Forbidden Love: SNC-Lavalin and Justin Trudeau

One Canadian MNC has dominated international headlines for months, reigniting a conversation on MNC-government relations. SNC-Lavalin, based in Quebec, came under investigation for bribery, regarding recent pursuits of new contracts in Libya. To those even somewhat familiar with SNC, this was relatively unsurprising, as the company had previously been convicted for bribes regarding domestic contracts in cities like Montreal, and has long held an infamous reputation for its questionable business practices. The company, like many other Canadian corporations, survived with relative impunity thanks to its importance as a major employer and economic stimulant. In the case of recent allegations, if convicted, SNC would have been barred from bidding on Canadian government contracts; costing the corporation approximately $10 billion in lost revenue and likely leading to a disastrous end to all Canadian operations.  The corporation quickly mobilized lobbying efforts, resulting in the introduction of the “Deferred Prosecution Agreement” in the last omnibus spending bill, allowing companies like SNC-Lavalin to pay fines, rather than to bar their contracts if convicted. However, much to the dismay of SNC, Canadian prosecutors investigating the company, withdrew SNC’s right to the DPA, under the approval of the Minister of Justice at the time, Jody Wilson-Raybould. However, soon after, Wilson-Raybould was dismissed from her position and accused the Trudeau government of placing excessive pressure on her to give SNC the DPA. Trudeau, despite repeated denials, likely had a vested interest in seeing SNC live through its crisis. SNC is a powerful multinational, providing more thousands of Canadian jobs, most of which exist in Trudeau’s very own riding, and its closure would almost certainly have an impact on Trudeau’s political status.  As the situation continues to unfold, with it come new investigations and a severe PR storm for the Trudeau government to weather, uncomfortably close to the next election.

MNC’s like SNC that can leverage their economic power undoubtedly pose a significant threat to the integrity of government and justice. There is no question that the government and judicial system are separate, and any attempt of the government to place pressure on judicial integrity on behalf of an MNC is troubling. The controversy is a textbook example of the amount of power MNC’s hold today over states and government and the amount of influence attained through lobbying efforts. It is a reminder of the interwoven fabric of government and domestic multinationals, and the unfortunate domino effect created when issues arise in either end of such relationships. It is easy for the skeptics among us to dismiss the scandal as “characteristically bureaucratic” and simply an inevitable by-product of the establishment. Yet, each time such scandals are unraveled in the public eye, a valuable opportunity arises, a chance for Canadians to engage and advocate for change. One can be hopeful that SNC-Lavalin and Trudeau’s misfortune will bring much needed change to the climate of corruption and government favoritism. However, if history is to repeat itself, SNC-Lavalin will likely only live on as a sound-byte used by those vying to replace Justin Trudeau in this falls election.

Works Cited:

Austen, Ian. “The Strange Story Behind the SNC-Lavalin Affair.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Feb. 2019,

Seglins, Dave. “SNC-Lavalin Insider’s Bribery Allegations Spark Probe by Crown Agency That Loaned the Firm Billions | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 3 Apr. 2019,

Seglins, Dave. “SNC-Lavalin Insider’s Bribery Allegations Spark Probe by Crown Agency That Loaned the Firm Billions | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 3 Apr. 2019,

“Why Justin Trudeau Is in Trouble.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 5 Mar. 2019,

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