SNC-Lavalin gave illegal funds to Denis Coderre's riding association while he was Liberal MP

When Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre was a Liberal MP, his riding association in Bourassa received $1,000 in illegal donations from engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, the federal elections office revealed Thursday.

Engineering giant made illegal contributions to Liberals, Conservatives

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre was previously a Liberal MP for the riding of Bourassa. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

SNC-Lavalin gave $1,000 in illegal donations to the Bourassa riding association while Denis Coderre was Liberal MP, the federal elections commissioner revealed Thursday.

The Montreal-area riding association was one of several Liberal and Conservative riding associations that received illegal donations from the engineering giant. 

In all, nearly $118,000 in donations were made in violation of the Canada Elections Act. 

The disclosure was made as part of a compliance agreement between the engineering giant and the independent federal agency.

According to the agreement, former senior executives with the Montreal-based company solicited employees to make political contributions, and in some cases, those employees were reimbursed with refunds for false personal expenses, fictitious bonuses or other benefits totalling $117,803.49.

The contributions, made between March 9, 2004 and May 1, 2011, were given to the Liberals and Conservative riding associations as well as to candidates in the 2006 Liberal leadership race, the commissioner said.

The commissioner said the contributions were reimbursed to the Receiver General of Canada.

Prior to becoming Montreal's mayor, Coderre represented the riding of Bourassa, in the north end of Montreal, as a Liberal MP between 1997 and 2011. 

Corporate ethics improving, says SNC-Lavalin CEO

SNC-Lavalin accepts responsibility for those actions and acknowledges the contributions were made on its behalf, although that does not constitute an admission of guilt under criminal law, the federal elections commissioner said.

In a statement, SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce said the compliance agreement demonstrates the company's progress on improving its corporate ethics.

"I am pleased that this agreement was reached,'' Bruce said. "It once again shows our desire and commitment to resolve past issues."

The federal elections commissioner would not provide the names of those who made contributions or the specific year when the contributions were made, citing an ongoing investigation.

In the absence of such details, it was only possible to identify Coderre, the sole Liberal to serve for the full period between 2004 and 2011 in the aforementioned ridings.

"The dates associated with those contributions could lead to the identification of those individuals and as such, we are not making that information public," Michelle Laliberté, spokeswoman for the office, said in an email.

By the numbers

For the period in question (2004-2011), the amounts are as follows for federal Liberal ridings in Quebec:

  • Bourassa - $1,000.
  • Chambly-Borduas - $1552.13.
  • Outremont - $6,000.
  • Sherbrooke - $5,000.
  • Laurier-Sainte-Marie - $850.

In all, the Liberal Party of Canada received $83,534.51 and the Conservative Party of Canada received $3,137.73, while various Conservative riding associations and candidates received $5,050.

The leadership campaigns of Gerard Kennedy, Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and Stéphane Dion also received illegal donations.

In a statement, the Liberal Party of Canada said it "became aware of these ineligible contributions relating to SNC-Lavalin upon receiving a letter from the Commissioner of Canada Elections early last month," adding it acted immediately to return the donations in full to the Chief Electoral Officer.

Contracts through questionable means

Earlier this year, SNC-Lavalin announced it was making restitution to municipalities and other public bodies in Quebec for obtaining contracts through questionable means. That came after the provincial government launched a program last year aimed at recovering money paid in connection with public contracts obtained as a result of fraud or fraudulent tactics.

At the time, the company said it wasn't admitting culpability and only following a process set up by the province.

By participating in the program, companies cannot be sued civilly over the contracts but are not immune from criminal charges.

SNC-Lavalin has been trying to rebuild its reputation since it uncovered problems in 2012 that led to the removal of a former CEO and other senior officials.

The company faces criminal fraud and corruption charges over allegations of illegal activity in Libya. It has said it will plead not guilty to those charges.

with files from The Canadian Press