Ottawa

Mayor stands by SNC-Lavalin's involvement in LRT project

Ottawa's mayor says he sees no risk in dealing with SNC-Lavalin, the Quebec-based engineering firm that's both a major player in the city's light rail project and also embroiled in a political controversy.

No ethics issues 'here in Ottawa' with engineering firm, Jim Watson says

SNC-Lavalin has a 40 per cent stake in the consortium building the first stage of Ottawa's light rail system. (City of Ottawa)

Ottawa's mayor says he sees no risk in dealing with SNC-Lavalin, the Quebec-based engineering firm that's both a major player in the city's light rail project and also embroiled in a significant political controversy.

SNC-Lavalin has a 40-per-cent stake in the Rideau Transit Group consortium, which is building the $2.1-billion Confederation Line, the first stage of Ottawa's light rail system.

It's also a finalist in the bid to extend the Trillium Line south to the airport and to Riverside South, through a group called TransitNEXT.

However, SNC-Lavalin also faces charges of fraud and corruption related to contracts in Libya. If convicted, the company could be blocked from competing for federal government contracts for a decade.

No risk for taxpayers, city

The fallout from those charges has included accusations that the Prime Minister's office put pressure on former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution, as well as investigations by the federal ethics commissioner and the House of Commons justice committee.

On Tuesday, Mayor Jim Watson said staff had assured him that SNC-Lavalin's potential involvement in LRT's next stage would not be putting either City of Ottawa or local taxpayers at risk.

"We have had no difficulty, obviously, with them from an ethics point-of-view here in Ottawa," Watson said.

The extension of the Confederation Line east and west is to be awarded in a separate contract, and the entire procurement is scheduled to be decided at a special meeting of the committee of the whole on Feb. 27.

The mayor is supposed to have a call with Ontario Premier Doug Ford later this week to confirm the provincial funding for the second stage of light rail.

now