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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  • Harold McNeill

    October 18, 2021 |

    This email from Pal Slavid in Norway received October 10

    I simply must tell the following story; before a flight from Aberdeen to Bergen/Norway (it must have been around 2005), I had purchased a couple of “Pilot’s Notes” in a bookshop in Aberdeen. Among these one for the Mosquito. At the flight I was reading some pages in the biography of Douglas Bader (Reach for the Sky), and suddenly this elderly gentleman sitting beside me points to the book and says: “I knew this guy”. This gentleman turned out to be Mr. Bert Ramsden, and I was fortunate enough that he shared some of his story with me on this flight. And when I was able to pick up from my bag, a copy of the Pilot Notes which he had used during his training, we read it more or less together, and he commented with great knowledge. As an WWII aviator geek, this flight became a great memory for me, and I even got his signature on the Pilot Notes.
    With great respect,
    Pål

  • McNeill Life Stories Protecting Canada's Health Care - McNeill Life Stories

    September 20, 2021 |

    […] One of the many defining features of Canada is our Public Health Care system. While the system continues to provide high-quality care to a broad cross-section of Canadians (rich and poor), funding cuts have led to longer wait times and other shortfalls in service. This has become particularly evident during the current pandemic as Covid19 patients fill beds normally be set aside for ongoing treatments. (What is happening in our hospitals) […]

  • Harold McNeill

    July 25, 2021 |

    Glad you enjoyed Craig. It was fun researching and writing that particular post. It seems I was in school many years before you, the 1950s to be more precise. Cheers, Harold

  • Craig Patterson

    July 18, 2021 |

    Thank you for sharing this. I grew up in Cold Lake (former town of Grand Centre) and we’d heard many stories over the years. Today I was talking to my Mom about the Kinosoo and I came to this article when I was searching images of the fish — I recall when I was in school in the 80s where was a photo supposedly taken (I think it’s the one of the ice fisherman above).

  • Harold McNeill

    January 15, 2021 |

    Wow, Graham, I was taken by surprise (but then again that’s not too hard). Having all you fine folks (my children by other fathers and mothers) would have been great. I’m hopeful that sometime in the not too distant future, we can reprise that trip. Perhaps we’ll just set aside a time for someone else’s landmark day, and we can surprise them. Love to you two. Harold

  • Graham and Nazanin

    January 15, 2021 |

    How could we miss this historic event my friend!!!
    Nazy and I were booked for that cruise Harold, we were looking so forward to it.
    We will be together soon! We both wish that continued unconditional love you receive from everyone to continue as you are that special someone that makes a difference in this world.
    Happy birthday sir, cheers!

  • Harold McNeill

    January 7, 2021 |

    Glad you found the site and that Dorthy enjoyed. I’ve added a lot of school photos in other locations linked to the High School Years stories. Cheers, Harold

  • Shelley Hamaliuk

    January 2, 2021 |

    Hi there, I am Dorothy Marshall’s (nee Hartman) daughter. Mom was quite excited when she discovered this site while surfing the net yesterday, so excited that she told me to have a look! She quite enjoyed taking a trip down memory and seeing old pictures of herself.Keep up the great work!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.