Friday, March 01, 2019

Let go of SNC-Lavalin - they are really not worth saving

SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. has spent an embarrassing few weeks in the media spotlight, courtesy of the ongoing Trudeau-Wilson Raybould spat. Setting aside the small issue of Liberal political popularity in the province of Quebec, the Liberals' justification for the pressure for a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) mainly revolves around the need to support SNC-Lavalin, which has the status of sacred cow in Quebec (too big to fail, and all that).
The company has been making noises about moving its head office to England - where it has a bigger operation than it does here in Canada anyway - if it were forced to go through a court case over its corrupt dealings in Libya (just one of the many legal issues it is currently facing). That is SNC-Lavalin's idea of negotiation, i.e. what everyone else would consider a threat. The media exposure of SNC-Lavalin due to the ongoing political scandal has maybe opened a few people's eyes as to just how scheming, corrupt and duplicitous the company really is. There is a whole sub-section on Scandals in the company's Wikipedia entry. Whether or not you agree with the whole idea of DPAs (which are relatively new in Canada, although countries like the UK and USA have used the same system for years), they are not supposed to be used to just allow companies to evade their legal responsibilities and to get away with serious crimes.
Well, perhaps the time has come to let go of government support for SNC-Lavalin (along with that other public funds-guzzling Quebecois shibboleth, Bombardier). SNC-Lavalin employs over 50,000 people in over 100 countries, but only about 8,500 of those are here in Canada, down from 20,000 just six years ago - i.e. it has already shed most of its Canadian employees. The company employs just 2,500 in its home province of Quebec, and its head office only has 700 employees. The employment effect of moving its head office away from Montreal is not, therefore, mind-blowing. Furthemore, Engineers Canada believes that demand for experienced engineers in Canada is such that most engineering staff potentially laid off from SNC-Lavalin would find new employment relatively quickly.
Is SNC-Lavalin really worth all the public money that gets pumped into it, not to mention all the political upheaval it is currently creating? Certainly, we should not be exempting or protecting it from facing up to its legal responsibilities around the world (however, don't make the mistake of thinking this is a particular failing of Justin Trudeau or the Liberals as a party - Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has also already been involved with the company - they are shameless and aggressive lobbyists - to discuss, guess what, deferred prosecution agreements, and, if he were in a position to exert any pressure, then he almost certainly would, despite his professed outrage over Trudeau's position).
SNC-Lavalin is a commercial company, not some kind of national treasure, and it should live and die on it's own merits and wherewithal. It is not a government department to be supported out of the public purse, and if they have broken laws they should pay the price for their poor judgement.

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