Gatineau Liberal MP Steve MacKinnon is walking back his claim that SNC-Lavalin is “entitled” to a deferred prosecution deal to avoid criminal trial.
Speaking in a scrum following a speech in Ottawa on Tuesday, MacKinnon said his remarks on CBC’s Power & Politics on Monday night were an “unfortunate choice of words” but stressed his sentiments for why he thinks the firm should get a deal remain the same.
“It appears to me that they are a candidate for one but that’s a decision of course for the attorney general,” said MacKinnon, who is also parliamentary secretary to Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough.
“I should not have used that word but I think the principle that remains is absolutely critical. That there are tens of thousands of Canadians who have a stake in this but not a voice.”
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In his remarks Monday night, MacKinnon had pointed to remediation agreements, also known as deferred prosecution agreements, as one of different available options to deal with corporate wrongdoing in countries like the U.S. and the U.K., and said the company had a right to get one.
His remarks come as SNC-Lavalin has two active cases before the courts, including a judicial appeal of the decision not to grant the company a deal to avoid trial.
Remediation agreements or deferred prosecution agreements offer companies deemed to qualify for one the chance to admit wrongdoing and pay a fine rather than face a criminal trial and conviction; in SNC-Lavalin’s case, such a deal would save it from the 10-year ban on bidding for federal contracts that comes with a potential conviction for corruption and fraud.
The company faces charges of both over its business activities in Libya between 2001 and 2011.
Kathleen Roussel, the director of public prosecutions, has decided not to offer one though.
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Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould told the House of Commons justice committee last week she refused to intervene in that decision and as a result was subjected to four months of a “consistent and sustained effort” between September and December 2018 to pressure her into changing her mind.
Eleven top government officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, were named by her as those who had attempted to pressure her.
She was removed from her post in January 2019 and told the committee she believes her refusal to bow to political pressure was the reason.