I wasn’t going to do this, but I just had to Butts in!


There has never been a clearer and more public demonstration of how much power multinational business corporations exert on national governments than the recently exposed SNC-Lavalin affair. In 2015 SNC-Lavalin (SNCL) realized that they were in serious trouble because of bribery and fraud allegations arising out of its business dealings in Libya so it was time to ramp up the pressure on the Canadian government to go easy on it. Starting in 2016 SNC-Lavalin worked hard at lobbying the federal government to include a Deferred Prosecution Agreement addition to the Canadian Criminal Code in the C-74 Omnibus Budget Bill in the summer of 2018, in anticipation that it would have to go to trial and potentially be barred from bidding on federal government contracts for ten years. With a DPA, SNCL could avoid a lot of nastiness and carry on with business as usual while using some of its eleven billion dollar a year profits to pay a fine instead of facing serious curtailment of its business. 

It’s a sordid affair, but apparently business as usual according to some. Bribery is necessary they say in crazy countries like Libya or it would be impossible to do business there. It happens all over the world, all the time, they say. Don’t come down hard on a poor downtrodden company like SNCL because its only doing what’s best for its shareholders, and its employees. Of course, its employees. Nine thousand jobs in Canada! Why, how could we allow a little bribery and scandal in a country like Libya to jeopardize nine thousand good jobs in Canada? Unthinkable! 

There are thousands of people in Canadian prisons for peddling or using drugs. The Canadian government wasn’t worried about them losing their jobs. Yeah, yeah, you might say, those druggies were doing illegal things so they deserved to go to jail! Well, I’m afraid that logic also applies to SNCL if it gets convicted of the charges its facing in court. 

The jobs argument is so ridiculous in any case. “Well, you can’t do that, there would be huge job losses!” I guess the guards and staff at Nazi death camps could have argued that after the war as their facilities were being shut down.[1]Or, horse breeders and buggy whip manufacturers when they were faced with the arrival of the automobile. 

Like I said, this is all pretty sordid stuff. After all, we live in a democracy don’t we? We are all represented equally by our government are we not? We don’t live in a plutocracy, don’t they say? 

Or this: “What kind of a commie opposes our good, wholesome multinational Canadian businesses?”

And what about this?: There is certainly plenty of evidence that the business of the Canadian government (presumably on our behalf) has historically been orchestrated by corporate interests going back as far as Confederation. (It was going on way before that too but Canada wasn’t officially Canada yet.) 

The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) of the post-Confederation 19thand early 20thCenturies was the past equivalent of modern day SNC-Lavalin. Of course, it’s not a perfect equivalence, but SNC-Lavalin has been front and centre in the massive transfer of public tax money into private hands by way of infrastructure projects and public/private partnerships (P3s).[2]That’s just like what happened decades ago with the construction of railroads in Canada. No P3s back then, but, relatively speaking, just as much transfer of tax money into private hands. So it goes.

I don’t know what Jody Wilson-Raybould’s motivation is for doing what she did. I tend to believe what she said to the Justice Committee. Gerald Butts to me is unbelievable but a great flag-waver for big business’ interference in Canadian politics. He’s never been in business himself. He’s a policy wonk. But he sure knows who to bow down to when he leaves a room and it ain’t you and me, nor SNCL workers. 


[1]I know I’m not supposed to mention Hitler or Nazis or what they did. It’s kind of an online rule: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law

[2]SNCL is proud of its P3s in Canada: http://www.snclavalin.com/en/market-services/capital.aspx

The stupidity of the jobs argument.

This is not an example of Godwin’s Law. I’m not comparing Hitler to any current politicians and there has been no discussion I know of on the internet about the topic of this blog, at least not in the way I’m approaching it.

So, the jobs argument is beginning to seriously piss me off. Whenever there is controversy over whether a mega-dam, pipeline or mining project is being sold to the public by some politician or other, they often throw out the jobs argument. It’s a simple argument. It just states that we need the jobs, therefore we need this project.

Simply, that’s a stupid, ignorant argument but compelling to a lot of people it seems. There are jobs and then there are jobs. Not all jobs are created equal. Have you noticed that? Working at a fast food ‘restaurant’ is not quite on the same plane as working as the CEO of a large corporation. Both are jobs. Both are work, but they are so different in their importance and impact that any comparison is laughable.

More importantly, there are jobs that need to go. They need to be eliminated. They are not on the public interest. They need to go. For example, what if after WWII the people who worked at concentration camps and operated the ovens that killed millions of Jews and others argued that it was not acceptable to eliminate their jobs. After all, the economy was at stake and they needed to feed their families. Who would have the temerity to give such an argument any credence whatsoever? Those were jobs that needed to be eliminated and they obviously were. Unfortunately, we are now into the age of the cult of the job. But that’s the topic of another blog post. Back to my point.

At the turn of the 20th Century, the car was rapidly replacing the horse and buggy as the main form of personal transportation. Horse breeders were being put out of business everywhere. Buggy whip producers the same. Poor horse breeders, poor buggy makers, poor buggy whip makers. All out of work…except the buggy makers that transformed themselves into car makers. There weren’t many of them, but there were some.

I think that petroleum producers today are in the same situation as horse breeders and buggy makers were in the early nineteen hundreds. The ones who can make the transformation to producers of alternate sources of energy will survive, the others will die.  The people who work for them are in the same boat. Change or suck air.