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HomeBusinessCoastal Corruption Chronicle: Still no money laundering inquiry, but SNC-Lavalin is one step closer to an NDP government megaproject

Coastal Corruption Chronicle: Still no money laundering inquiry, but SNC-Lavalin is one step closer to an NDP government megaproject

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Bob Mackin

Are we any closer to a made-in-British Columbia version of the Charbonneau Commission, the Quebec public inquiry that got to the bottom of construction corruption in la Belle Province? 

The short answer is: no. 

The B.C. NDP government’s Feb. 12 throne speech offered no hope for a public inquiry about money laundering. Premier John Horgan said he would rather have experts investigate for short-term reports and take action on their recommendations rather than spend millions of dollars on years of hearings and litanies of lawyers. That did nothing to satisfy those seeking justice for the casino-real estate-fentanyl crisis known as the Vancouver model.

Then, two days later, the shortlist for the new $1.377 billion Pattullo Bridge, which connects NDP-held ridings in New Westminster and Surrey.

Kiewit and Flatiron are in separate groups. They were partners on the massively over-budget Port Mann Bridge. The third group is called “Fraser Crossing Partners,” a joint bid by Spain’s Acciona Infrastructure and SNC-Lavalin.

Attorney General Eby (Mackin)

Yes, that is the same SNC-Lavalin whose ex-CEO, Pierre Duhaime, pleaded guilty on Feb. 1 to helping a public servant commit breach of public trust over the McGill University superhospital project. The same SNC-Lavalin that has lobbied the Trudeau government to pay a fine rather than go on trial for corruption over millions of dollars of bribes paid to the Gadhafi regime in Libya. The same controversy that led to Vancouver-Granville Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould becoming ex-attorney general last month and an ex-member of the Trudeau cabinet this week. 

That is also the same SNC-Lavalin that has counted British Columbia as one of its key markets. 

SNC-Lavalin maintains an office in downtown Vancouver, built and operates the Canada Line, is a contractor on the Site C dam and was the 64th sponsor of the Vancouver Olympics, after being the provincial government’s engineer on the Sea-to-Sky Highway project. 

In 2011, its then-chair, Gwyn Morgan, was on the inner circle of newly elected BC Liberal leader Christy Clark’s transition team. Lo and behold, under Clark’s premiership, SNC-Lavalin got contracts to build the Evergreen Line for the Ministry of Transportation and John Hart Generating Station for BC Hydro. 

It wanted to build the bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel, but the NDP cancelled that project. 

It also has its eyes on the SkyTrain extension to Surrey and the SkyTrain subway to the University of B.C. Vancouver city councillor Colleen Hardwick wanted to debate the latter at a city council meeting earlier this week, but Green Coun. Adriane Carr thwarted tabling of Hardwick’s motion.

To learn the entirety of SNC-Lavalin’s history in B.C., read the story I wrote for the Georgia Straight in 2014.  

So, back to this week. 

In the wake of Duhaime’s guilty plea, I had asked Attorney General David Eby whether the NDP government would review its relationship with SNC-Lavalin. There is no evidence that the previous BC Liberal government reviewed any ministry or Crown corporation relationships with SNC-Lavalin, to determine whether any public funds were misspent during construction and operations or whether any bribery or fraud occurred during the procurement stages.

Instead of an answer directly from Eby, his ministry’s communications staff sent a 153-word statement.

It’s government’s responsibility to do extensive due diligence when it comes to procurement and selecting a short-list of companies that can deliver the project on-time and on-budget.

Concerns around risks related to corruption or breach of trust informed, in part, government’s decision to introduce whistleblower legislation for British Columbia that comes into force this year.

Procurements are ongoing. We are using open procurement processes and are dedicated to getting the best value for people in B.C. British Columbia’s contracts include clauses that allow British Columbia to terminate the contract if evidence of illegality on the part of the service provider arises. Any allegations of illegality would be promptly reviewed by the public service and, if appropriate, referred to the police or other regulators.

There are many checkpoints in the procurement process, including the procurement team, project board or steering committees, legal counsel, fairness advisor, and a relationship review committee.

In summary, the answer is no. 

The NDP could do billions of dollars of more business with SNC-Lavalin, without pushing pause to determine whether it is doing enough to protect B.C. taxpayers from a company that Derek Corrigan, the NDP-aligned mayor of Burnaby, called-out in 2014.

Corrigan said SNC-Lavalin is “one of the few Canadian companies who could attain the high goal of being banned for 10 years by the World Bank for corruption. This is a company that is up to its earlobes in corruption in Montreal.”

Did you know?

Alterra Power Corp. hired SNC-Lavalin in 2014 for engineering, procurement and construction management of the Jimmie Creek hydro project, which began operations in August 2016. The run-of-river generation plant in the Toba Valley near Powell River.

In the Feb. 13-released report by Ken Davidson, Zapped, we learned that private power agreements signed under the BC Liberal government cost BC Hydro $16.2 billion over two decades — or $200 per year, per residential ratepayer. 

Davidson concluded that BC Hydro bought too much energy and energy with the wrong profile; paid too much for the energy it bought; and undertook these actions at the direction of the BC Liberal government.

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