Tory Leader Andrew Scheer met with SNC chief to discuss criminal charges

MONTREAL— Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer met with the head of SNC-Lavalin to discuss the criminal charges facing the Quebec construction giant in May 2018, the Opposition leader’s office confirms.

Scheer discussed a possible “deferred prosecution agreement” with SNC CEO Neil Bruce on May 29. SNC is pushing for a so-called “DPA” to avoid criminal charges related to fraud and corruption in its work in Libya between 2001 and 2011.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was one of a number of politicians who have met with the chief executive of SNC-Lavalin.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was one of a number of politicians who have met with the chief executive of SNC-Lavalin.  (DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)

“Mr. Scheer met with a representative from SNC-Lavalin and was briefed on the company’s position with regards to deferred prosecution agreements,” wrote Brock Harrison, Scheer’s communications director, in an email to the Star on Saturday.

“At the time, the Liberals had added provisions on DPAs in 2018 budget documents. The meeting was one of several SNC-Lavalin sought out and held with MPs from all parties during the budget debate.”

Harrison did not respond to repeated questions Saturday and Sunday as to whether Scheer has an opinion on whether SNC should be allowed to avoid criminal trial through a DPA.

The question is more than academic. If Scheer and the Conservatives form government after the October election, they are likely to inherit the question of whether SNC-Lavalin should face its criminal charges — and be banned from federal contracts for a decade if found guilty — or be allowed to cut a deal with prosecutors and face fines and corporate reforms.

Lobbying records show Bruce also met with Dean Allison, the Conservatives’ international trade critic, twice in April 2018, and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and New Democrat MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault in May 2018.

Bruce also held meetings with a bevy of senior bureaucrats, Liberal MPs, cabinet ministers, and senior officials in Justin Trudeau’s office throughout 2018.

Opposition MPs have been calling for investigations into allegations, first reported by the Globe and Mail, that members of the Prime Minister’s Office pressured former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to push for a deal for SNC-Lavalin.

Trudeau and the Liberals have denied the allegations. Wilson-Raybould, now the veterans’ affairs minister, has refused to comment.

If found guilty, SNC-Lavalin would face a 10-year prohibition from bidding on federal contracts — a potentially fatal blow to the Quebec construction giant that employs thousands across Canada.

A DPA — a tool introduced by the Liberals in 2018 based on similar models in the U.S. and U.K. — would mean the company would face potentially steep fines and corporate governance reforms, but would not lose out on billions in federal business.

Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier

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