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HomeBusinessAnalysis: Are Horgan and Trevena SNC-Lavalin’s unlikely saviours?

Analysis: Are Horgan and Trevena SNC-Lavalin’s unlikely saviours?


Bob Mackin

Troubled SNC-Lavalin is one of the three shortlisted bidders for the $2.83 billion Broadway Subway.

The Montreal engineering and construction company, which faces a criminal corruption trial in Quebec, has been involved with every stage of building rapid transit in Metro Vancouver and is considered a favourite to extend SkyTrain’s Millennium Line under Broadway to Arbutus.

Trevena (left) and Horgan tout toll free B.C., but not free information in B.C. (BC Gov)

Also shortlisted by the B.C. NDP government on June 25 were Spain’s Dragados and Calgary’s Aecon, under the Broadway Connect name, and the Spanish-Italian Acciona-Ghella Joint Venture. The preferred bidder is scheduled to be chosen in spring 2020.

For the Broadway Subway, SNC-Lavalin is officially listed under “West 9th Partners,” but the news release does not say who the partners actually are. It is a list of SNC-Lavalin companies: SNC-Lavalin Capital Inc., SNC-Lavalin Constructors Pacific Inc., SNC-Lavalin Inc. and SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.

The company’s tunnelling partner on the Canada Line and Evergreen Line projects was the Italian-headquartered Seli Group. Some of Seli’s Canada Line workers were imported from Latin America and paid less than European counterparts. On the Evergreen Line, the boring machine was stalled for six months in the sinkhole-prone tunnel.

Additionally, SNC-Lavalin Constructors Pacific Inc. was one of dozens of SNC-Lavalin entities that were banned in 2013 from bidding on World Bank-funded projects after corruption in Southeast Asia. If convicted in Quebec, SNC-Lavalin would be disqualified from federally funded infrastructure contracts in Canada and may cease to exist.

Despite all of SNC-Lavalin’s warts, Horgan seemed unconcerned when asked in March about the possibility it could win another major project in B.C. 

“SNC-Lavalin is a large company,” Horgan told reporters. “They put in bids on projects around the world and we’ll look at that closely and if they’re the best bidder and they can meet the requirements of the people of British Columbia, then they will be successful.”

Acciona is the contractor for the stalled $778 million North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant project in North Vancouver. District of North Vancouver issued a Stop Work order April 10, after a $20 million B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit against Acciona by subcontractor Tetra Tech that ground construction to a halt in March.

Acciona is also a partner with SNC-Lavalin in a joint venture bid for the $1.4 billion Pattullo Bridge replacement. The key matchmaker appears to be Jim Burke, the former head of SNC-Lavalin operations in B.C. who now works as a consultant to Acciona. Burke has intimate knowledge of the Broadway Subway project, due to his time on the due diligence panel that advised the B.C. government on TransLink’s business case. recently confirmed that South Surrey-resident Burke made political donations while he was with SNC-Lavalin’s Vancouver office to campaigns in Quebec.

In the 2010 SNC-Lavalin annual report photo, Riadh ben Aissa (left), Jim Burke and Pierre Duhaime.

Kiewit and Flatiron are the other bidders for the Pattullo, but a source has informed that the contract could be awarded sooner than the scheduled fall 2019 announcement.

The NDP’s community benefits agreement that requires higher-cost union labour on provincial infrastructure projects has caused Kiewit and Flatiron to withdraw, leaving SNC-Lavalin the default winner.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has not responded for comment. asked fairness advisor Jane Shackell, but she did not confirm or deny.

Shackell, from the law firm Miller Thomson, is the fairness advisor on both the Pattullo and Broadway Subway. Her job is to monitor all workshops and topic meetings for bidders, proposal evaluations and the selection of the preferred bidder. She also reports on an ongoing basis to the province.

“As fairness advisor for the Pattullo project, I advise the project team on fairness issues during the procurement, and report to the Project Board on whether the procurement is carried out fairly and in accordance with project documents,” Shackell said by email. “Other than providing those reports, my role does not include commenting on any aspect of the project.”

Shackell’s name may be familiar to B.C. politicos. According to Elections Canada, she has donated $28,535.31 to the Liberal Party of Canada since 2005.

The companies above have worked together on other projects.

SNC-Lavalin truck in Yaletown, outside a Liberal May 22 fundraiser

Broadway Subway bidders SNC-Lavalin, Aecon, Dragados and Acciona also have contracts on BC Hydro’s $10.7 billion Site C dam. Kiewit and Flatiron previously combined to build the $3 billion Port Mann Bridge. Dragados and Carlson were partnered on Flatiron’s Pattullo bid.

SNC-Lavalin is the main builder of the new $4.4 billion Samuel Champlain Bridge in Montreal, with Dragados parent ACS and the ACS subsidiary Hochtieff. also confirmed that SNC-Lavalin vice-president Sam Boutziouvis has lobbied B.C. government officials since last fall — including the office of Transportation Minister Claire Trevena — despite anti-lobbying clauses in the Pattullo Bridge and Broadway Subway procurement rules. Boutziouvis and Trevena had planned to meet in Victoria on budget day in February, but a death in Boutziouvis’s family cancelled the meeting at the 11th hour.

Meanwhile, the NDP-established B.C. Infrastructure Benefits Crown corporation that hires and pays union workers on major infrastructure projects is looking for an ad agency.

On June 24, BCIB published a tender call for “creative development and production services,” with a deadline of July 9.

BCIB is shopping for an ad agency to develop campaigns to target potential workforce contractors and other stakeholders.

“We also require a more robust brand platform, building off of work conducted internally,” says the request for proposals from the yellow construction helmet logo’d Crown corporation.

The non-union Independent Contractors and Businesses Association calls BCIB a ploy to pay-off the NDP’s big money union donors. reported that BCIB CEO Irene Kerr, who formerly ran the Port Mann Bridge tolling operation, attended a May 22 Liberal Party fundraising lunch for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s re-election campaign. BCIB denied paying for Kerr’s lunch at the $250-a-plate event at the Opus Hotel in Yaletown.

Coincidentally, an SNC-Lavalin truck was parked outside the hotel. 

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