Tag Archives: Justin Trudeau

Trudeau government rocked by scandal: A Different Law for SNC Lavalin?

by Gary Porter

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau often brags about his “feminism” and his devotion to indigenous rights in Canada. His surprising demotion of Jody Wilson-Raybould (JWR) from Justice Minister to Veterans Affairs Minister, and her subsequent resignation from the Federal Liberal cabinet made a mockery of his claims, and raised eyebrows across Canada. Wilson-Raybould, a respected Indigenous lawyer, is reputedly a champion of good governance and accountability. Her crime was to take her job seriously.

The Globe and Mail revealed that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Trudeau himself pushed the Justice Minister to allow SNC Lavalin, a Montreal-based mega corporation, to negotiate a Deferred Prosecution Agreement instead of SNC facing charges of fraud and corruption in court. One might ask, why, in the first place, was legislation permitting such an escape clause for corrupt corporations approved by Parliament on September 18, 2018? And why was it made to apply retroactively to criminal charges in progress? Needless to say, SNC lobbied hard for the new act. Wilson-Raybould’s apparent refusal to accede to demands by the PM, choosing instead to do her job, meant she just had to go.

On February 27, Wilson-Raybould shocked many observers with her testimony before the House of Commons Justice Committee. Trudeau, under great pressure, had just lifted the constraints of client solicitor privilege and cabinet confidentiality. JWR revealed that between early September 2018 and at least January 2019, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Prime Minister Trudeau and senior staff persistently urged her, even in a threatening way, to reverse the decision of her chief prosecutor not to offer a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) to SNC Lavalin. JWR warned Trudeau that this pressure was in violation of the independence of the judiciary and subverted the rule of law. She advised them to cease, but they did not. She explained that as a lawyer who had seen how the law and judicial independence have been applied selectively to Indigenous people, she swore it would not occur on her watch.

SNC Lavalin employs 52,000 people worldwide. It reaps $10 billion USD annually in revenue from its global project management and infrastructure construction and operations business. SNC is considered by Canadian capitalism to be “too big to fail”.

The unfolding scandal has tarnished the image of Trudeau.  It may even topple the government. But deeper lies the lesson. Myths about respect for the rule of law and the independence of Canada’s ‘justice’ system have taken a beating. These myths underpin the social contract according to which private corporations obtain natural resources, social infrastructure such as energy, transportation and communications systems, and the labour of millions, supposedly in exchange for creating wealth to the benefit of society as a whole.

Part of the bargain is that the vast surpluses created by labour during this process are appropriated by private owners who operate under laws which supposedly enforce fairness and regulate the greed into which unregulated masters would otherwise sink.

SNC Lavalin has a long history of anti-competitive, anti-market practices and other insidious acts. This behaviour is not limited to foreign jurisdictions where, according to arrogant racists, corruption is the norm. SNC executives were found guilty of making illegal payments to obtain huge contracts to build the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal and the McGill University Health Centre.

Canadians are taught that in a liberal capitalist democracy, politicians do not interfere in the even-handed application of reasonable laws. We are assured that politics and politicians cannot corrupt the Canadian justice system. In truth, the only thing that is never violated under capitalism is the soulless drive by owners and bosses to maximize private profit, however corrupt and destructive their behaviour is.

Apologists for Trudeau and the unelected bureaucrats of the PMO insist that SNC Lavalin must be saved. Think of those 9,000 jobs situated in Canada and the families involved. But corporations and their executives who violate the public trust, abuse their wealth, and misallocate social resources should lose their freedom and their wealth. A truly ‘just’ society would jail the criminal executives and expropriate SNC Lavalin, so that those who do the hard, honest work can run this massive enterprise in the public interest.

McQuaig nomination challenges Mulcair’s policy

by Barry Weisleder
    When close to 400 New Democrats crowded a YMCA auditorium on September 14 to choose Linda McQuaig to be their candidate in the Toronto Centre federal by-election, they bucked a trend. The trend is exemplified by federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s embrace of the status quo: pipelines to the east, pro-Israeli apartheid foreign policy, reliance on the private sector to generate jobs, and no new taxes on big corporations and the super-rich.
    Particularly on the latter point, Mulcair now has a vocal challenger – one with a good chance of joining his parliamentary caucus. The labour-based NDP placed a close second to the Liberal Party in the riding in the May 2011 general election.
    Linda McQuaig, former Toronto Star columnist and author of many books on economic inequality, proclaimed after her nomination victory in Toronto’s downtown core that she has no intention of backing down.
    “They should pay more,” she told the Huffington Post on September 16. Over the past 20 to 30 years the very rich have got richer, but the proportion of taxes they pay has dropped.
“We definitely need higher taxes on the rich,” she said. “First of all, we need the revenue to do what we want to do and, second of all, we need a better distribution of income in the country. We’ve developed too big a gap between the rich and the poor.”
McQuaig co-authored a book with Neil Brooks, “The Trouble with Billionaires,” calling for steep marginal tax rate increases of 60 per cent for the rich — those earning above $500,000 a year — and 70 per cent for the super-rich — those earning $2.5 million a year — in order to address income inequality in Canada. The problem right now, McQuaig said, is that the top marginal rate kicks in at about $135,000 at the federal level but stays flat after that.
“So, whether you are earning $135,000 or $1.5 million or $3 million, you pay the same top marginal tax rate,” she said.
McQuaig rejects the claim that advocating higher taxes on the rich is political suicide for a party. She says right-wing arguments against tax increases — that the rich will flee and the use of tax havens would increase — have not proved true, and have only limited the capacity of the state to provide public services.
But Mulcair has categorically ruled out taxing the very rich.
“If you look at the combined federal and provincial rate in several provinces, it’s over 50 per cent,” Mulcair said. “With regards to personal income taxes, it’s not on the table to increase them. That is a consistently held position.”
    While McQuaig is no anti-capitalist, her articulate, well-documented and dogged insistence on a more progressive tax system marks her as a radical on the political landscape. Her policies on equality, housing and the environment may rally grassroots NDP members and voters against Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and Stephen Harper’s Tories, and also against an increasingly conservative NDP establishment.
    That’s why a bevy of party bureaucrats pushed and plumped for her opponent, former network TV journalist Jennifer Hollett.
    That made McQuaig’s win all the sweeter. And it opens up space for the party left, including the Socialist Caucus which actively backed her candidacy, to fight for socialist policies. The biggest winners in this episode are working class people who want more democracy in the party and in the unions, and who are looking for leadership in the fight against rising inequality and deadly austerity measures.
    The date for the Toronto Centre by-election is not yet set. But when it is, those who want the NDP to turn left should pull out all the stops to get Linda McQuaig elected MP.