SNC-Lavalin now says its CEO never issued threats over jobs

Click to play video: 'Trudeau explains SNC Lavalin decision was made because of jobs'
Trudeau explains SNC Lavalin decision was made because of jobs
WATCH: Justin Trudeau explained to a town hall in Thunder Bay, Ont., on Friday evening that his decision on SNC-Lavalin was made to protect jobs – Mar 22, 2019

SNC-Lavalin wants to clear the air — it never threatened the government of Canada, but it did say that a deferred prosecution agreement was the best way to grow and protect as many as 9,000 jobs across the country.

Those remarks came in a Monday statement issued following comments by CEO Neil Bruce last week.

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Next steps for the opposition with the SNC-Lavalin affair

In interviews with various media outlets, Bruce had asserted that SNC-Lavalin did not cite jobs protection as the reason why it should receive a remediation agreement.

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Such an arrangement would help the company avoid a criminal trial regarding allegations that it paid out millions in bribes to do business in Libya.

“We have never put forward anything that is purely an economic argument about jobs and why we think we qualify for a DPA (deferred prosecution agreement),” Bruce said last week.

“We put forward an argument in terms of the public interest.”

READ MORE: Trudeau insists he was trying to protect SNC-Lavalin jobs — even as its CEO says he didn’t raise them

SNC-Lavalin backtracked on those remarks in its statement.

“To clarify, Mr. Bruce indeed stated the government of Canada was never threatened by SNC-Lavalin,” the statement said.

“However, the company had made it very clear to the government through its advocacy campaign that the implementation of a remediation agreement (RA) — also known as a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) — was the best way to protect and grow the almost 9,000 direct Canadian SNC-Lavalin jobs, as well as thousands of indirect jobs through its more than 5,000 suppliers across Canada.”

“The company still asserts this position,” it continued.

The statement came after a Friday town hall in which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked why, if SNC-Lavalin’s CEO said he had never raised jobs as an issue, Trudeau continued to say he was trying to protect them.

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“If the company were to go through full criminal prosecution, those jobs absolutely could be at risk,” Trudeau explained in part.

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Scheer: Trudeau’s story on SNC-Lavalin has been ‘widely debunked’

During the town hall, Trudeau explained that a DPA doesn’t let a company off the hook but that it levels “massive penalties and financial sanctions,” such that an employer will be punished but workers might still be protected when they had nothing to do with the allegations.

SNC-Lavalin echoed this explanation in its Monday statement, saying a DPA is not a “get-out-of-jail-free card, as a few commentators have stated.”

“It is an internationally recognized tool for protecting innocent stakeholders from the criminal actions of a few bad actors in a company,” it said.

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“The Canadian RA/DPA allows the judicial system to force companies to admit the facts, pay major fines and other penalties while setting up a compliance system and monitoring program.

“The agreement, once reached between a company and the prosecution service, requires approval by the court, which then monitors the commitments made by companies and ensures they follow the terms of the agreement.”

SNC-Lavalin went on to say that the corruption allegations against the company happened “more than seven years ago” and that it came forward to the authorities with “extensive disclosures” of what it knew around that time “without the benefit of any prior agreement to protect the company from the consequences of its open approach to disclosure.”

READ MORE: SNC-Lavalin never mentioned 9,000 potential job losses, CEO says

Ultimately, SNC-Lavalin said the company “believes strongly that the RA path is the best tool to protect thousands of Canadian direct and indirect jobs from British Columbia to Newfoundland.”

“We see ourselves as part of Team Canada. We are a global champion in Canada. There’s not many, and we’re proud to be Canadian,” Bruce said in the statement.

In his town hall last week, Trudeau said the ethics commissioner is looking into the government’s actions vis-a-vis deferring prosecution for SNC-Lavalin, which will provide an “objective look at what actually happened.”

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Former Liberal justice minister Anne McLellan is also serving as a special adviser, looking at questions that have been raised during the affair.

—With files from the Canadian Press

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