“We all paid bribes.”
So said a friend of mine, a retired engineer, a couple of weeks ago, suggesting Canadians are naïve when it comes to landing big construction projects overseas.
Perhaps SNC-Lavalin could teach a Master’s Class for Canadian innocents abroad.
The first lesson might be “How to Buy Hookers for Saadi Gaddafi.” The next lessons could be “How to Bribe Officials in Uganda, Mozambique, Bangladesh and Cambodia.” Lavalin’s misconduct in Asia and Africa has led to a 10-year ban by the World Bank.
Certainly the world is full of shady operators where kickbacks and payoffs are frequent. It’s a Third World problem.
Apparently it’s a First World problem too. At the new McGill Hospital in Montreal, Quebec authorities described a $10-million SNC-Lavalin bribe, as the “biggest corruption fraud in Canadian history.”
So why is the Prime Minister soft on this corporate misconduct? Justin Trudeau says it’s about saving jobs and protecting a national engineering icon.
Transparency International is a Berlin-based organization that tracks corruption around the world. In its 2018 survey, Canada ranks 9th, meaning that Canada is relatively free of corruption. The United States ranks 14th.
Corruption is a cancer on society. Besides armed conflict, there is no more insidious activity that rips a country apart than payoffs, bribes, kickbacks and nepotism. Corruption wrecks economies, ruins financial institutions, stifles initiative and, most seriously, destroys the rule of law. Those countries at the bottom of the Transparency International list, Somalia, Venezuela, and Afghanistan stink with corruption from bottom to top.
After it was caught, SNC-Lavalin fired its top executives and promised to be a Canadian white knight fighting illegality around the world. But Boy Scouts do not spend millions on lobbyists. Boy Scouts do not threaten to leave if they don’t get their way. Boy Scouts do not hire operatives who force their way into the highest offices of the land.
This should have been an easy call between right and wrong for the Prime Minister. So why is Justin Trudeau so supportive of SNC-Lavalin?
SNC-Lavalin has showered the Liberal Party with campaign loot. But in that too, the engineering giant couldn’t get it right. The company has been forced to repay $110,000 in improper campaign contributions it made to the Liberals.
Last week the Canadian Press reported, “Quebec prosecutors are working with the RCMP on possible new criminal charges against SNC-Lavalin, tied to a contract to refurbish Montreal’s Jacques Cartier Bridge.”
Another insidious fact about corruption: it’s highly contagious, like measles. One wonders if the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and other government officials have been infected.
For decades, Canada has been a leader in the global fight against corruption. SNC-Lavalin is undermining that effort. So too is the Prime Minister.
Robert Hurst was President of CTV News for 10 years and lives on Peninsula Lake.
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