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HomeBusinessExclusive: SNC-Lavalin lobbyists focused on B.C. minister overseeing bridge and SkyTrain projects

Exclusive: SNC-Lavalin lobbyists focused on B.C. minister overseeing bridge and SkyTrain projects

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Bob Mackin

SNC-Lavalin’s pursuit of Transportation Minister Claire Trevena continued in February, as bureaucrats were nearing a decision on the shortlist for the $1.4 billion Pattullo Bridge project, theBreaker.news has exclusively learned.

theBreaker.news previously reported that the Montreal construction and engineering giant sent lobbyists and an executive to Victoria in late November.

NDP Transport Minister Claire Trevena (BC Gov)

SNC-Lavalin hired Whistler’s Richard Prokopanko to arrange meetings for government relations vice-president Sam Boutziouvis and oil and gas division executive vice-president Joseph Lichon with four senior bureaucrats on Nov. 26. A fifth, Transportation Deputy Minister Grant Main, joined in by phone.

Documents obtained under the freedom of information law said SNC-Lavalin wanted to make a presentation about the company’s “history and recent projects in Canada” and pitch its LNG plant-building expertise to the NDP government.

Prokopanko also sought a “10 minute stand hand shake and greeting” with Trevena in November. The NDP cabinet minister was unavailable, but one of her aides proposed Feb. 6.

According to a newly released email from Boutziouvis to Jobs,Trade and Technology deputy minister Fazil Mihlar on Feb. 1, Trevena had agreed to meet on Feb. 19 with Boutziouvis, Francois Morton, executive vice-president of infrastructure engineering, and Jussi Jaakkola, vice-president of investment development.

“We will be in Victoria and have a couple of meetings booked, including with Transport and Infrastructure Minister Trevena at 9 a.m.,” Boutziouvis wrote to Mihlar. “It’s budget day in B.C. So this is a long shot, but if you have some time in the morning, it would be great to bring Francois and Jussi by to introduce them and talk about our infra[structure] priorities in B.C. in greater detail.”

Jussi Jaakkola (SNC-Lavalin)

Boutziouvis did not respond to theBreaker.news request for comment.

Morton joined the company in 2015 as senior vice-president for Western Canada and became the executive vice president in February 2018. Jaakkola was a financial advisor on SNC-Lavalin’s $889 million contract to build the Evergreen Extension to SkyTrain’s Millennium Line. He also directed SNC-Lavalin’s successful bid for BC Hydro’s $1 billion John Hart Generating Station and helped the company get shortlisted for the $3 billion Massey Tunnel Replacement Project, which the NDP cancelled after coming to power in 2017.

The meeting with Trevena, however, was cancelled Feb. 14 because of a death in Boutziouvis’s family. SNC-Lavalin spokeswoman Daniela Pizzuto said the meeting has not been rescheduled, but she would not disclose who else the Boutziouvis-led delegation planned to meet in Victoria.

“We will not provide comment,” Pizzuto said by email.

There was good news for both Boutziouvis and the company: On Feb. 14, Trevena issued a news release that announced SNC-Lavalin and fellow Site C contractor Acciona’s joint application was among three shortlisted for the next phase of bidding on the new Pattullo Bridge between New Westminster and Surrey.

Independent watchdog Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC is concerned that the NDP is not enforcing standard anti-lobbying rules in tendering documents.

“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.

SNC-Lavalin lobbyist Sam Boutziouvis (Twitter)

SNC-Lavalin is expected to bid for the Broadway subway and Surrey to Langley SkyTrain extensions. The company has been involved in building every phase of rapid transit in Metro Vancouver.

The shortlisting for the Pattullo Bridge was among the only rays of good news for SNC-Lavalin in an otherwise dismal week. Share prices hit a 10-year low after a dim forecast about projects in Saudi Arabia and Chile. Former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould quit the federal Liberal cabinet. She later revealed the Prime Minister’s Office wanted her to meddle in a decision to prosecute SNC-Lavalin for corruption rather than negotiate a remediation agreement over bribes paid to the Gadhafi regime in Libya from 2001 to 2011.   

Last month, a federal court judge rejected SNC-Lavalin’s bid to pursue the deferred prosecution agreement. Chilean miner Codelco canceled SNC-Lavalin’s $260 million contract at the Chuquicamata copper mine and SNC-Lavalin announced it hoped the sale of 10% of its shares in Ontario’s Highway 407 toll freeway would bring in $3.25 billion. The company also filed a lawsuit against former CEO Pierre Duhaime, who is serving a 20-month house arrest for aiding a bureaucrat in rigging the bid for the $1.3 billion McGill superhospital project.

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