SNC-Lavalin and the PMO: A timeline
Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has resigned from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet and is seeking legal counsel about whether she can speak publicly about the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
Here’s a timeline of events relating to the allegations involving the company for its work in Libya and current efforts for remediation in Canada, as well as Wilson-Raybould’s interactions with senior government officials regarding the SNC-Lavalin file:
April 2012 – RCMP raid SNC-Lavalin’s Montreal offices. An affidavit used to obtain a search warrant said police were looking for information relating to millions of dollars in kickbacks allegedly paid to Saadi Gadhafi, the son of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
April 2013 –The World Bank Group announces the 10-year debarment of SNC-Lavalin Inc., along with 115 affiliates, following two investigations into allegations of bribery in Bangladesh and Cambodia. The debarment, which prohibits the company and affiliates from bidding on World Bank projects, is part of a negotiated resolution agreement between SNC-Lavalin and the World Bank Group.
May 2013 –SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. says it is making a limited-time offer of “amnesty” to whistleblowers within its workforce.
September 2013 – SNC-Lavalin’s chief compliance officer says the company is working hard to become an ethical benchmark for its industry by correcting the problems that have damaged the engineering firm’s reputation over the past 18 months. “We are well on our way and my perception is that our people, our employees, our executives completely understand what is required,” Andreas Pohlmann said after addressing a fraud conference in Montreal.
February 2014 –The RCMP files criminal charges against two former senior SNC-Lavalin executives, including for bribing a public foreign official and contravening a United Nations economic measures act related to Libya. The offences are alleged to have taken place between 2001 and 2013.
August 2014 –A former executive of SNC-Lavalin reaches an agreement with Swiss authorities on charges stemming from allegations of money laundering, fraud and corruption involving the engineering giant’s business in Libya under the Gadhafi regime.
February 2015 –The RCMP announces it is laying charges against SNC-Lavalin and two of its subsidiaries for allegedly paying nearly $48 million to public officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011 to influence government decisions.
May 2015 – SNC-Lavalin’s new CEO Neil Bruce says he wants the federal government to settle corporate corruption cases outside the court system, and that the corruption charges levelled against the company have nothing to do with its current workforce. “With the great strides we have made in our goal to be both a Quebec and Canadian player on the global stage, nevertheless we still have to deal with the reality of the current business environment in Canada which presents real challenges to a company like ours," he tells the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations.
September 2017 – Ottawa begins public consultations on possible better ways to tackle corporate wrongdoing. One of the potential options is a deferred prosecution agreement regime, which SNC-Lavalin has been calling for. It would suspend criminal prosecution in exchange for admitting wrongdoing and the payment of fines.
February 2018 –The federal government says it will table legislation for deferred prosecution agreements, also known as remediation, which is later outlined in a budget implementation bill that receives royal assent on June 21, 2018. Such remediation would need approval from the Attorney General.
Sept. 4, 2018– Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould receives a memo entitled “Whether to issue an invitation to negotiate a remediation agreement to SNC Lavalin” from Kathleen Roussel, the director of public prosecutions. The memo recommends that the government not invite SNC-Lavalin to negotiate such an agreement.
Sept. 16, 2018 – PMO staffers Mathieu Bouchard and Elder Marques discuss SNC-Lavalin with Wilson-Raybould’s chief of staff, Jessica Prince. Wilson-Raybould claims Bouchard and Marques said they think Wilson-Raybould’s office “should be able to find a more reasonable resolution here.” Wilson-Raybould says this is the day she made her final decision on SNC-Lavalin.
Sept. 17, 2018– Wilson-Raybould meets with the prime minister on an unrelated matter. She had requested the meeting earlier in the month. Also present is Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick. According to Wilson-Raybould, Trudeau “immediately” raised the issue of SNC-Lavalin rather than the unknown issue that was the stated purpose of the meeting, and stressed the number of jobs he believed to be at risk.
Sept. 19, 2018 – Bouchard and Marques have a phone call with Prince, looking for an update on the situation. Wilson-Raybould meets again with Wernick. She says she also heard from Finance Minister Bill Morneau about “the need to save jobs,” and told him that his office should stop contacting her about the issue.
Sept. 20, 2018– Wilson-Raybould says Prince had phone calls with two members of Morneau’s staff about SNC-Lavalin. This was the last anyone from her office would hear from anyone else in the government about the matter for nearly a month.
Oct. 10, 2018 –SNC-Lavalin says federal prosecutors will not allow remediation for the corruption charges relating to business in Libya between 2001 and 2011.
Oct. 18, 2018– Wilson-Raybould says Bouchard called Prince on this day, asking that Wilson-Raybould get an external legal opinion on the decision not to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin.
Oct. 19, 2018 – SNC-Lavalin files a court application looking to reverse the decision not to go the route of a remediation agreement.
Oct. 26, 2018– Prince tells Bouchard that she considers the matter settled; Bouchard says he’s still interested in Wilson-Raybould’s office getting an external legal opinion. Wilson-Raybould claims Bouchard questioned the optics of news of SNC-Lavalin leaving Canada breaking six months before an election.
Nov. 22, 2018– Wilson-Raybould meets with Bouchard and Marques. She says it was again suggested that she seek an outside legal opinion on the SNC-Lavalin matter.
Dec. 5, 2018– Wilson-Raybould meets with Gerald Butts, the principal secretary and top adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. She says she told Butts that she had made up her mind on SNC-Lavalin and wanted people to stop contacting her about it. She says he told her to find a solution to the problem. Butts recalls the meeting as cordial and friendly.
Dec. 18, 2018– Prince meets with Butts and Katie Telford, Trudeau’s chief of staff. According to Wilson-Raybould, Butts and Telford pushed for an external legal opinion and some sort of “solution” to the issue.
Dec. 19, 2018– Wilson-Raybould says she had a “fairly lengthy” phone call with Wernick, in which she says he told her Trudeau “wants to be able to say that he has tried everything he can within the legitimatetoolbox” and she told him he was confident in her decisions.
Jan. 7, 2019 –Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is told that she will be losing her portfolio in an upcoming cabinet shuffle. According to Butts, Wilson-Raybould was first offered the portfolio of Indigenous Services but turned it down, and then ended up in Veterans Affairs.
Jan. 11, 2019 – Wilson-Raybould says her deputy minister was informed of the cabinet shuffle and told that one of the first conversations Trudeau expects to have with Wilson-Raybould’s replacement will be about SNC-Lavalin.
Jan. 14, 2019 – The cabinet shuffle is made official, with Montreal-area MP David Lametti replacing Wilson-Raybould as attorney general and justice minister.
Feb. 7, 2019 – The Globe and Mail reports that the Prime Minister's Office allegedly tried to influence Wilson-Raybould to ask prosecutors to make a deal to pursue a remediation agreement rather than a criminal prosecution in the corruption and fraud case against the Quebec-based engineering and construction company. CTV News has not independently verified the story. Wilson-Raybould says she cannot discuss the matter, citing solicitor-client privilege.
Feb. 11, 2019 – The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner announces an investigation of the allegations and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he “welcomes” the probe.
Feb. 12, 2019 – Wilson-Raybould resigns from cabinet and seeks legal counsel on whether she can speak publicly about the SNC-Lavalin scandal. In her resignation letter, she thanks her constituents but makes no mention of Trudeau, who says he is “surprised and disappointed” by Wilson-Raybould’s decision to step down.
Feb. 13, 2019 -- 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, 2019 -- 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, 2019 -- 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.
Feb. 19, 2019- Wilson-Raybould stuns observers by attending a meeting of the very cabinet from which she had resigned a week earlier. Trudeau says she had asked to speak there and was invited to do so but cabinet confidentiality means nothing can be revealed about why or what was said. After the meeting, Wilson-Raybould says she is still talking to her lawyer about what she can and can't say publicly.
Feb. 20, 2019- Trudeau says that while an airing of the facts is needed, he is confident the examinations underway by the ethics commissioner and the justice committee will provide it. The Liberals use their House of Commons majority to defeat an opposition motion calling for a public inquiry into allegations the Prime Minister's Office pressured Wilson-Raybould.
Feb. 21, 2019- Wernick launches a vigorous defence of the government's handling of the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, bluntly declaring allegations of political interference to be false and even defamatory. The Privy Council clerk also challenges Wilson-Raybould's assertion that solicitor-client privilege prevents her from responding to allegations.
Feb. 25, 2019- Trudeau partly waives both solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality for his former attorney general, paving the way for Wilson-Raybould to tell her side of the SNC-Lavalin saga to the justice committee and ethics commissioner. The order specifically notes, however, that she cannot speak publicly about communication she had with Kathleen Roussel, the director of public prosecutions.
Feb. 27, 2019- Wilson-Raybould tells the justice committee she came under "consistent and sustained" pressure -- including veiled threats -- from the PMO, the Privy Council Office and Morneau's office to halt the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. Trudeau rejects her characterization of events. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer calls on Trudeau to resign. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for a public inquiry.
Feb. 28, 2019- Butts asks to testify before the justice committee.
March 1, 2019- Trudeau makes longtime MP Lawrence MacAulay his new veterans-affairs minister. Marie-Claude Bibeau replaces MacAulay as agriculture minister and Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef takes on the additional portfolio of international development. All three express support for Trudeau.
March 4, 2019- Philpott quits cabinet, saying she has lost confidence in the way the government has dealt with the ongoing affair and citing her obligation to defend the cabinet as long as she is a part of it. Trudeau names Carla Qualtrough interim Treasury Board president.
At a rally in Toronto, Trudeau says the ongoing affair "has generated an important discussion" about how ministers, staff and officials conduct themselves. "Concerns of this nature," he says, "must be taken very seriously and I can assure you that I am."
March 6, 2019– Butts testifies before the justice committee, blaming himself for a “breakdown in communication” between the PMO and Wilson-Raybould. Offering what he describes as a “very different … version of events” than Wilson-Raybould’s, Butts says that he believes everything that happened was part of the normal course of government business, and questions why Wilson-Raybould never raised issues of impropriety with the PMO.
March 7, 2019– Trudeau holds a press conference in which he echoes Butts’ comments, saying there was an “erosion of trust” between Wilson-Raybould and himself that he did not recognize as it was happening.