Too many truths in SNC-Lavalin affair

Thom Barker argues reaction to SNC-Lavalin affair is overblown

Over the past couple of weeks in light of the SNC-Lavalin affair — some would say scandal — we have heard a lot about people speaking “their” truth.

I have to admit, I still bristle when I hear that. Whatever happened to “the” truth?

That is not to say I do not understand that “the” truth is, at best, an elusive concept. As someone who has, in part at least, destroyed more than his fair share of personal relationships by negating other people’s experience of events, situations and interactions, I have learned (I hope) the hard way that taking an empiricist view of truth can be hazardous.

Without taking too deep a dive into the philosophical implications of truth, however, I believe it is fair to say there are numerous standards for truth.

In business, the standard often seems to be what a company can get away with in order to maximize revenue.

In interpersonal relationships, the standard may be best described, perhaps, as a negotiation between solipsist arguments.

In politics, the standard frequently ends up being what a politician can sell to voters, by hook or by crook.

All of these views of “the” truth are at play in the prosecution of the Montreal-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, the conflict it has precipitated within the federal government and Liberal Party and the opportunistic reaction to it by the government’s foes.

At the crux of the matter is $48 million in bribes the company allegedly paid to Libyan officials to secure lucrative government contracts in that African country. The truth may be that this is the cost of doing business in a political and cultural milieu much different than Canada’s. The truth is also that doing so is contrary to Canadian law and should be contrary to the ethical standards of a Canadian corporation.

As attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould’s truth was that SNC-Lavalin should be prosecuted (arguable). As prime minister, Justin Trudeau’s truth was that the risk to 9,000 Canadian jobs (questionable) trumped Wilson-Raybould’s truth and that a non-prosecutorial arrangement was the preferred solution.

These divergent truths led to interpersonal rifts based on Wilson-Raybould’s truth that she was bullied and the PMO’s truth that she overreacted to a normal and acceptable discussion of options.

And, of course, all of it instigated a litany of political truths. As leader of the official Opposition, Andrew Scheer’s truth was that it demonstrates Trudeau is utterly unfit for office (possible) and should resign (ridiculous).

With respect to the rule of law—after all isn’t that what this is ostensibly all about—Canadians deserve a higher standard of truth than that demonstrated by any of the above.

The truth is, this may not be Canada’s finest moment, but it is also not the end of the world as we know it.

I am not saying it does not raise issues, but let’s work through them without blowing it out of proportion, shall we?

Fact: Whether we like it or not, a non-prosecutorial option is currently available for Canadian corporations accused of wrongdoing.

Fact: Whether they should be or not, the attorney general is a currently a member of the federal cabinet and thus subject to discussions regarding both legal and political considerations.

Fact: People in government often disagree on solutions to problems, but we have mechanisms in this country to determine whether or not actions taken in such circumstances were corrupt and the system appears to be working. Wilson-Raybould herself has admitted that while she felt the actions taken were inappropriate, nothing illegal occurred.

I’m going to give the last word on this to comedian Jan Caruana, who spoke her truth about this on CBC Radio’s Because News program this past weekend.

“I feel like America’s just looking at us and is going, like, ‘Aww, look how cute their scandal is; omigod, they think that’s a big deal, that’s so cute.’ ”

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