SNC Lavalin

As optimistic as engaged citizens try to be about our politics, specifically the lack of corruption (relatively speaking), the SNC-Lavalin scandal should not come as a surprise.

That’s the reality of what happens behind closed doors in Ottawa, the only difference this time like with the sponsorship scandal, is they got caught. This all begs the question of the relationship between the private sector and government. The events surrounding SNC-Lavalin demonstrate that in Canada, corporations are not at the will of government, quite the opposite, government is at the will of corporations. Take Gerald Butts’ testimony as case and point, the strategy from the very top was to stay on message with one thing, and one thing only – 9,000 jobs.

Time and time again throughout the testimony it always seemed to come back to the fact that 9,000 Canadian jobs would be at stake should SNC choose to relocate, not to mention the jobs impacted by SNC’s supply chain. And stay on message he did, whether it was an NDP, Liberal, or Conservative MP asking the questions about the details of his communications/relationship with Jodie Wilson-Raybould, regardless of its relevance, it always circled back to the 9,000 jobs. One of the peak moments of the testimony was the exchange between Lisa Raitt and Gerald Butts. He pleaded to her pathos, recalling that they are both Cape Bretoner’s raised around the same time, and that if someone in Ottawa decided to close a coal plant after a mere 12 days of contemplation, their reaction would be futile. He stuck to the game plan, and never veered from the story. 

Much like the sponsorship scandal, the SNC scandal gave us an inside look into what happens in those closed-door meetings;

government being held responsible for the private sectors flaws and shortcomings.

The Trudeau administration had nothing to do with the fraud charges being brought against SNC in the first place, but they sure know who’s paying the price. With the PM basing his branding strategy on jobs, it shows an apparent bias in the current administration. It proves that not all jobs are created equal, jobs in Quebec far outweigh the importance of jobs out West.

Credit: Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press

Even assuming that the only motivation for a DPA with SNC was to save the 9,000 jobs that could be lost, the administration should have the same passion for saving all jobs across the country, not just the ones in his home province. It’s only logical to assume that he would show the same commitment and impartiality to jobs out West in Canada’s oil and gas sector, right? This preferential treatment of Quebec and Quebecers is coming back to haunt the Trudeau government. Similar to the USMCA negotiations where preferential treatment was shown to a distinct group of already well-off farmers at the cost of consumers. The negotiations for USMCA saw the administration fight tooth and nail for an outdated system of managing our agricultural sector.

Why? Because the 200,000 votes from well-organized farmers in this country was to high a price to pay especially when a re-election is looming. The parallels are clear; small, well organized, powerful groups in this country can always name their price. This whole scandal can teach us two things, first, even a country like Canada that has little dark, unaccountable money in politics, we are still prone to government corruption and scandals that can plague an entire administration.

And second, the dichotomy of capitalism and socialism above all else ensures one thing, that either governments will be at the will of corporations, or corporations will be at the will of governments. One incentivizes corporations to engage in unethical behaviour and lobby like there’s no tomorrow, while the other incentivizes corporations to pack their bags and go someplace like Ireland where regulations are relaxed, and competition is encouraged. The challenge to good governance is finding the balance between the two so competition is encouraged, and unethical behaviour is not.