Quebec, Ink: SNC-Lavalin wins reporting award. Really!

Cue the chorus of I-told-you-sos: SNC-Lavalin wins an award for financial reporting on the eve of news reports that it disappeared $139 million (partly in relation to the superhospital). That, and other mind-bending tidbits of silliness in this week’s Quebec, Ink.

I recently asked a buddy who has worked in the construction-engineering industry in Canada and Europe for decades what his take was on all the corruption allegations we’ve been hearing. More specifically, what would make a successful international engineering company like SNC-Lavalin get involved in bribing members of the Gaddafi Libyan leadership?

He raised an eyebrow at the question and paused before answering carefully. “How do you think they became a successful international engineering company?

“That’s the way business is done. If you don’t follow along, you don’t get contracts.”

On Sunday, news reports revealed Swiss investigators are now trying to track down $139 million in suspected illicit payments by SNC-Lavalin, including funds linked to the Montreal superhospital. That’s more than double the money the company first reported as “missing.”

But it wasn’t all bad news for the Quebec Inc. giant. Last week, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants announced SNC-Lavalin had won its Award of Excellence for Corporate Reporting.

No, seriously.

They were lauded for their “financial reporting, corporate governance disclosures, electronic disclosure and sustainable development reporting.” And the company has won the award seven times in the last decade.

Makes you wonder what the shadier companies are doing.

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NOW THAT’S JUST RUDE. In last week’s Quebec, Ink, I ridiculed the Office québécois de la langue française for silly rules governing the brand names of certain multinationals. The above is an apparently mom-and-pop (well, mom, anyways) shop in Vaudreuil-Dorion I drove by yesterday. The shop name appears to mock language laws by merely placing a “Le” in front to make it “French.” I suspect the joke will be on the shop owners as potential customers drive right past. There’s no need for laws telling retailers to respect the language of  customers — the loi du marché is usually enough.

* * *

So, Toronto mayor Rob Ford has been found guilty of violating conflict of interest rules by an Ontario Superior Court judge. Unlike Quebec, where there are currently no laws forcing disgraced, corrupt or absentee mayors from office unless they’re convicted of a crime, Ford was given two weeks to appeal or leave office. He’s appealing, of course.

* * *

Well, add another group to the people pissed off by the derailment of the Charest Liberals’ Plan Nord. The Journal de Montréal reports business has been booming for exotic dancers willing to travel to the Quebec mining town of Fermont. They can expect to make up to $5,000 a week, the Journal reports on page 20 in Monday’s paper. The SNC-Lavalin story is on page 38.

* * *

The Charbonneau commission into Quebec corruption is taking a two-month break because prosecutors are overwhelmed by the volume of evidence and witnesses coming forth. Or so they say. Anyway, it’s an early Christmas gift for politicians and a lump of coal in the stocking of Quebec journalists. Now we’ll all have to turn our attention to Bieber Fever and stale rehashes of the Quebec student protest movement.

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To close on a happy note, this marks the longest undefeated streak in the Montreal Canadiens’ history since the last lockout. If you’re on Facebook, to celebrate, you can join me on the Fire Gary Bettman Movement, a fan-made page protesting the NHL commissioner in charge during the last two hockey-free professional seasons. ■

Peter Wheeland is a Montreal journalist and stand-up comic. His sardonic observations about the city and province appear at least once a week in this space. You can follow him on Twitter or find out about his upcoming stand-up performances here.

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