Listen Up! SNC-Lavalin Scandal has exposed the Federal government’s favouritism toward Quebec

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Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

Is there a bigger issue here?

This past week was abuzz with news surrounding the Report of the Federal Ethics Commissioner regarding the behaviour of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his office, in relation to the SNC-Lavalin scandal. The news media was all over it, as were partisans of every stripe, either making hay, or defending the indefensible, depending on which side of the fence they sat. It is an important moment in Canadian politics, and it should be a big deal.

When it comes to this particular issue, there is no doubt that Justin Trudeau and his cohorts. screwed up and screwed up badly, from the beginning to the end. Those who yell and scream that the law has been broken by the Prime Minister, are probably wrong. However, the arrogance, the belief that government can interfere with the rule of law and the strategic deception to cover it all up, is only second to Trudeau’s insistence that his government would be different; transparent, totally above board and more ethical than any government that proceeded it. What a bunch of crap.

In a recent article, prominent journalist Andrew Coyne said this. “Prosecutorial independence is one of the bedrock principles of our system of law.” He is right of course, and the Prime Minister walked all over that ingrained reality. He has basically said that saving jobs is more important than the rule of law. Further, he will not apologize for doing that.

The hard facts are, that Justin Trudeau, as fine a fellow as he may be, messed up, because he does not have the experience or background to be Prime Minister of Canada. Is there anyone who really believes he would be where he is now, if his last name was not Trudeau? He does not actually know, as Andrew Coyne has said, about how things really work in government. Consequently, he has made statements and promises, he has been unable to keep.

Trudeau’s first mistake was insisting that his government would do things differently, and then recruiting star candidates like Jody Wilson- Raybould and Jane Philpot, to prove it. When reality set in, and it became clear that the Trudeau government was just another extension of every Old Boy’s Club that has ever run things in Ottawa, they bolted. In doing so, they exposed an underbelly of Canadian politics that few have seen, and many would find reprehensible.

The truth is, that the actions of the Trudeau government in relation to SNC-Lavalin has much less to do with saving jobs than it does with maintaining a powerful relationship with Quebec and with the people who make that province tick and call the shots, when it comes to political support. If it was really about jobs, Western Canadians have every right to ask why they have been ignored by the Trudeau Government when it comes to building pipelines and getting their natural resources to market.

Whether we want to admit it or not, and whether we agree with it or not, Quebec has always had special status within Canada. In many ways, they do things differently, in law and in lobbying. They can be very hard nosed. Consequently, they do well, when it comes to Federal Cabinet positions, government grants, legislation and the judiciary. While all of this is historical fact, the real problem arises when it is highlighted at a time when much of the rest of the country believes they are not being fairly treated by the Federal government. That to me, is the much bigger issue.

The real fallout from the SNC-Lavalin Scandal, is that it has vividly exposed the Federal government’s favouritism toward Quebec, at a time when the feeling of alienation in Western Canada is higher than it has been in decades.

Justin Trudeau has been a part of the Quebec elite since birth. They are not all Liberals, but most of them are and many of them are very powerful and influential. In the case of SNC-Lavalin and in other instances during his tenure, Trudeau knew what he had to do for Quebec, and he did it and damn the consequences. Meanwhile, he has done little or nothing to solve some of the real problem facing the provinces in Western Canada and that has caused a great divide in our country.

Therein lies the problem and where in my view, we are missing the big picture. Canada, as vast as it is, has always been a somewhat uneasy federation, especially between East and West. History has shown us that time and again. The past four years have done nothing to ease that tension and indeed, actions by this Government, including the SNC-Lavalin scandal, have brought us closer to the boiling point.

While many choose to not believe it, or to simply ignore it, Canadian unity is a tenuous and complicated thing. It is also hugely important, an absolute top priority for any government.

Justin Trudeau may well survive the SNC-Lavalin controversy. But he will not survive long, if he does not quickly realize how angry he is making many Canadians who feel ignored by his government, at the expense of other parts of the country.

That is the bottom line.

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18 Comments

  1. Susan Godfrey on

    Honestly, it’s too funny watching all the righteous indignation flying around about the SNC “scandal”.. (I’m more specifically referencing, what’s his name, ..Andrew Scheer). It plays like an old movie without the surround-sound and large buttered popcorn; with scenes of Stephen Harper favouring Alberta back in the day. I’m voting Green next time.

  2. Jim Logagianes on

    Thank you for your accurate assessment of the current situation. SNC proves there is rot in Ottawa. Now we have a leader who apologizes for the actions of others but never for his own misdeeds. Blocking transparency at every opportunity throughout this sordid mess. Mr Trudeau made several promises to Canadians about open and fair Government. Well from where I sit it is the furthest thing from the truth. If Trudeau is not guilty of obstruction of justice then who will get thrown under the bus for his blatant disregard for the rule of law.

  3. Truedough is a lightweight of the highest order…I doubt he can spell Ethics let alone the meaning of the word !

  4. I am driven by logic and fairness rather than ideology. Just for the record, I voted for Harper in 2015. Harper did a credible job. He was never accused of any impropriety and he never embarrassed Canada on the world stage. Unless they make major mistakes, I tend to vote for incumbents because they have valuable experience and the most up to date information on all files. But when Trudeau was elected, I made the decision to give him a chance for the good of the country.

    On the cusp of the 2019 election, I am once again inclined to vote for the incumbent; the Liberals. I believe the Liberals are on track with the most credible approach to Canada’s current top priorities:
    1. Mitigating climate change
    2. Helping to manage a realistic and gradual transition of the energy supply for Canada and the world in a way that supports future prosperity for Canada and other countries. The world will need Canada’s oil as smaller reserves are being quickly depleted. Abandoning oil before replacement energy is installed will create a global energy crisis on top of a global climate crisis.

    The SNC Lavalin case is important but is well down the list of national priorities. Opposition parties are trying their best to use the SNC Lavalin case to discredit the Liberals on the eve of the federal election. Three questions come to mind.
    1. Are prosecutorial independence and the public interest always truly compatible? No. See article below by U of T law professor.

    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-can-prosecutorial-independence-and-the-public-interest-ever-truly-be/?utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_source=Morning%20Update&utm_type=text&utm_content=MorningUpdate&utm_campaign=2019-8-16_6&cu_id=gEaRm4JqJPbF751uJ5Xb1zmbENFeLwb2

    2. SNC Lavalin is one of Canada’s few flagship companies and is one of the world’s 12 most capable engineering and construction management firms. They did wrong but there is more than one way to punish them without killing them. Canada has done away with capital punishment. Would the Conservatives or the NDP really have thrown SNC under the bus for the sake of a questionable and unresolved legal principal? I hope not.

    3. Is it better for the Liberals to clumsily try to execute the RIGHT policy on SNC, or for the Conservatives or NDP to perfectly execute the WRONG policy?

  5. Another editorial from Andrew Coyne & said far better than I:
    “It was Justin Trudeau who sent adviser after adviser after Wilson-Raybould and her advisers, including his advisers—Elder Marques and Mathieu Bouchard—who met with SNC more than anyone else.
    It was Justin Trudeau that was in a mood to get the DPA done, and Justin Trudeau who sent Michael Wernick over to send a message that Wilson-Raybould’s job was on the line if she didn’t deliver one.
    It was Justin Trudeau who pulled the trigger on the cabinet shuffle that sent Wilson-Raybould to Veterans Affairs, and Justin Trudeau who gagged his former minister from giving her side of the story on her resignation.
    It was Justin Trudeau who lied and called the original Globe and Mail report “false”, and Justin Trudeau who sanctioned his office to go after Wilson-Raybould off the record.
    It was Justin Trudeau who kept changing his story, and Justin Trudeau who kept calling interference in the criminal justice system a difference of interpretation.
    And it was Justin Trudeau who shot the messengers and Justin Trudeau who gaslighted them in the presence of young female leaders, all because he can’t take one good look in the mirror.”

    I personally believe that we’ve tacitly always understood that the Liberal party aligned closely with Quebec’s interests. However, I’ve never seen this favouritism play to the extent that Alberta must lose their market access & many thousands of jobs for the Liberal Party of Canada to curry Quebec’s vote.

    • Would the Conservatives and their pundits be saying and doing the same things if SNC’s head office and 9,000 world-class employees were located in Calgary or Toronto? I doubt it. For the record I am not from Quebec, but I believe in fairness.

      • My previous article on the SNC affair clearly showed that losing 9000 jobs and the head office was nothing more than company threats and bluster to get their way. These jobs were are not at risk over this case. The Liberals have been exposed as politically corrupt … again.

        • Dave, you can’t be sure of that. Why take the risk when the DPA is available in every country where SNC competitors are located? If SNC were located in Calgary or Toronto, what would you be saying?

  6. Jim Logagianes on

    Sadly the whole Liberal caucus should be retired this fall for supporting this dishonest narrative.
    The sleaze that has infected Ottawa is Unbearable. Jody Wilson Raybold and Jane Philpott the two Liberals who were kicked out of their party because they have a moral compass.
    If the DPA had passed in the omnibus bill it was buried in, Ms Raybold would have been thrown under the bus and this would have all been on her shoulders. It’s hard to create a scapegoat if the goat is smarter than you and has integrity. Something sadly lacking in Canadian Politics today.

    • It is actually quite amusing to see Conservatives being so puffed-up with indignation about upholding the “rule of law” in the SNC-Lavalin case after they implied for months that they would have bulldozed over last year’s Federal Court ruling that required more complete consultation on the Trans-Mountain pipeline project.

      On June 18, 2019, the Federal Court gave the go ahead after several months of additional consultation with First Nations that was overseen by a retired Supreme Court Judge. The NEB has now confirmed that preconstruction conditions have been met at the Burnaby end of the TM pipeline. Construction resumed there on August 3, 2019. The NEB says preconstruction conditions should soon be met at the Edmonton end so construction can start there.

      The Trans-Mountain will triple the flow of Alberta oil to the west coast terminal. That will reduce the discounts on Canadian oil and bring more revenue to oil companies and more tax revenue.
      What would the Conservatives have done differently on the Trans-Mountain pipeline?

  7. Sorry Hugh but I long ago quit believing in the tooth fairy.
    The following energy projects have all been cancelled since the Liberal election in 2015:
    Energy East: $15.1 billion
    Pacific Northwest LNG: $35 billion
    Northern Gateway: $7.9 billion
    Aurora LNG: $28 billion
    Grassy Point LNG: $15 billion
    I suspect that once the election is over, Trudeau (if re-elected) would find cause to stop the Trans-Mountain pipeline.

    • Jack, Trans-Mountain is the lowest cost and most logical project to go first. It paved the way for how best to navigate the dozens of important considerations. If needed, and if they can pass the muster, other projects will follow by whatever party is in power. Re: Energy East, the reluctance to cross the Ottawa River and rivers north-west of Montreal is very understandable after this springs severe flooding (which will likely continue). It may be best to move Montreal refineries instead.

    • Jack, may I remind you that in today’s world where climate change should be a concern for all of us, building pipelines is increasingly difficult. Even President Trump has not been able to get Keystone XL started on the US side. But the world will need Canada’s oil as many smaller reserves including the USA, China and Russia will be depleted before the transition to electric vehicles and heavy equipment can be completed. Kudos to Trudeau for understanding the big picture and getting the TM pipeline done in this very difficult environment.

      • Susan Godfrey on

        Exactly, thank you Hugh. It’s the big picture and the Canadian long-term vision that I concern myself with. Until the paradigm shift happens, with sustainable, completely green energy supplying all the economic and environmental benefits we all hope for, Justin Trudeau is our best bet for right now; as imperfect as some of his political strategies have been (SNC/Electoral reform etc). I’m still voting Green next time using logic mixed with optimism. As always, I thank you for your perspective and in-depth research Hugh.

  8. I am impressed with Hugh Holland’s analysis of this situation. Since becoming the spiritual leader of a small community organization called a “church” I have become increasingly sympathetic to what national leaders have to deal with. All in all, I have resolved to become more involved on a day to day basis–not just at election time–holding our representatives accountable to their promises as much as possible within a very complicated world.

  9. Justin has made much of women in politics, you know the half the cabinet mantra, but he only wants obedient women. Jody was not .
    Item 2, Justin made much about jobs, but only Quebec jobs, the hundreds of thousand jobs lost in Ontario and west, do not count as lost jobs because they are not in Quebec.
    The east coast has also lost jobs because of his attitude.
    He says the double hulled tankers on the west coast could cause damage to the fisheries, but what about the tankers hauling Arab oil on the east coast, why not Canadian oil by land.

  10. I kind of think Hugh has the right approach to this issue. We have bent over backwards for the benefit of Quebec ever since i can remember and probably, looking at history, for much longer than that.
    It all seems pretty unfair when you look at the massive transfer payments, for example, that go to Quebec still for no very discernible reason. Ask any Albertan today how they feel about this now that they are no longer the “have” Province they were a few years ago before the price of oil dropped!

  11. I feel that the true test of a politician comes when he/she faces the electorate. Otherwise, one would have to assume that 1) either the voters were less than intelligent; or that 2) the other parties didn’t field a better alternative. My guess is that the October election will produce a Liberal minority. As most of Canada’s minority governments have been among the best in recent history, I would count this a success.
    .
    On the obverse of that coin, how many remember the result of the election after Mr. Mulroney’s unethical behaviour in the airbus affair? And he allegedly received compensation from the German Chancellor.
    .
    I guess it just depends on your political affiliation.

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