year sentence barring special circumstances).

    This might seem harsh, but the point is that it is easy to not run afoul of this sort of legislative trap.

    One simply has to avoid lying to the public, and be willing to speak potentially unpleasant truths if need be.

    (to that latter end, thorough whistleblower support would be needed, both for protection from possible reprisals, and for living assistance assuming that the admission/etc cost them their livelihood.

  6. ROLAND says:

    Jody Wilson-Raybould is a ray of light and I admire her courage and resolve. She is the very type of person we so desperately need to look after our collective affairs, both federally and provincially. Let us hope we can find some of these in the near future or we are all toast!

  7. More BC Liberal Corruption – BC Needs a Full Public Inquiry into BC Liberal Party criminal wrong doing over their 16 horrid years in Govt

  8. roger says:

    With so much of their wheeling and dealing in BC, SNC Lavalin have a huge share of major construction projects in BC, to the exclusion of local BC engineering consultants. How did they always seem to be on top? Yet how much work do BC Consultants get in Quebec? This has been going on for a long time.The BC Government should spread some of the work to their own consultants.

  9. Bill friedel says:

    Can I pass this statement on to others? It’s among the clearest and most concise statements on bc political corruption that I remember in recent history. The solution IS obvious and you’ve nailed it.

    Thanks for this

    (With or without PR, although that should have been legislated, nor watered down and killed by a “referendum” with blatantly wrong conceptual wording)
    tiberbill@toastmac.com

  10. Kristine Bodnaruk says:

    i think there needs to be a investigation into all the liberal activity and his power as p.m. froze, he is making laws to allow , all corruption to flow ,.our country is in a terrible way ,because of horrible decisions, in the name of the liberal govt .the wasteful spending of our tax dollars and the open door illegals this prime minister seems to have loss his mind and we are sitting back confused and doing nothing ,now is time to stand up and shut this corrupt govt. down ,once and for all.

  11. Evil Eye says:

    SNC Lavalin have big involvement with SkyTrain.

    SkyTrain, is in fact two separate railways; the Canada line which is a heavy rail railway and the Expo and Millennium Lines, which operate the proprietary and now called Movia Metro system, powered by Linear Induction Motors.

    The Movia Lines are incompatible to operate on the Canada Line and visa versa.

    SNC Lavalin own the engineering patents of the proprietary Movia metro (Expo & Millennium Lines), and will automatically be included with the B.S. line to Arbutus and UBC.

    Bombardier own the technical patents for the proprietary Movia metro (cars) and will also be included in the BS line.

    Jim Burke, the former Executive Vice President for SNC Lavalin in B.C, has been working on a due diligence panel set-up to oversee business case development for infrastructure, including the Broadway Subway.

    TransLink has been desperately denying the fact that the Movia metro is a proprietary railway.

    SNC Lavalin also lead the faux P-3 consortium operating the Canada line.

    I have been told by former employees that in fact SNC Lavalin owns TransLink and CEO dance to SNC’s tunes.

    If SNC lavalin is not on anyone radar in BC, it bloody well should be.

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