Pedestrians wait to cross the street in front of the SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., headquarters in Montreal, Quebec, Feb. 12, 2019.
The hypocrisy of the federal Liberals is not only sickening but extremely dangerous to this country.In the SNC-Lavalin case, they pressure a minister over prosecution, allow criminal charges to lapse and invent bureaucratic ploys to bend and mitigate the law.But at this end of Canada, the Liberals insist on hyper-respect for every law, regulation, concept, process and social notion that might possibly be used to delay a pipeline.SNC-Lavalin is a Quebec-based company accused of fraud and bribery while doing business in Libya. Essentially, it’s charged with engaging in corrupt behaviour abroad that it would not employ at home.As the past couple of weeks have shown, the cabinet and government will contort themselves to keep this company out of criminal court.A conviction would ban the company from bidding on Canadian projects for 10 years. On Monday, the Globe and Mail reported that officials are now writing rules to allow “flexibility” in the length of a bidding ban.Two senior officials of the company recently escaped criminal charges because judges ruled that prosecutors took too long to bring the cases to trial.Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was unhappy with what she evidently considered undue pressure to drop prosecution. She resigned and will soon appear before a committee.Now, consider the handling of Trans Mountain by these same people.The bedraggled project, far more important economically than any possible benefit from SNC-Lavalin, has been subject to endless public scrutiny.
Pipes are seen at the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain facility in Edmonton on Thursday, April 6, 2017.
JONATHAN HAYWARD /
THE CANADIAN PRESS
The first proponent, Kinder Morgan, complied with every regulatory demand, completed extensive public consultations and negotiations — including dozens of financial benefit agreements with communities and First Nations — and has not been accused of any wrongdoing.The project won 17 straight court challenges against other Indigenous groups, activists, and the cities of Burnaby and Vancouver.But the obstruction played out for so long that the company left Canada, selling the project to Ottawa for $4.5 billion.Construction began. Then, last Aug. 30, Trans Mountain ran into three Federal Court of Appeal judges who decided the permit was invalid.The decision was not hostile to the pipeline itself. It was mainly critical of some consultation and environmental issues involving killer whales.At that crucial moment, Ottawa might have applied some SNC-Lavalin-style vigour to the ruling.Without any secretive actions, Ottawa could have appealed, ordered construction to continue, worked to fulfil the court’s demands and contested every application for an injunction.The Liberals could also have passed a federal law enabling the pipeline. That was actually promised at one point. But the pledge sank without a bubble in the toxically conflicted cabinet.Last Friday, the National Energy Board approved the project for the second time, adding 16 recommendations to its long list of previous conditions.That might have been the moment for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself to promise quick cabinet approval.But no, there’s not even a commitment to issue a new permit within cabinet’s 90-day guideline.And all along, the Liberals have been busy erecting more legal barriers to energy and resource projects.The best single article on this national disaster comes from former columnist Geoffrey Simpson, who recently wrote a long study for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.It details the impediments the Liberals have created, from giving the environment minister undue control over energy and resources to inferring veto powers for groups that will never agree to a project under any conditions and inventing extra-legal concepts like “social licence.”
A aerial view of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain marine terminal, in Burnaby, B.C., is shown on May 29, 2018.
Jonathan Hayward /
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Two bills — C-69 and C-48 — are now close to passage. The first would regulate new projects into oblivion. The second would prohibit Alberta products (not B.C. natural gas) from shipping by tanker off B.C.’s northern coast.Absurdly, the Senate dominated by Ontario and Quebec is the last line of defence against these atrocious bills.Counting the cost of delays and diversions so far, the C.D. Howe Institute estimates the loss in investment at $100 billion in 2017-18 alone.Along the way, the Liberals have virtually ceded a key power that holds Canada together, federal control over interprovincial shipping. At the same time, their bills would severely dilute provincial ownership and development of natural resources.Such is the discriminatory regime the Liberals are creating for Western Canada’s resources. You can be sure they will enforce every nuance.For SNC-Lavalin, though, existing law is a malleable thing, uniquely adaptable to partisan Liberal needs.This double standard goes beyond simply hypocrisy. It’s a destructive message to the whole country about who counts, and who doesn’t.Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald.firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @DonBraidFacebook: Don Braid Politics