Truth does not serve needs of crony capitalists

SNC-Lavalin Inc. is the kind of ethics-light corporation that BC Liberals likes to have as a partner.

With considerable public flourish, after departure of Chairman Gwyn Morgan, the company announced an amnesty program, effective from June to August 2013, to encourage senior employees “to report potential corruption and anti-competition matters in which they may have been directly or indirectly involved.”

However, questions were soon raised about the sincerity of SNC Lavalin’s amnesty. Executives Michel L’Abbé and Michel Emond admitted they had been involved for years in rigging bids and hiding illegal political contributions by using nominees who were secretly reimbursed by the company. Despite the amnesty, SNC Lavalin discharged these senior managers. The firings sent a message to other insiders thinking of implicating the corporation in criminal activity.

This week, a Quebec Superior Court judge said the program entitled the employees to protection from disciplinary or legal consequences. They were given substantial awards.

Petro politician Gwyn Morgan, Christy Clark’s transition team advisor in 2011, is a 6-figure contributor to the BC Liberal Party and a 7-figure contributor to the Fraser Institute. He was criticized by corporate lawyer and director Garfield Emerson. Theresa Tedesco of The National Post reported:

Basically, Mr. Morgan speaks of shock and disbelief at learning about illicit payments worth tens of millions of dollars in early 2012 while on a business trip to Hong Kong. “The following 16 months turned out to be the most disturbing and challenging of my four-decade career in business,” he wrote in a column in the Globe and Mail.

Mr. Morgan, a celebrated member of the Canadian business establishment as founding CEO of Encana Corp., writes about the damage control that ensued and SNC’s attempts to get to the bottom of the crisis. Among the bon mots in this sordid corporate tale, Mr. Morgan, who is also a director of at least four major global companies, earnestly concludes the corruption scandal raises fundamental questions about governance. “Why didn’t these errant behaviours come to the board’s attention earlier? Shouldn’t we have known about these payments? Were we, as some have suggested, ‘asleep at the switch’?”

Enter Mr. Emerson, a long-time blue chip director of numerous Canadian companies, and no stranger to corporate crisis having lived through the demise of Livent Inc., who mocked Mr. Morgan’s takeaway points from the bribery scandal as “weak, defensive and unpersuasive.” In a letter to the editor, Mr. Emerson bluntly dismisses Mr. Morgan’s “conveys” about the role of directors, independent directors, internal and external auditors as “corporate governance 101.” In other words, they are pedestrian conclusions hardly befitting a director of Mr. Morgan’s experience and stature. “It is unconvincing that he only learned these lessons from knowledge of alleged defalcations by long-time senior executive officers of SNC’s management,” declares Mr. Emerson.

…Mr. Emerson was searing in his sarcasm. The former SNC chairman may have been “directly on point,” Mr. Emerson writes, but he failed to acknowledge that he was an integral part of the problem. “What Mr. Morgan did not learn was that the chairman of the board and the board, as the leadership of the company, are responsible for assuring that the company they direct and supervise has established the right corporate culture and management they appoint practices strong ethical values.”

Morgan’s claim of naive ignorance is similar to Premier Clark’s assertion that she knew nothing about underlings routinely destroying documents and correspondence. October 22, Information & Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham delivered Access Denied, a scathing judgement of Liberal Government practices. Clark could not have been surprised by anything Denham wrote because the Commissioner’s words reiterated observations made in previous assessments of Liberal actions. As the Vancouver Sun headlined:

Premier ignores repeated calls to archive information, Christy Clark’s inaction makes a mockery of her promise of open and transparent government…

Clark’s immediate act was one that is tried and true; a scheme also employed to quiet the recent health ministry scandal. She appointed a faithful ally so that questioning could be deflected while an “outside review” was underway. David Loukidelis, who served Liberals so that repayment of millions could be waived to induce guilty pleas that ended the politically embarrassing BC Rail trial. This time the former Liberal Government insider will recommend changes to information handling procedures.

But, wait, you say. Doesn’t the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner already provide counsel on those matters and haven’t taxpayers paid the office about $25 million for their expert advice since Christy Clark took office?

Well, yes, that’s true. However, Elizabeth Denham is a highly respected independent officer and David Loukidelis is a loyal Liberal servant who has pocketed almost $3 million in payments from government since the party took office, including $324,205 reported in fiscal years 2013-2015, despite his “resignation for personal reasons in 2012.”

Gary Mason provides an apt and concise summary in his Globe and Mail column:

Once upon a time, Ms. Clark campaigned on the promise to have the most open, transparent government in the country. We now know that was a complete and utter sham, said for the benefit of a gullible public to get votes. The government’s record on this front is a disgrace…

4 replies »

  1. Remember, SNC retain the engineering patents for the SkyTrain (ALRT/ART) system and when SkyTrain is built like the Evergreen Line and the Broadway subway, SNC will automatically get the work.


  2. Mr.Loukidelis is safely ensconced at Thompson Rivers University, dispensing his valuable legal advice to law students, while taking on part time work for Christy. The Chancellor of the university is Wally Oppal. Small world. Especially when you’re a BC Liberal.

    One lives in hope that Mr. Loukidelis will one day be held properly to account for his work ending the BC Rail trial in the nick of time, and that his world will become a whole lot smaller.


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