First, I should have made myself a bowl of popcorn before listening to the Jody Wilson-Raybould testimony before the House of Commons Justice Committee on February 27. For a political junkie, it was more riveting than anything John Grisham, Stephen King or Steven Spielberg could cook up. And it was live; over 3.5 hours.
Secondly, I’m certain she tested the bladders of every politician, and journalist, in the room, as the chair kept suggesting between each round of questioning. Do you want to take a ten-minute break, perhaps to use the washroom? I’m certain he wanted to. But I think Wilson-Raybould was intent on making sure that while she had the rapt attention of the nation, she wasn’t going to interrupt it. Commercial breaks be damned.
Third, the underlying tone of her interactions with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and his staff, kept coming back to the idea of losing Quebec jobs if SNC-Lavalin was convicted of bribing Libyan officials, as they would be locked out of federal contracts for ten years.
That’s no idle threat, either, and likely precisely why it was brought into law in the first place. For instance, the Boundary Dam Unit 3 Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Project was helmed by SNC-Lavalin. It has $240 million in federal money in it. If SNC had, at that point, been debarred (banned) from federal contracts for 10 years, they would not have gotten the contract. Someone else would have, but they would not.
And it is on this point I want to delve much deeper. While it is clear the prime minister’s office (PMO) was acutely aware of the threat to SNC-Lavalin’s future (and apparently their Plan B of moving to London), it was not Justin Trudeau’s, or his office’s, fault SNC-Lavalin was in this mess. It was ultimately that of the leadership of SNC-Lavalin during that time, and in particular, the buck stops on the CEO’s desk. If your company felt it was a good idea to allegedly spend $30,000 on hookers for the son of the Libyan dictator, that falls on your head, not the prime minister’s.
Where the PMO appears to have failed Canadians here is in trying to rescue SNC-Lavalin from a conundrum of its own making. I really don’t care if they’ve changed all their leadership, and claim to be goodie-two-shoes now. Suck it up, buttercup. Hookers aren’t cheap if they cost you your company.
Then there’s the key point of the potential of losing thousands of jobs, thousands of Quebec jobs, I must emphasize. This had me, and many people much smarter than me, scratching our heads as to how those jobs were so important, but many, many more jobs in the oilpatch out west apparently don’t count for squat.
Former Premier Brad Wall tweeted, “The lengths to which this Prime Minister will go to protect jobs in Quebec and the comparative disinterest in and damage to jobs in the western Canadian energy sector stand in stark contrast today.”
Bronwyn Eyre, Saskatchewan energy and resources minister, said, “The concern must always be with all sectors, and the impact on all jobs, in all provinces.
“I would hope that the Prime Minister would acknowledge that this is a problem in a number of sectors across the country,” she said while in Ottawa to emphasise Saskatchewan’s stance against Bill C-69.
This is no idle discussion, either. I have said in these pages, over and over again, that the oilfield services companies I spoke to in 2017 had, almost universally, half the staff of what they had in 2014. I’ve heard all sorts of numbers for job losses in Alberta, but over 100,000 seems to stick out.
The federal government does not control the price of oil. That power rests with the Saudi oil minister more than any other person on the planet. But this federal Justin Trudeau-led Liberal government did ban oil tankers off the West Coast and kill Northern Gateway. It did move the goalposts on Energy East and kill that project. It did fumble the ball on Trans Mountain. It is currently trying to pass the no-more-pipelines bill, Bill C-69, which will be devastating to any future growth in the resources sector in this country.
Where was/is his concern about our jobs? That’s what Wall wants to know. That’s what Eyre wants to know. And that’s what I want to know.
We’ve been getting the boots applied to us for years, by our own federal government.
In the meantime, over the last decade or so, our one customer has nearly tripled its oil productions. North Dakota once produced a quarter to a half of Saskatchewan’s production. Now it is nearly three times what we are producing; and that’s with the same price of oil. We’ve got oil-friendly provincial and state governments in both jurisdictions, and some of our geology is common. So what’s the difference? Federal governments, that’s what.
For all the hate of the Trudeau Liberals in the west, what’s going to really stick in our craw the most in the coming months is how Wilson-Raybould detailed Trudeau’s great concern for the Quebec jobs of a company in court for corruption charges, but has spent three years not giving much of a damn about our jobs.
We always knew we weren’t the favourite child. But it hurts to be reminded of it.