By-Elections or Buy Elections? The SNC-Lavalin Scandal Nobody’s Talking About
Along with most Canadians who have been following the SNC-Lavalin story, we await the testimony of former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. We want to know whether she will testify that she felt pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to “go easy” on the Montreal-based engineering and construction giant for fraud and corruption charges connected with their business in Libya. Meanwhile, another story linking the company to election finance crimes has been simmering on the back burner and garnering very little attention. We think Canadians should know about it.
Given the obvious taint of influence-peddling and the perversion of justice associated with the pressure on, and later demotion of, the Justice Minister, it’s easy to see why that has been the main focus of attention in the past few weeks; however, the implications of a giant corporation deliberately breaking campaign finance rules should also have Canadian voters crying “foul!”.
The wheels of Justice sometimes turn abominably slowly. In November of 2018, a former Vice-President of SNC-Lavalin, Mr. Normand Morin, pleaded guilty to two of five charges of breaking electoral finance laws between 2004 and 2011. Although Mr. Morin was the only one charged, he and others at SNC-Lavalin illegally and fraudulently reimbursed employees for donations of approximately $117,000, most of which went to the Liberal Party and Liberal candidates.
In a plea-bargain, Mr. Morin was fined $2,000 and three of the charges were dropped. Because of his guilty plea, the details as to which candidates received the “dirty money” were not revealed. The parties involved have now repaid the illegal contributions.
The company had also previously funnelled over $1 million into Quebec provincial elections between 1998 and 2010, with money going to both the Quebec Liberal Party and the Parti Québécois.
While electoral finance violations are of a different category than the crimes alleged in SNC-Lavalin’s Libya business dealings, the company’s extensive lobbying for leniency and their efforts to avoid criminal charges for criminal actions seem to be part of SNC-Lavalin’s corporate culture. More importantly, the efforts by the PMO to sweep the company’s crimes under the rug are beginning to look like part of the Liberal PMO’s corporate culture.
We in the CHP have suffered for years from unfair election financing, even when the rules were being followed. After the 2015 federal election, the Liberal Party received a “reimbursement” from taxpayers of over $21 million. The Conservatives received just under $21 million. This was in addition to what their candidates received (multiple more millions) in their individual campaigns. The Christian Heritage Party and other smaller parties received zero. This is legalized electoral finance injustice. It forces me—as a taxpayer—to contribute money against my will to the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, and others. The practice of using taxpayers’ money to prop up political parties should be stopped . . . or extended to all parties fairly. Directing taxpayers’ funds only to the parties already with the most power and influence is simply an “old boys’ trick” implemented and legislated by the parties already in the House. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it fair or just.
However, when a contribution to a political party is not only unfair but also illegal, it adds urgency and weight to the call for justice. For that, the Justice Minister needs to be able to act without interference from the PMO.
We, like the rest of the country, are waiting to hear the testimony of Ms. Wilson-Raybould. May any political corruption be exposed and righteous judgment prevail. The CHP supports the “rule of law”—one law for all Canadians, including the Prime Minister. To help us in our efforts, join or donate at chp.ca.
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