The hand in the shadows

Can we see the hidden hands of Kevin Lynch, Chair of SNC Lavalin, behind the actions of that company over the past year? Mr. Lynch, considered a successful Deputy Minister at both Finance and Industry, served as Clerk of the Privy Council between 2006 and 2009. A former Deputy and Clerk would have the ultimate insider’s perspective on how to achieve SNC policy objectives at the federal level. There is no current Deputy Minister, no Clerk of the Privy Council, no senior PMO official, who would not take a call from Kevin Lynch. Mr. Lynch became Chair of the SNC Board of Directors in late 2017.

Is it just a coincidence that the very next federal budget, in spring 2018, included the clauses allowing deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs)? A former Deputy Minister of Finance would be well aware of how non-budget measures can be quietly inserted into an omnibus budget bill. In the three months that the DPA provisions were debated in the house, SNC recorded 21 lobbying visits to various Ottawa politicians and officials. SNC fought hard to exclude a key clause which stated, quite explicitly, that the economic impacts of a criminal conviction were not to be considered in assessing whether to grant a DPA to a company at risk of criminal prosecution. They lost that battle.

But the same SNC arguments – that economic impacts of a criminal conviction should be considered – were in play in the PMO during the fall of 2018. Those very arguments were made to the former Attorney General in many of the 20 contacts made with her or her office about his matter during the fall. And during that fall, SNC continued to lobby senior officials in the Department of Finance, in the Privy Council Office and in the Office of the Prime Minister. The lobbying of federal officials continued even after SNC had commenced a court proceeding to challenge the DPA decision. We don’t know whether Mr. Lynch directed the lobbying strategy, but he would know better than anyone else at SNC who to call or to visit to try and get a favourable decision. He would get his calls answered.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Mr. Lynch applying his considerable experience and skills to helping the company he leads. But this seems to be an insider business, easy to handle off the record and off the books. Was Mr. Lynch just an éminence grise behind the curtain, or was he an evil puppeteer behind the scenes, less a Richelieu and more a Mangiafuoco? Just askin.

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