SNC-Lavalin admits to illegally financing Liberals, PQ
Canada's largest engineering company has admitted to participating in illegal political financing in Quebec.
A vice-president at Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin testified today at the Charbonneau Commission hearings.
Yves Cadotte says dozens of SNC executives, and sometimes even their spouses, donated just over $1 million to the Quebec Liberal party and the Parti Quebecois between 1998 and 2010. A small majority of that cash went to the Liberals, although the PQ got nearly 50 per cent of the amount.
He says executives would get company bonuses when they donated, and the amount of that bonus was greater than the donation amount.
It is illegal for companies to make political donations, and it's also illegal to reimburse people for their donations in Quebec.
Cadotte admitted on the witness stand that he was aware that it was illegal to offer such refunds.
But he said it's the political parties that came to solicit the money. He said the parties would even set fundraising targets for his company.
SNC-Lavalin received 550 contracts, worth $247.5 million, from Quebec's Transport Department between 1997-98 and 2011-12.
Cadotte said he didn't believe the donations helped get public contracts. On the other hand, he said the company was afraid of what would happen if it didn't donate.
"That's the dilemma: not contributing would be a risk that is perhaps intangible,'' he said. "Maybe there is no (consequence), but in our mind it's a risk we don't necessarily want to take.''
The company has been mired in corruption scandals at home and abroad, and high-ranking former figures now face criminal charges.
But this is the most detailed account of SNC-Lavalin's political activities, to date, at the Quebec inquiry.
It's unclear whether the company engaged in such practices in the rest of Canada or at the federal level.
The Charbonneau inquiry is only focusing on corruption at the provincial and municipal level in Quebec, and will not touch on npolitics in Ottawa or other provinces.
The company has issued a statement saying it is co-operating with the inquiry and trying to provide the information being sought.
SNC also says there's an internal investigation into the events Cadotte described, and the company will have no further public comment in the meantime.