The SNC Lavalin Affair

Written by Harold McNeill on August 17th, 2019. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts, Editorials


The Greens, NDP, and Liberals hold the keys to our fight on climate change. They can either turn those keys together or they will turn our future over to those who have no interest in making the hard decisions that must be made. 

SNC Lavalin and the Future of Canada

Opinions have flowed like water over Niagara Falls following the recent Ethics Commissioner’s ruling on the SNC Lavalin. As expected, opposition parties are rubbing their hands with glee, while the Prime Minister and Liberals consider the best course of action as we march towards the next election. Such is life in the arena of politics.

While there is plenty of room to criticize all parties and politicians, few take the time to consider the issues in the broader context of how things get done in a democracy. To those politicians, I suggest, “don’t rush to judgment,” on the SNC Lavalin affair or any other for that matter, you to could one day be sitting in the hot seat. Heaven knows, our former Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, sat in that hot seat often enough and, in his own way, he was pretty good even if I didn’t like him or most of his “fight everything with harsh new laws,” stance. (1)

I have a young friend, a relative newbie on the provincial political scene, who penned a thoughtful piece in which he carefully outlined the shortcomings of the Prime Minister and the strengths of Jody Wilson-Raybould. In a perfect world, he might be right, but he forgets politics is far from being a perfect world. It is more a process in which many (but not all) governments seek to create the most good while doing the least amount of harm and, in the process, try to get elected once every four years. That’s no small feat by any measure.

For this post, I shall refer to my friend as Quentin, as that name came to mind as soon as I read his editorial. I don’t think he’ll know who Quentin was, but he might ask his mom. She might remember the dashing Quentin, who was the lead character in a political drama Quentin Durgens MP, that ran in the late 1960s.  My young friend is very much like Quentin.

It was that series which firmly established Gordon Pinset as a force to be reconned with in the thespian community. Along the way, the series received many accolades and established the CBC as a legitimate player in the industry. Here’s Wiki’s take on Quentin’s story:

Set in Ottawa, Ontario and the fictional community of Moose Falls, the series starred Pinsent as Quentin Durgens, an idealistic young lawyer who wins election as a Member of Parliament, succeeding his father in a by-election after his father’s death in office. Durgens was a backbench member of the governing party in the House of Commons but had a maverick streak and aspired to do the right thing even if it wasn’t politically expedient. Some of the storylines within the series were fictionalized depictions of real-life events in Canadian politics, and the series incorporated some documentary filmmaking techniques inspired by the National Film Board. Alan MacNaughton, the retiring Speaker of the House, and David Vivian Currie, the incumbent Sergeant-at-Arms, served as script consultants to ensure that the Canadian political process was accurately depicted.

Forty Shades of Grey

The series followed Quetin’s attempts to squeeze his black and white world-view into a business where shades of grey were the colours of choice. Pinset so convincingly developed the character, many people thought he was a real-life MP and, as a result, he received calls for assistance from across the country. Over the series, the lessons learned by Quentin are lessons we must all learn as we travel along this uneven path of life.

Thirty years of policing taught me that becoming successful in the job not only meant doing what was right, it also meant keeping the shades of grey firmly within your grasp.  It was the shades of grey that became your best friend in helping to understand the challenges posed in major investigations and how varied applications of the law was essential to the course of justice. Far too many people see the law as black and white.

Later, on becoming immersed in organizing National and International sporting events, the art of achieving goals was very much about making deals. The good news, the majority with whom I worked were amazing people who became skilled at navigating a tricky system that could easily corrupt, yet they did so without becoming corrupt. If you’ve read even a little about FIFA, you’ll realize how hard it was to walk that fine line.  An associate during the World Cup years who is now the President of CONCACAF and senior FIFA VP, once stated, “If you wish to learn how to become a good politician, you should first spend several years holding a senior position in a soccer organization?

Now, back to Master Justin and his first-round as Prime Minister. The young man can become one of the best Prime Ministers of our time if he’s able to withstand the immense pressures thrust upon him and his family. One need only look at our closest neighbour to understand the challenges that came to Canada soon after his election. That the Prime Minister chose to place his trust in the hands of others while keeping the doors open to the shades of grey, is a testament to his leadership, not to a moral failing.

Clearly, part of the pressure came through carelessness in some of his choices (personal and politically), but much of the rest came from trying to do the best for the majority in situations where conflicts of interest were so thick it was hard to see the light of day. If our leaders dodged all the hard decisions because the optics might not be good or the chance of criticism high, we would be forever lost. On the other side of that coin, we could have a leader such as Trump who cares not one whit about what he does or how he seeks to achieve personal rather than national goals.

I think our current Prime Minister embodies our best chance of making the changes we must make if we are to avoid the apocalypse that looms on the climate front. It is the Liberals, NDP, and Greens who hold the keys to moving forward. But first, they must stop attacking each other like sharks each time they smell blood in the political waters. As for Jody Wilson-Raybould, the young lady is very good, but she has many lessons to learn. Hopefully, she will learn those lessons before she becomes but a footnote in history.

As for the Conservatives, they also have good people, but with their party now hijacked by the likes of Scheer, Ford, and Kenny, (Moe, and Pallister are just bit players), there is little hope for the future under their leadership (2). The three, along with their consorts in the oil industry and big business, are willing to carry the country back to the last century and, for them, climate change is nothing more than a seasonal disturbance.

I recently wrote a series about how ‘integration’ of the police is the only answer to solving the intractable problems they face in the current day. I think political parties of the center-left must follow a similar process. I know it may not be part of Quentin’s dream, but unless we start working towards the same or similar goals, we’ll all sink in the same leaky climate change boat.  I don’t want to be sitting here in Novembers thinking, “I told you so,” with the Conservatives holding 160 seats (34%), Liberals 140 (33), NDP 18 (14), BQ 14 (4), GRN 5(12), and OTH 1 (2).  That outcome is entirely possible if those holding the keys of change continue to fight each other.

Harold McNeill

(1)  One of the differences of opinion I have with many Conservative-leaning friends is their seeming tendency to cast many things in black and white terms. There are simply not enough shades of grey in their world view in order to find common ground.  Abortion, law and order, LBGTQ, immigration, migrants, marihuana, court decisions, security, terrorism, along with a host of others, seem to always be cast in terms of black and white.

(2) A year ago this month, I wrote a long article titled The Changing Landscape of Politics in Canada in which I traced the rise of Doug Ford to the Premiership of Ontario.  It was an unseemly affair that was accurately portrayed in the TV Series, House of Cards, (if you watch, watch the British series as it was far superior to the US version).

In the Changing Landscape article, all parts of the TV series appear, including a sex-scandal, fake news, political insider-trading, on-line manipulation of the electorate, and double-dealing as just has become standard practice of the Conservatives in Ontario and other Provinces and, one in which a few political insiders, including Ford, Sheer, and Kenny, became closely tied in ‘common purpose’.

While the Conservative Party (Provincially and Federally) has often disavowed, using such unseemly tactics, research indicates that is far from the truth.  Read the linked article to see the day-by-day and hour-by-hour rise of Doug Ford, and review the Conservative Party links to the online machine that helped Ford along the path to victory. The article also outlines how Andrew Scheer and his people were very much a part of that campaign as they were in Alberta when Kenny was propelled to power.

Today, I spoke to a friend who was at a large Conservative election campaign planning session.  As soon as the subject turned to politics, as it usually does, his first comment was, “boy, this is going to be one of the ugliest election campaigns we’ve ever had.”  Wow!  I wonder what went on at that planning session.

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email: Harold@mcneillifestories.com)

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.