SNC-Lavalin was charged by the RCMP in 2015 over fraud and corruption. After Western nations invaded Libya and decimated the country (opening the door to Europe’s refugee crisis), the Montreal-based construction firm won exclusive contracts to rebuild the country’s infrastructure. During this process, they allegedly bribed Libyan officials and defrauded them of millions of dollars.
When Justin came to power in 2015, SNC-Lavalin amped up their lobbying efforts by targeting the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). They also lobbied at least six Liberal cabinet ministers.
And it paid off. In September 2017, the Liberals introduced a “deferred prosecution agreement,” a kind of remediation that suspends criminal prosecution if a corporation agrees to pay fines and co-operate with the state.
Going this route would be beneficial for SNC-Lavalin since a criminal conviction would keep them from bidding on government contracts for the next 10 years.
So, in March 2018, the Liberals introduced a 500+ page omnibus bill (the same kind of legislation they lambasted Harper’s Conservatives for) that snuck in this remediation agreement. The bill became law shortly after.
But then the Director of Public Prosecutions informed SNC-Lavalin that there would be no meditation deal in their case.
So Justin Trudeau, beholden to SNC-Lavalin lobbyists, spoke to then-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould (JWR). He denied pressuring her to overrule federal prosecutors by offering a remediation deal to SNC-Lavalin.
But in October 2018, federal prosecutors reiterated to SNC-Lavalin that no mediation deal is going to be offered. So the corporation asked a federal judge to force the prosecutors to reconsider.
Meanwhile, the Quebec Premier started raising concerns that this large Montreal-based corporation might have to move to Britain and take all their jobs with them. The SNC-Lavalin chief executive wrote to Justin Trudeau personally, concerned over the remediation agreement, or lack thereof.
The preliminary inquiry into bribery and fraud charges against SNC-Lavalin began in October 2018. The SNC-Lavalin CEO met with top Liberals, and Justin Trudeau again passed information and letters to JWR. She was warned of “the consequences” of her decision not to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin case. She was told to think of the “innocent” shareholders, the workers, pensioners, contractors. Liberals deny this was “inappropriate pressure.”
Then, in January of this year, Justin Trudeau shuffled his cabinet and demoted JWR to Veteran Affairs. Later that day, Jody published a 2000 word statement on “democracy,” our “system of justice” and how the rule of law is supposed to be free from “political interference.”
Shit hit the fan when the Globe and Mail published a report, citing unnamed sources in Justin’s government, confirming that JWR was pressured to overrule federal prosecutors by offering a remediation agreement. Justin, of course, denied all this, but JWR won’t confirm nor deny the allegation and refused to back Justin’s version of events.
On February 11th, Federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion launched an investigation into Justin’s government. He told the Prime Minister that he has a “reason to believe” section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act has been broken. Section 9 prohibits a public officer holder from trying to influence a decision to improperly advance another person’s private interests.
Justin dismissed all this, saying his cabinet is united and JWR’s presence is living proof. Hours later — literally — Jody quit and retained a former Supreme Court judge as her lawyer.
Meanwhile, Liberal MPs blocked Opposition efforts in the House of Commons to bring Jody in to testify before the House of Commons. Justin’s right-hand man Gerald Butts took the fall for the prime minister, resigning but denying he pressured JWR to make a decision on the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.
There’s more to this story as it unfolds in real time, but this summary should suffice. For starters, it’s clear this government’s moral conduct is no different from the last government. Omnibus bills no one has time to read before getting voted on, the influence of lobbyists, discarding the rule of law for political purposes, etc.
What does the SNC-Lavalin scandal have to do with cannabis?
For many cannabis connoisseurs and activists, this scandal comes as no surprise. Lobbying efforts by police, health-care bureaucrats, large licensed producers, former politicians, and other interested parties have shaped Canada’s legalization from before legalization was even a Liberal campaign plank.
Was the Conflict of Interest Act broken with Canada’s cannabis legalization? Most certainly.
After all, the chair of the legalization task force, Ann McLellan, also serves as Senior Advisor to Bennett Jones Law Firm.
Bennett Jones is a powerful law firm with political and banking connections in Ottawa. The large licensed producers lobby through this firm. The firm represents licensed producers such as Tweed (owned by Canopy Growth Corporation), and the government readily admits there are more.
Of course, SNC-Lavalin gets more media attention since it involved the Prime Minister directly, but ratings don’t determine moral standards. Whether it’s Montreal-construction firm defrauding Libyans or former cops and mining executives cashing in on cannabis — the end result is the same.
Canada, like all Western nations, has a serious problem with corporate lobbying. Known as “rent-seeking” in economics, this behaviour has completely undermined the power voters have over their representatives. Throw in a corrupt, secretive banking system disconnected from precious metals, and you have the perfect storm of corruption.
Previous generations of capital accumulation, as well as knowledge and respect for the rule of law based on Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, made Canada a beacon for liberty throughout the world.
Bad economics, Marxist-inspired Critical Legal Studies, and feminist legal critique have undermined these foundations.
It won’t be long now until Canada is just another 3rd-world pseudo-democracy with corruption at all levels of government and a rule of law so divorced from the Western tradition that it’s indistinguishable from arbitrary mob-rule. In fact, we might already be there, our higher standard of living notwithstanding.
The SNC-Lavalin scandal, bank bailouts, international cronyism, cannabis legalization — these are all symptoms of a greater disease. Canary’s in a coal mine.
The SNC-Lavalin scandal is not unique. It is business-as-usual. It happens in cannabis, it happens in nearly every industry. They just got caught this time.
Featured image courtesy of The Conversation.