But outside the eye of the storm are some of the country’s western leaders, wondering why the Quebec company has garnered so much of the Trudeau government’s attention.
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Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told reporters Thursday that Alberta’s struggle to get its oil to market has a far greater impact on jobs than SNC-Lavalin.
She also suggested jobs at the Quebec company would be more affected by Alberta’s economy than the outcome of any criminal prosecution the company is facing.
“We need our federal government to focus on the big picture and, by doing that, they will realize that Albertans need their attention,” the premier said.
Notley said earlier this week that Trudeau needs to get back to work defending jobs and farmers, especially since China has started blocking import shipments of Canadian canola.
“We are calling on Ottawa to stop its navel-gazing about its internal controversies and fight back,” she said.
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Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe made similar comments Thursday, suggesting Trudeau is giving Quebec too much importance.
“I remind the prime minister again, he’s not the prime minister of Quebec,” Moe said. “He’s the prime minister for all Canadians.”
Moe also took aim at the prime minister’s claims that about 9,000 jobs are tied to the Quebec company.
By comparison, Moe said there have been thousands of jobs lost in the energy sector, all while Trudeau is championing controversial energy policies like the carbon tax and Bill C-69, which he wants scrapped.
Ian Brodie, an associate political science professor at the University of Calgary, explained that criticism of Trudeau’s attention to SNC-Lavalin is “widespread” in Alberta.
Many Albertans, he noted, feel like the prime minister is “bending over backward” for the Quebec-based company saying jobs are at risk, while western Canada has lost thousands more.
“Our inability to move oil to other countries is now hurting our trade deficit. He doesn’t seem to have a resolution to it in sight,” Brodie said.
He added that while he doesn’t think Trudeau’s focus is purely an “electoral calculation,” his focus on Quebec seats is something former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould mentioned in her testimony last week.
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On the flip-side, Allan Tupper, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia, added that while politicians may paint the SNC-Lavalin controversy as a regional issue, he doesn’t see it that way.
“I think the issues in the SNC-Lavalin case are not really about regional politics, though you could try to frame it that way,” he said. “I think the heart of the matter is the conduct of the federal government and the international activities of SNC-Lavalin.”
He added that Notley and Moe may be using the SNC-Lavalin affair to play to their bases, and this may especially be the case for Alberta due to the upcoming election.
“Premiers speak to the interests of their province, that’s their role,” he explained.
Tupper also noted that Trudeau’s focus on SNC-Lavalin is not necessarily voluntary.
“Trudeau would like very much never to hear the word again, let alone bringing attention to it.”
— With files from The Canadian Press