A former Vancouver-based SNC-Lavalin executive owes it to Canadians to explain whether the engineering and construction giant reimbursed him for donations he made to the Liberals and Conservatives, says an NDP Member of Parliament.
theBreaker.news reported on James A. Burke’s nearly $8,500 in political donations from 2008 to 2011, while he was the executive vice-president of SNC-Lavalin in charge of B.C. operations. South Surrey resident Burke made two donations to Conservative riding associations in Quebec in 2009. In 2008, he donated $1,100 three times to the Liberal Party and twice to the Michael Ignatieff leadership campaign. The individual cap was $1,100 for total donations to a registered party and a leadership contestant in 2008.
“I can’t speak to Mr. Burke, I haven’t heard his side of the story, he hasn’t commented, but he has a duty to come clean and investigate and provide whatever information is required to either clear him or shed total light on what went on in this case,” said Vancouver-Kingsway MP Don Davies in an interview. “This is not just a private issue, this is an issue of public interest. We all have an interest in our public democratic institutions and fairness of our elections.”
Burke’s pattern of donating was eerily similar to that of 18 SNC-Lavalin executives, directors and spouses who were illegally reimbursed by the company for contributions between 2004 and 2011, according to a list leaked to CBC. The donations to the Liberals totalled $100,000 and to the Conservatives $8,000. The Commissioner of Canada Elections originally sent the list to the Liberal Party in 2016, the same year SNC-Lavalin made a compliance agreement to avoid penalties.
theBreaker.news contacted the Commissioner of Canada Elections with questions about Burke’s donations, but spokeswoman Michelle Laliberté said the agency does not confirm whether it has investigated or is in the process of investigating a particular matter.
Burke worked for SNC-Lavalin from 1995 until 2015, when he left the company and started Cougar Creek Consulting. The corporate registry lists the Dentons law firm as Cougar Creek’s registered office. Dentons’ Vancouver managing partner John Sandrelli said he was unable to connect theBreaker.news with Burke’s lawyer because of solicitor-client privilege.
“The Liberal Party received the confidential memo from Elections Canada in 2016 and they kept that under wraps for almost three years,” Davies said. “Mr. Trudeau promised a new transparency in government as an approach and we’re seeing anything but that.
“They’re clearly attempting to hide this and they’re acting like these contributions don’t matter. If I’ve got a spending limit in my riding of $100,000, $10,000 or $20,000 makes a huge difference, it can tip the balance. I was very disappointed with Mr. Trudeau’s dismissive attitude.”
Davies said it is crucial that campaign finance violations be properly investigated and publicly reported.
Normand Morin, a former vice-president of SNC-Lavalin, was the only person charged. He was fined $2,000 after pleading guilty to two campaign finance charges in court last November. Davies called that “pocket change.” By comparison, Conservative Dean Del Mastro was sentenced to a month in jail for overspending by $21,000 during the 2008 election.
“A lot of the rules in our system work on the honour system,” he said. “It’s so critical to make sure that those who would cheat are fully exposed.”
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