The best argument I have heard in defence of SNC-Lavalin and how this government jury-rigged the criminal code is that it's too big to fail. The people of Quebec, we're told, love Lavalin. It makes them proud. It makes them happy.
Sure it has a rich history of corruption from a decade of bribing Gaddafi's people to that Montreal hospital scandal (Arthur Porter) and the Jacques-Cartier bridge fiasco but so what? And let's not forget that other problem - getting disbarred from bidding on World Bank projects.
In September 2013, SNC-Lavalin and its affiliates composed 115 of the 117 Canadian companies that were part of 250 total companies blacklisted from bidding on the World Bank's global projects. James David Fielder, the bank's manager, stated, “As it stands today, the World Bank debarment list includes a high number of Canadian companies, the majority of which are affiliates to SNC-Lavalin Inc.” The companies were debarred due to an investigation relating to the Padma Bridge project in Bangladesh, where World Bank investigators worked with RCMP officers to make a collective action against corruption.Let's dwell a moment on this Deferred Prosecution Agreement business that was enacted at Lavalin's request and without any debate by Mr. Trudeau's government.
The entire rationale for it is that, without DPA, Lavalin would be barred from government contracts for a decade. That, in turn, would be the death knell for Lavalin and put thousands of Quebecers out of work.
Let's say that all that's true. Without the DPA, Lavalin goes down. It needs those government contracts and it is too big to fail.
If Lavalin did crater, would those contracts go unfilled? No, of course not. We have other engineering companies. One, perhaps many of them, would get those contracts. They would employ people to do the work. The work would get done.
Here's the thing. If the government is going to such lengths to sweep the stables for one pony, it's that one pony that's destined for greatness. Amending the criminal law of the land for one firm would be pointless unless that favoured firm goes on to "win" those contracts. If you can rewrite the criminal law to make that happen do you think the government won't have its thumb on the scale when it comes time to tender. It's a time-honoured game to write tenders to suit the preferred bidder.
You're not going to those lengths to give the company a legal leg-up and then give those contracts to some other firm that can't offer a similar political payoff. You're not going to take this heat only to hand those supposedly "life and death" contracts to some other contender.
There's an election in eight months and the guy who just fixed the law needs those Quebec seats now more than ever. Quid pro quo. Lavalin wins, the Liberals win. The fix is in.