The SNC Lavalin Affair

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


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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  • McNeill Life Stories How to Game an Election - McNeill Life Stories

    September 18, 2019 |

    […] The Federal Conservatives and Seymour Riding Association complied but one day later those memes will be shared by every third party social media site and by thousands of supporters where the message will be taken as a statements of the fact.  Five years from now those memes will still be circulating. (Link here to background on the SNC Lavalin matter) […]

  • Harold McNeill

    August 21, 2019 |

    For those who followed the earlier post about the cost of ICBC Auto insurance coverage in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba (linked in comments) here is another follow-up article.

    This article again confirms earlier assertions that public-private insurers such as that which ICBC provides, is among the best in Canada in terms of rates and coverage. A link is provided in the original story.

  • Harold McNeill

    August 16, 2019 |

    Many thanks for reviewing the article Elizabeth. There are so many areas of our society in which populism carries the day, although I think what is happening with the ICBC is that groups having a vested interest in private insurance would dearly love to dislodge ICBC from their preferred position. That being said, I think was a good move to have only portions of the insurance coverage in BC being held by ICBC and other portions being made available through private enterprise.

  • Elizabeth Mary McInnes, CAIB

    August 15, 2019 |

    It’s a breath of fresh air to see a resident of British Columbia look to review all the facts over believing what is reported in the news or just following along with the negative stigma of the masses. Your article truly showcases that with a little reform to ICBC’s provincial system – British Columbia could be a true leader for other provinces in Canada. Very well written article!

  • Harold McNeill

    August 13, 2019 |

    August 13, 2019. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), a private enterprise group not unlike the Fraser Institute, is again on the campaign trail. They state ICBC rates are the highest in Canada, but, thankfully, Global BC inserted a section indicating the Insurance Bureau cherry-picked the highest number in BC and the lowest numbers in AB, ON and other Eastern Provinces. If you take a few minutes to check reliable sources you will find BC rates, are the lowest in Canada.

  • Andrew Dunn

    May 14, 2019 |

    Thank you so much for all your help thus far Harold, aka. Tractor guy! I could not have done without you!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 25, 2019 |

    I find it interesting to contemplate how a small community evolves in general isolation from the rest of the world. We have a similar situation in the northern communities in Canada to which access is limited. The inclusion of the world wide web and mass media has changed things, but these communities are still left pretty much to their own devices when it comes to personal interaction.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 19, 2019 |

    Hi Dave. Not that I am aware and I have a fairly comprehensive family tree for the McNeill side of the family. I will pull it up and scan. Cheers, Harold. Great chatting with you and I will give Ben a nudge.

  • Dave Cassels

    March 16, 2019 |

    Were you related to Guy McNeill who owned the Bruin Inn in St. Albert in the late 40’s or early 50’s? Guy was a close friend of my father-in-law who was the first President of the Royal Glenora Club. My phone number is 780 940 1175. Thank you.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 15, 2019 |

    So glad you found the story and enjoyed. Indeed, they were memorable times. I did a fair amount of searching but never managed to contact any of the Murffit kids. However, it was neat to make contact with the Colony and someone I knew from back in the day. I have enjoyed writing these stories from back in the 1940s and 50s and have made contact with a lot of friends from those early years. I will give you a call over the weekend. Cheers, Harold