Madam Speaker, I will share my time with the wonderful member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.
For the past two months, the Liberals have been completely embroiled in the SNC-Lavalin scandal. The former attorney general shared her version of the facts, what she calls her truth. Now I would like to share the facts available to us with the House.
SNC-Lavalin is a Montreal-based consulting engineering firm that employs thousands of Quebeckers and Canadians. In 2015, the RCMP charged SNC-Lavalin with fraud and corruption in relation to its activities in Libya. A 2015 agreement with Ottawa enabled the engineering firm to keep bidding on federal contracts until the legal proceedings are complete.
If the company is found guilty, it will not be allowed to bid on government contracts anywhere in the world, including Quebec and Canada, for 10 years. In other words, it may as well close up shop. To prevent that from happening, to prevent SNC-Lavalin from closing its doors or moving its head office to some other country, the federal government created a tool known as remediation agreements. This tool was created for SNC-Lavalin in particular. The Minister of National Revenue made that clear in her February 19 interview on 98.5 with Bernard Drainville. He asked her this question:
Do you want a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin?
The Minister of National Revenue answered:
What I can tell you here is that the cabinet decision made for SNC-Lavalin is not just for SNC-Lavalin, but for large corporations, whether they are in Quebec or Canada. This decision has already been made by other countries. It is important to protect employees and all the people working for SNC-Lavalin.
In her very candid answer, the minister clearly said that the decision to amend the Criminal Code was made for SNC-Lavalin. I will repeat what she said:
...the cabinet decision made for SNC-Lavalin...
That is what she said. Remediation agreements came into effect in September 2018. That is when the Prime Minister asked his then attorney general to use remediation agreements for SNC-Lavalin. It was not a surprise. The government had amended the law for this particular case.
Before I go on, I want to review what a remediation agreement is according to the Department of Justice. The parliamentary secretary said previously that it is important to know what it is, so I will begin by quoting the section on the purposes of a remediation agreement.
The main purposes of a remediation agreement would be:
To denounce an organization’s wrongdoing and the harms that such wrongdoing has caused to victims or to the community;
To hold the organization accountable for the wrongdoing;
To require the organization to put measures in place to correct the problem and prevent similar problems in the future;
To reduce harm that a criminal conviction of an organization could have for employees, shareholders and other third parties who did not take part in the offence; and
To help repair harm done to victims or to the community, including through reparations and restitution.
In the next section, “Potential benefits of a remediation agreement”, it says:
A remediation agreement would hold organizations accountable for their wrongdoing and would provide an incentive to rectify their wrongdoing, while avoiding some of the negative consequences of a criminal conviction. It could help result in faster compensation to victims and protect jobs of innocent employees and investments of innocent shareholders. The possibility of being able to negotiate a remediation agreement may also encourage corporations to disclose wrongdoing and cooperate more readily with investigators.
One last excerpt:
While an agreement is in force, any criminal prosecution for conduct that is covered by the agreement would be put on hold [not withdrawn]. If the accused organization complies with terms and conditions set out in the agreement, the prosecutor would apply to a judge for an order of successful completion when the agreement expires. The charges would then be stayed and no criminal conviction would result. If the accused did not comply, the charges could be revived and the accused could be prosecuted and potentially convicted.
A remediation agreement does not mean that if a company breaks the law, it will not be prosecuted. A remediation agreement is a way to ensure that it will no longer break the law.
SNC-Lavalin is a company that committed crimes, and it must pay for these crimes. The ones who should not pay are the thousands of people who work for the company, its retirees, clients, contractors and subcontractors, and Quebeckers, who are shareholders through the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. Just because SNC-Lavalin broke the law does not mean that the company should be destroyed.
Criminals are the ones who should be punished. This means that we should prosecute the executives who broke the law. This means that the company should pay for the crimes it committed. A remediation agreement allows for this to happen, which is why many countries have this tool.
I want to get back to September 2018. The Prime Minister asked the former attorney general to sign a remediation agreement, which she has the authority to do by law, but she refused to do so. Yesterday the former attorney general spoke for hours, but we still do not know why she refused.
The Prime Minister's Office told her that without a remediation agreement, SNC-Lavalin might move to London. The former attorney general responded that she would not change her mind. The Prime Minister's Office told her that this could jeopardize thousands of jobs in Quebec and Canada. She replied that she would not change her mind.
Every possible argument was made. She was asked whether she would like to get other expert opinions, but she said no. She was told it could cost them the upcoming election, but she said she did not care. She was told commitments had been made, but she refused to budge. She was told the head office and thousands of jobs were at stake, but it made no difference.
Why did she refuse to enter into a remediation agreement, a measure she had voted for, with the company for which remediation agreements had originally been introduced? We still do not know. It is a secret. After four hours of testimony, we still do not know.
As a democratic party that loves democracy, we believe in the separation of powers. We believe that the judicial and executive branches should be independent of each other. We believe that this principle must be protected at all times, without compromise.
Was there any undue pressure? I am still not sure. Before the Prime Minister is taken away in handcuffs, I would like to hear all sides of the story. I would like to hear more than just the former attorney general's version of the facts. I want to know the truth, plain and simple.
For the moment, the truth is that thousands of jobs are at stake. The truth is that SNC-Lavalin could leave Montreal for London. The truth is that the Conservatives and the NDP would rather focus on a Liberal political scandal than on the human tragedy that would befall thousands of families if SNC-Lavalin were to leave. The truth is that the only way to save those jobs is a remediation agreement. The truth is that, if we want SNC-Lavalin to pay for its crimes, we need that remediation agreement. The truth is that there is still no such agreement.
Yesterday, we witnessed a settling of scores between the former attorney general and the Prime Minister. She did not answer the most fundamental question: why did she decide not to sign a remediation agreement, which would prevent the loss of thousands of jobs and a head office in Quebec? She had the power to do so, yet she chose not to. Why?
Now, the new Attorney General needs to take responsibility. It will not be easy, but it is the right thing to do. If he does not sign an agreement, then thousands of SNC-Lavalin employees will be the victims of this settling of scores. For them, it was high time that we had an emergency debate on this issue.