I have known SNC-Lavalin for more than half its long life. As I view the recent political skirmish over SNC-Lavalin that unscrupulous politicians attempt to turn into an ‘election scandal’ I scratch my head a little and try to figure out how I can explain what I know to be true. Hence I publish the pictures of the people who run the company and tell you the reader that these people are strong, brilliant, honest and have done nothing wrong. (Photo Credit to Lavalin’s 2018 Annual Report. Click to enlarge.)
The buyers that Lavalin sales executives might meet however, in some countries, are armed and they are of the type willing to murder a ‘foreigner’. I know that to be true 100%. In Libya it’s called ‘baksheesh’ and you pay the ‘baksheesh’ if you know what’s good for you. This is explained well be CBC’s Neil Macdonald, a skilled journo I once stood in line with daily at the coffee truck in the battlefield of Oka, Canada during its 78 day duration until 26 September 1990. It’s a good read if you wish -> I bribed the Libyans. It’s how things work in hopelessly corrupt countries: Neil Macdonald . (I wonder what other ‘truths’ some of us old timers are willing to spill?)
Ghadaffi’s Libyan government was always willing to murder. But not just Libya, that often happens in dozens of countries to silence the seller when the buyer has asked for a bribe and gets the wrong answer. Sometimes the buyer has their own scoundrels who do the dirty work. No local rules apply. There are none.
Through over a decade of working as a trade magazine Publisher and a writer for Maclean Hunter and then for another decade with one of its descendent publishing firms, I watched the Lavalin engineering company (see 2018 Annual Report) all over the world in the context of observing over 100 such companies.
I have covered by now over ten wars from the technology perspective and have seen the military, electronics, atomic, computing and aerospace industrial landscape from inside and out.
You cannot work in engineering, research and development sectors in Canada and not know Lavalin. The company’s engineering achievements have been extraordinary.
SNC-Lavalin has added comfort and safety to the lives of Emerging Nations’ People
Being a Quebec-based company, SNC-Lavalin has a Quebec-industrial corporate culture. Basically that means that its people know how to deal with some of the rough places in the world that France has worked with, and that is not easy to accomplish. How many Canadians know how to do very big business in Malaysia? SNC-Lavalin.
Selling Billion Dollar Contracts to Developing or Emerging Nations Is Different
It’s not that the rules are tough, it’s more like, there are no rules. And battles or wars start and stop in an instant. After that the traveling salesman is either dead or alive. It is cold-blooded work.
Occasionally on an airplane bound for some faraway place, I would meet a new person from Lavalin on their way to new horizons or commuting between established projects. We would meet again at a coming industry trade association gathering and compare notes. I would learn of the progress and anticipated upcoming announcements.
It was not hard to become very proud of Lavalin, as a Canadian, and watch enthusiastically the firm’s engineering achievements. I realize not everyone is a technology devotee hence not everyone would feel the same Canadian pride. Maybe my sharing that with the reader is helpful.
Lavalin brought so much value-adding work to many Canadian high-tech companies it would be next to impossible to catalogue it all over its past 100 years and that admission comes from having published over ten books on Canadian high-tech industrial capability.
For sure, Lavalin has a reputation for playing hardball, and that’s not unusual for engineers who like to get down to the ‘brass tacks’. But SNC-Lavalin has a bigger reputation for completing even the most difficult engineering assignments with dignity, customer satisfaction, on time, and with engineering and construction excellence. The firm has kept customers because it has kept customers happy.
A humanitarian would want to protect SNC-Lavalin.
Avoid Controversies When doing the Engineering for some Nuclear Reactors or Renewable Energy Facilities
Two neophytes in the Canadian House of Commons have screwed up irreparably. God help any industry sector that faces that kind of federal political incompetence.
For Canada, industrial sales for high-skills retention work in the billions of dollars, is critical to its future.
The alternative is to be a hewer of wood and drawer of water. In other words, Canada cannot proceed forever on the basis of scraping its natural resources from the Earth and selling those resources abroad.
In the alternative it needs to be a sophisticated secondary manufacturer and a brilliant author of engineering R&D know-how for its advanced service sector.
Cathy Williams wrote an apropos article yesterday about managing ones ego. It’s good reading material for independent Members of Parliament Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould. Maybe their egos will not allow them that indulgence, yet.
To the people in the industries around the world watching this pair of foot-shooting politicians in Ottawa, it is definitely a Whisky.Tango.Foxtrot event. It’s also a scramble in some corners to try and steal some of Lavalin’s business contracts. Hopefully Lavalin or its subsidiaries can handle that.
Is the old adage, “Toss the baby with the bathwater,” applicable?
I recall in the 1990s encountering a moral dilemma as I accidentally bumped into what may have been a very big bribery scandal.
What should I do? I am a trade magazine publisher on the inside of an industry sector and have discovered something very sensitive. Where does the line get drawn between media watchdog and foreign-trade-promoter publication?
An editorial I wrote set out a warning to the industry players and included enough data to imply I knew a lot more. Maybe I did.
That did the trick. The bribe was never paid and the parties worked it out with me being the ‘bad guy’. Being an industry trade writer makes one an ‘insider’ and it is best not to tell stories that destroy lives when blowing a little whistle to stop a bad play, even a foul play, is sufficient.
The CBC tried to fry me on this matter. Their reporters wanted to know the dirty and couldn’t fathom from their perspective that I didn’t do dirty. That was understandable. Being a trade publication writer is very different than one who is chasing ambulances. (Bless me for I have sinned, with that comment.)
I sat in front of a CBC studio camera and spoke in generalities about the wrongness of bribe-taking which actually enhanced my ‘benevolent watchdog‘ approach and gave it muscle.
You see, I had as a kid watched how the media debacle over the CF-105 destroyed an industry and changed a country. The people of Canada had not a clue what the debate was about and why losing 13,000 high tech jobs and a major aerospace project would be so devastating. I sure didn’t want to be a part of anything like that on any scale.
Avro Arrow: How Destruction of an Industrial Giant can Change a Country Forever
Yes. Also, growing up as a kid, I knew Lavalin. My grandfather and my father would talk about that firm’s people when they had work projects with the firm or even when Lavalin had attractive work offers or job postings in other countries that looked good.
Hence I met some of Lavalin’s people in my family’s living room when they were guests of my dad’s employer in Toronto. These were some very clever engineering people.
My Grandfather, Douglas Jefferis, was an extraordinary tool and die designer for Hawker Siddeley (HS) subsidiary, Orenda, the maker of the Iroquois which was the jet engine for the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow (produced from 1957–1959). Thus he had met my Dad who was working for a precursor company that later became Spar Aerospace. That’s how I became.
Eventually my father, Ed O’Brien, retired as the General Manager of the Caledonia Road facility of Spar Aerospace many years after the cancellation of the beloved Arrow.
The impact of the Arrow cancellation did not phase him much because he was looking at space technology, but my grandfather walked away from the Canadian industry along with about 10,000 or more other high-skills aerospace experts.
No Canadian Prime Minister wants to repeat that kind of an industry-killing mistake.
It should be repeated bluntly, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau DOES NOT WANT to make the kind of horrible mistake once made in 1959 by a Conservative politician who personally hated Crawford Gordon, head of the A.V. Roe Canadian aerospace giant. So, that Prime Minister long ago killed a whole industry and changed the country forever. Trudeau is a smart guy and does not want that to happen. But how does a young Prime Minister explain this to a country that can’t remember anything that happened before yesterday? He can’t. I am trying and you can already see how difficult this is. Please stay with me.
The killing of the Canadian military aircraft business changed our Canadian lives completely. In my family, the name of that Canadian Conservative Prime Minister who killed the Arrow has never been spoken since.
One had to have known Squadron Leader Mike Cooper-Slipper, John Sandford, Wing Commander Charlie Brunger, Jan Zurakowski, Bill Coyle, Bob Reed and a few others to feel this, and to know this change that came over Canada.
Trudeau has done good for Canada but sadly has not helped himself.
Justin Trudeau is a straight shooter trying to stick handle an absurd issue created by some egocentric women in high places. The PM has unequivocally walked a high road.
The Canadian Prime Minister’s biggest mistake was trying too hard to populate Cabinet posts with women because they are women. That cannot work anywhere.
A superstar is a superstar and not “male” or “female”. A goof is a goof regardless of gender.
Gender equality is about never looking at the gender of the person, only looking at qualifications. If that were done, Canada’s Parliament would be comprised of the best possible riding representatives and they would mostly be women. I can’t exactly prove that, yet. More women need to seek public office.
SNC-Lavalin Itself with the help of all Canadians can salvage this mess.
The company has talked about divestiture. It is run by brilliant Canadians as anyone can see, and it will surely survive in one corporate incarnation or another. with some minor injuries (the politician’s shenanigans in Ottawa have sent the stock a bit lower to 27.83 CAD -1.20 (-4.13%))
Lavalin’s leadership has said that it had some persons working for the company that conducted themselves reprehensibly in the past. That may just have been the politically correct thing to say.
The result has been the betterment of humanity, as much as that could happen for the ordinary people in Libya under the circumstances of poorly a conceived regime-change invasion, bombing by the United States, Canada and others.
Yeah. Let’s not go to court over Libya. What kind of idiot really wants to talk in detail about what we (Canada) did under the Harper government in Libya. It’s a shame on us all. Canadians just don’t know or remember that escapade. Canada? Doing a regime change. Yes, we did.
In Libya, for Lavalin, during Ghadafi’s time in office around a decade ago, how the job got done mattered less than getting it done.
Most Canadian Minds are far from the real world Lavalin Must Enter
It’s a familiar world to many who travel the undeveloped countries where most of the billions of Earth’s people live.
There are no red carpets and pretty flowers as one sees from the pooled TV camera when it delivers video to Canadian homes from the Prime Minister’s visits to the places Donald Trump calls “sh*thole countries”.
As I write this article on a netbook, I am momentarily not in Canada, but in a place to which Lavalin sells its capability and services . I sit in a windowless concrete room on the side of a mountain and all around me is killing by combat-gear-wearing men with assault rifles. Everywhere I go I must pass a check point.
I have necessarily paid bribes in Syria and Iraq when at checkpoints the men with the guns in my face have demanded all my cash in order that I pass with my passengers (usually a few nurses). I don’t know which my pride prefers, ‘paying bribes‘ or ‘being robbed‘.
Canadians living far from the world in 10 million square kilometers of cold tundra, mountains, lakes, trees and beautiful prairie with horizons that reach forever may be too removed from the world to understand that reality. Concomitantly, people in undeveloped countries living in fear and huddled over their one meal per day may not have any inkling what it is like to live in Canada, nor would they have cause to give it a thought.
For as long as the hungry people living in the dark of undeveloped nations desperately need the help of Developed Countries, some civilized rules will get bent.
But as a good and dear friend, the late Ross Campbell OC, DSC, a former Canadian Ambassador to NATO and a man who sold CANDU nuclear reactors to the world, once counseled me:
“We send our soldiers abroad to do the work of Canada and they kill people (as in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan) because that’s the rule of engagement for the place we send them.
“We also send our industrial-trade experts to places like Libya where they, I wouldn’t, but others might, pay a demanded ‘commission’ or ‘finder’s fee’,” Ross continued, “or call it a bribe, because that’s the rule of engagement for the place we send them. Which is worse? The first instance is war and killing people. The second instance, [in the case of Lavalin and Atomic Energy Canada Limited] is to build something that benefits humanity.” – Ross Campbell OC, DSC
Yes. Ross was brilliant. Which is worse? Which is avoidable? Must we do both? Yes. Until the world is fully developed to the point Canada has reached, we may get a hand dirty as we reach out to lend a hand.
Wipe the hand off and move forward walking beside those we have helped. That’s the Canadian thing to do. Didn’t you know that?