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Timeline: SNC-Lavalin and Jody Wilson-Raybould

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  • OTTAWA — Feb. 19, 2015 — The RCMP lays corruption and fraud charges against Montreal-based engineering and construction firm SNC-Lavalin, over allegations it used bribery to get government business in Libya. SNC-Lavalin says the charges are without merit and stem from “alleged reprehensible deeds by former employees who left the company long ago.” A conviction would bar the company from bidding on Canadian government business, potentially devastating it.

    Oct. 19 — The Liberals win a federal election, taking power from the Conservatives. Two weeks later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau names Jody Wilson-Raybould minister of justice and attorney general of Canada. She is the first Indigenous person to hold the post, which combines duties as a politician (heading the Department of Justice) and a legal official (overseeing prosecutions).

    Spring 2018 — The federal Liberals table and pass a budget bill that includes a change to the Criminal Code allowing “remediation agreements,” plea-bargain-like deals between prosecutors and accused corporations in which they can avoid criminal proceedings by making reparations for previous bad behaviour. SNC-Lavalin lobbies for such an agreement, including by meeting with officials in the Prime Minister’s Office.

    Oct. 9, 2018 — Federal prosecutors refuse to offer SNC-Lavalin a remediation agreement, a decision the company challenges in court. That challenge is ongoing.

    Jan. 14, 2019 — Trudeau shuffles his cabinet after the resignation of treasury board president Scott Brison. Wilson-Raybould is moved from Justice to Veterans Affairs, widely seen as a demotion. David Lametti, a Montreal MP who was formerly a law professor, becomes justice minister. Wilson-Raybould posts a long letter outlining her record as justice minister and noting that a great deal of work remains to be done toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

    Feb. 7 — Citing unnamed sources, the Globe and Mail newspaper reports that Trudeau’s aides “attempted to press Jody Wilson-Raybould when she was justice minister to intervene in the corruption and fraud prosecution of Montreal engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.,” and that exasperation with her lack of co-operation was one reason for shuffling her out of the justice portfolio. Trudeau denies any impropriety. Citing solicitor-client privilege, Wilson-Raybould refuses to speak about dealings she had on the case when she was attorney general.

    Feb. 11 — Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion says he’s beginning an investigation. At a public appearance in Vancouver, Trudeau says he’s spoken to Wilson-Raybould and confirmed with her that he said any decision on the SNC-Lavalin prosecution was entirely hers. Her continued presence in his cabinet speaks for itself, he says.

    Feb. 12 — Wilson-Raybould resigns as Veterans Affairs minister and says she’s hired former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell to advise her on the limits of solicitor-client privilege in this case. In Winnipeg, Trudeau says he’s surprised and disappointed that Wilson-Raybould has quit, and that if she felt undue pressure in her role as attorney general, she had a duty to report it to him.

    Feb. 13 — The House of Commons justice committee debates its own probe of the issue. Liberals use their majority to call one closed-door meeting and hear from senior officials (Lametti as justice minister, the top bureaucrat in his department, and the clerk of the Privy Council) who can talk about the tension between the minister of justice’s duties as a politician and his or her responsibilities as attorney general of Canada. The Liberals say this is a first step in a cautious investigation; the opposition calls it a coverup.

    Feb. 15 — Trudeau says in Ottawa that Wilson-Raybould asked him in September whether he would direct her one way or another on the SNC-Lavalin question; he says he told her he would not.

    Feb. 18 — Trudeau’s closest adviser and longtime friend Gerald Butts resigns as his principal secretary. He denies any impropriety but says his continued presence in the Prime Minister’s Office has become a distraction.

    The Canadian Press



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    Davie, rivals square off over future of multibillion-dollar shipbuilding plan

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  • OTTAWA — The president of Davie Shipbuilding says he is confident the Quebec-based shipyard will be tapped to build two new ferries included in this week’s federal budget.

    But James Davies says it is time the federal government stop rewarding other shipyards for failing to deliver new vessels to the navy and coast guard, and officially admit his company into the multibillion-dollar national shipbuilding plan.

    The comment came late Wednesday as top officials from Davie and its two bitter rivals, Vancouver-based Seaspan Shipyards and Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding, appeared one after the other before the Senate finance committee.

    Seaspan and Irving were selected through the shipbuilding strategy in 2011 as the two shipyards responsible for building what at the time was estimated to be $35 billion worth of new vessels for the navy and coast guard.

    Davie also competed but was passed over and has since been forced to fight for scraps outside the plan.

    That includes the provision of an interim resupply vessel for the navy and three second-hand icebreakers for the coast guard.

    Davies also told the committee he did not think any other shipyard could provide the two new ferries included in the budget. They will replace two existing ferries, one of which operates between Quebec and Prince Edward Island and the other between Nova Scotia and P.E.I. The budget does not provide any further details, including cost or when they will be built.

    Despite his sunny view of his company’s capability, Davies was clearly focused on getting his shipyard admitted into the national shipbuilding plan. He noted that, seven years after it was launched, both Seaspan and Irving are continuing to get work despite not having delivered a ship, and the plan’s overall costs have doubled.

    “A deal with no consequence of failure is toothless,” Davies said. “Consequence means that in the light of such failure, the government needs the ability to choose an alternative supplier for future contracts.”

    That includes potentially breaking up the work that, under the current arrangement, is almost entirely the purview of the other two yards, he said, and contracts not yet awarded.

    Davies specifically mentioned 10 large coast guard vessels that were promised to Seaspan in 2013 at an estimated cost of $3.3 billion, but construction of which won’t realistically start until sometime in the mid- to late-2020s.

    During his own appearance, Irving Shipbuilding president Kevin McCoy defended his shipyard’s work to date, telling the committee that the first of 21 vessels Irving has been tasked to build, an Arctic patrol ship for the navy, will be delivered this summer.

    Progress is also being made on five others, McCoy said, as well as the navy’s new, $60-billion warship fleet, which will be built in the coming decade.

    The original cost of those warships was estimated at $26.2 billion, while the first Arctic ship was initially expected in 2015, but McCoy nonetheless said there has been a lot of false information and rhetoric about the state of the plan — and of Irving.

    Seaspan chief executive officer Mark Lamarre similarly said a short time later that work is advancing on the West Coast as three fisheries science vessels for the coast guard are near completion after several delays, some of which were caused by faulty welding.

    Steel has also started to be cut on the first of two long-overdue resupply vessels for the navy, he said.

    Lamarre admitted Seaspan has faced challenges, but he said difficulties were inevitable given that it had been a generation since the government and shipbuilding industry launched such a massive project.

    Both sides have learned some hard lessons over the years that are now being applied, he added.

    While they didn’t mention Davie, the Seaspan and Irving officials also both pushed back against any suggestions of opening up or otherwise changing the national shipbuilding strategy, saying a fair competition was held in 2011.

    James Irving, co-chief executive officer of J.D. Irving Ltd., which owns the Halifax yard, said his company invested $450 million of its own money with the “good faith” understanding the strategy would not be changed.

    — Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.

    Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


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    Winnipeg labour leader quits; cites sexist comments, treatment by men

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  • WINNIPEG — A labour leader in Manitoba has resigned from her job over what she says have been sexist remarks and dismissive treatment by some of her male colleagues in the labour movement.

    Basia Sokal surprised about 50 people at a Winnipeg Labour Council meeting Tuesday night when she announced she was resigning as president after two years on the job. The council is an advocate on municipal labour issues in the city and is part of the Canadian Labour Congress.

    “In the last 12 months alone, I have seen and heard and been experiencing some of the worst things that you could ever imagine,” Sokal told the crowd.

    “I’ve got about six pages of things that have been said to my face … and I just want to mention that these were all said by brothers — brothers in the movement, brothers of labour.”

    Some men made comments about her breasts, Sokal said. Others told her to just agree with what she was being told.

    “‘You women are all the same. If you don’t like what is going on, why don’t you just leave?'” she said one man told her.

    She did not mention anyone’s name.

    It became clear, Sokal said, that she was expected to keep her opinions to herself and defer to others.

    In an interview Wednesday, she said she took her concerns to the Canadian Labour Congress last spring and was told there would be some sort of followup. She also spoke to officials at Manitoba NDP headquarters about one man who was on a party committee, she said.

    Sokal was directed to the federal party, she said, which told her in February it was still looking into the matter but had been busy with other things.

    Sokal said she felt she was running out of options.

    “There are several people … higher up in the labour movement, that knew what was going on,” she said.

    “The systems don’t allow for change.”

    Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour, said he was surprised by Sokal’s resignation and suggested that workplaces need to improve.

    “Those are serious issues. They’re unacceptable. They’re wrong in the labour movement. They’re wrong in any kind of work environment.”

    The Canadian Labour Congress did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Sokal said she would like to see changes in the labour movement, starting with a more inclusive environment.

    “I want to see different voices at the table and not just the typical Old Boys club that it actually continues to be.”

    Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press


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    march, 2019

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