B.C. government officials were vetting applications from companies wanting to build the new $1.4 billion Pattullo Bridge when lobbyists for SNC-Lavalin came calling to Victoria last fall.
Whistler consultant Richard Prokopanko registered with B.C.’s lobbying overseer on behalf of the controversial Montreal engineering and construction firm from Nov. 6 to Dec. 31. A newly minted director of pro-industry public relations campaign Resource Works, Prokopanko proceeded to contact various officials to set-up a meeting with SNC-Lavalin executive vice-president Joseph Lichon and vice-president of government relations Sam Boutziouvis.
Lichon is the Houston-based head of the company’s oil and gas division. Boutziouvis is the company’s top lobbyist who communicated four times last fall with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick in a bid to convince the federal Liberal government to negotiate a plea bargain so it could avoid a criminal trial over bribing Libyan officials.
Wrote Prokopanko: “The proposed itinerary of the meeting is: i. introductory overview of SNC-Lavalin’s history and recent projects in Canada; ii. describe SNC-Lavalin’s expertise and other capabilities in the oil and gas projects; iii. understand the status of the LNG and other resource projects in B.C.”
Premier John Horgan’s deputy minister Don Wright, chief of staff Geoff Meggs and energy minister Michelle Mungall were unavailable for the proposed Nov. 26 and 27 dates. Prokopanko pursued transportation minister Claire Trevena.
“Even if we can have a 10 minute stand hand shake and greeting,” Prokopanko wrote Nov. 23, in email obtained by theBreaker.news under the freedom of information laws. “The group is flexible. She would be the only B.C. minister they will meet.”
Trevena aide Charly Leverman responded to say that the minister was unavailable, but “we are still interested in having a meeting.”
“We would like to extend an invitation to hold a meeting on Feb. 6, 3:30 p.m. at the Legislature,” Leverman wrote in a Nov. 27 email.
Trevena spokesman David Crebo told theBreaker.news that the minister did not meet with SNC-Lavalin.
A meeting did take place on Nov. 26. Labour deputy minister Trevor Hughes arranged to have jobs and trade deputy minister Fazil Mihlar, energy deputy minister Dave Nikolejsin and energy assistant deputy minister Les MacLaren meet Lichon and Boutziouvis in-person. Transportation deputy minister Grant Main joined by phone.
Labour spokeswoman Julianne McCaffrey said it was a “meet-and-greet only.” Main did not respond to theBreaker.news request for comment, but Crebo said SNC-Lavalin officials “presented their credentials with respect to the energy industry.”
“At no time did anything to do with Ministry of Transportation responsibilities come up,” Crebo said. “This includes infrastructure projects, including the Pattullo Bridge replacement project.”
Dermod Travis of watchdog IntegrityBC said SNC-Lavalin has been constantly trying to guarantee its survival in the face of legal problems that jeopardize the company.
“Do we want companies that are bidding on contracts to be lobbying deputy ministers and politicians on areas that overlap with those contracts they may be bidding on?” Travis said. “PartnershipsBC, in the past, was quite clear and quite categorical on this.”
The July 2018-issued request for qualifications, which involved the PartnershipsBC agency, included a standard no-lobbying clause, prohibiting respondents and their team members and contractors from communicating directly or indirectly in relation to the project, with any elected official or staff, except as expressly directed or permitted by the province.
Prokopanko did not respond, but Daniela Pizzuto, director of external communications for SNC-Lavalin, said “at no time was there an attempt” to influence or arrange a policy, program, law or contract, and that SNC-Lavalin did not lobby the B.C. government more than 100 hours last year.
“The purpose of the meeting was to introduce Mr. Lichon to those present and to provide an overview of SNC-Lavalin’s professional capabilities and expertise in the design, engineering, and construction of major oil and gas projects, as well as to provide a brief on SNC-Lavalin in terms of operational structure, distribution of workforce, and broad business priorities,” Pizzuto said.
SNC-Lavalin is no stranger to the B.C. government, yet Prokopanko’s entry is the only one showing for SNC-Lavalin on the Lobbyist Registry website. SNC-Lavalin has a contract for design of major civil components and the generating station for Site C. It built the John Hart Generating Station for BC Hydro and the Evergreen Line SkyTrain extension and Canada Line for TransLink, among other recent B.C. projects.
Prokopanko forwarded a thank-you note to Hughes on behalf of Lichon on Dec. 10.
“The opportunity to share SNC-Lavalin’s global and diverse expertise and provide insights to constructing LNG projects on time and within budget was most appreciated. The B.C. government’s efforts to ensure the first major LNG project in B.C. will be a success is admirable and SNC-Lavalin are able and willing to assist where appropriate,” Lichon wrote, referring to LNG Canada’s Oct. 1 decision to green light its Kitimat megaproject.
“I would’t be surprised at all, quite frankly, if they were lobbying numerous provincial governments at the same time on the simple basis of hoping to be able to get those provinces to apply pressure on the federal government for the deferred prosecution agreement,” Travis said. “It would seem to be something logical for a company like SNC-Lavalin to do based on their behaviour in the past. They did, in fact, lobby Quebec’s government on the issue.”
Coincidentally, three days after the SNC-Lavalin meeting, Main’s calendar shows he attended a plenary keynote address by then-Attorney General Wilson-Raybould at the Vancouver Convention Centre during a meeting of First Nations chiefs and the Horgan cabinet. Wilson-Raybould was shuffled to Veterans Affairs in January and she quit cabinet Feb. 12 over pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to meddle in the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.
On Feb. 14, Trevena’s ministry announced the shortlist for the $1.4 billion, four-lane crossing: SNC-Lavalin Capital and fellow Site C contractor Acciona Infrastructure, Kiewit-led Fraser Community Connectors and Flatiron/Dragados/Carlson joint venture. The bridge that connects key NDP ridings in New Westminster and Surrey is scheduled for a 2023 opening. SNC-Lavalin was shortlisted by the BC Liberal government in fall 2016 for the $3.5 billion Massey Tunnel Replacement Project that was cancelled by the NDP.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Attorney General has refused to disclose all briefing notes related to SNC-Lavalin that were created or updated since Jan. 1 of this year. The NDP government told theBreaker.news that it is withholding the briefing notes in their entirety because they contain legal advice and personal information.
Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here.