A scandal involving SNC-Lavalin has put the PM’s chances for re-election at risk
By: Eva Rizk
On February 7th, The Globe and Mail published an article citing anonymous sources claiming the Prime Minister’s Office pressured Jody Wilson-Raybould, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, to interfere in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. Trudeau, who strongly denies these allegations, is facing calls to resign.
In the wake of the scandal, favoritism towards Trudeau has declined. New polls show that Trudeau is likely to lose the 2019 federal elections to conservatives. If he doesn’t bring Canadians to his side by October, he will most likely not face re-election.
The scandal began when Wilson-Raybould was moved from her post as Attorney General to serve as the Minister of Veterans Affairs, only to resign on February 12. Despite many rumours, Trudeau denied this move was caused by her decision not to interfere with the SNC case.
SNC-Lavalin is a Quebec based construction company which employs almost 9000 Canadians and over 50 000 people in their worldwide offices. In 2015, The RCMP charged the company with corruption and fraud for payments of up to $48 million to the Libyan government made between 2001 and 2011. If convicted, the company could be barred from bidding for federal contracts for up to ten years, which could also put them in bad standing for international contracts.
Due to their massive contribution to the Canadian company, especially that of Quebec, preventing the company from federal contracts could seriously harm the economy. The company lobbied the government to introduce a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), which would charge SNC with criminal charges and require it to admit fault and pay a fine. This would not prevent it from competing for federal contracts, essentially keeping the company up and running. It was determined that the company did not face the requirements for a DPA.
The Globe and Mail article made allegations against Trudeau, saying his office put pressure on Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the prosecution against SNC-Lavalin in order to settle the case with a fine rather than a criminal conviction.
Wilson-Raybould, who supports the claims made in The Globe and Mail story, spoke in front of the Justice Committee on February 27. She claims she “experienced consistent and sustained effort” in between the months of September and December 2018 from many senior officials, including the Prime Minister and his Principal Secretary, Gerald Butts.
In a conversation with the Prime Minister on September 17, 2018, she claims he told her they needed to find a solution for the issue at hand because many jobs would be at risk without a DPA. Wilson-Raybould claims she told him: "Are you politically interfering with my role, my decision as the attorney general? I would strongly advise against it”.
Over the past two months, the Trudeau has lost several members of his cabinet, including Treasury Board president Jane Philpott and his top political advisor and Personal Secretary who resigned on February 18, stating “[i]t is in the best interests of the office and its important work for me to step away.”
In a press conference in Montreal following Wilson-Raybould’s testimony, the Prime Minister addressed her testimony by saying he “always acted appropriately and professionally,” and therefore, “completely disagree[s] with the former attorney general’s characterization of events”. As of now, the answer to if these allegations against Trudeau are true or false is still unknown.