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Hello,

The saga of SNC-Lavalin’s criminal charges – which weighed on the company and led to one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s biggest political scandals – may finally be at an end.

A division of SNC-Lavalin has pleaded guilty to a single charge of fraud, concerning the company’s dealings with the former Libyan regime of Moammar Gadhafi. Other bribery charges appear to have been dropped. The firm has agreed to pay a $280-million fine as part of the plea deal. A former SNC-Lavalin executive, Sami Bebawi, was found guilty a few days ago on charges that include corruption and fraud.

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Because the settlement involves only a division of the Quebec engineering giant, the rest of the company and other subsidiaries may be safe from consequences that would include a ban on federal contracts. More will be revealed later when details of the deal are made public. Already, SNC-Lavalin Group stocks are trading 20 per cent higher on the news.

The Liberal government weathered its biggest controversy earlier this year, when The Globe and Mail revealed that Mr. Trudeau and his office had been pressing then-justice-minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to order the director of public prosecutions to reach what’s called a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin, so that the firm would avoid trial. Today’s plea is different than the DPA and, depending on how it’s structured, may even result in a better deal for SNC-Lavalin.

With the resolution of this court case, the Liberal government is no doubt breathing a sigh of relief that the controversy will no longer hang over its head in the new Parliament and into 2020.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

The U.S. House of Representatives has begun to debate and vote on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. So far the vote seems set to fall along partisan lines, with Democrats in favour of impeachment and Republicans against.

The Prime Minister’s Office of Mr. Trudeau’s second term continues to (slowly) change, with the announcement that communications chief Kate Purchase is leaving politics to work for Microsoft. Ms. Purchase was one of the last of the original staffing crew left standing who helped bring Mr. Trudeau to power. Principal secretary Gerald Butts and policy director Mike McNair, among others, left in recent months. Katie Telford still remains as Mr. Trudeau’s chief of staff.

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Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he is heeding provinces’ calls for changes to the Fiscal Stabilization Program, which offers extra money to provinces going through hard times. Mr. Morneau says he has asked his department to review the spending cap on the program and report back to him next month.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police discovered that just by changing the date that promotion applications were due could lead to more women asking for better jobs. The police force says it’s just one example of how gender-based analysis can benefit government agencies.

And administrative law may not be sexy, but it is important. The Supreme Court is set to rule Thursday on the rules governing how Canadians can challenge the rules in court and legal experts hope the new decision will bring some much-needed clarity to the confusion the top court created a decade ago.

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on Liberal budgeting: “[The debt-to-GDP ratio] in the current fiscal year shows not the promised decrease, but a small increase. To be sure, the update projects it will resume falling again in later years. But then it always does. Year after year, budget after budget, update after update, the government keeps producing finely drawn graphs showing the D-to-G majestically curving downward into the future, hoping no one notices the curves themselves keep shifting upward.”

Globe and Mail editorial board on whether those pension obligations will keep weighing on the federal books: “However, if and when interest rates rise, today’s accounting charges will reverse and turn into tomorrow’s credits. That would temporarily make deficits look smaller than they really are. (People like to believe accounting is black and white, but it often involves judgment calls on philosophical questions that have no pat answers.)”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the rules for the Conservative leadership race: “The rule that ensures that every riding in the country has equal weight when choosing the federal Conservative Party leader could have a major impact in deciding who replaces Andrew Scheer. On the positive side, the rule ensures that any winning candidate has support from every region. On the negative side, single-issue candidates may capture weak ridings. We’ll see in the months ahead whether the positive or negative wins out.”

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Bob Plamondon (The Globe and Mail) on the Conservative coalition: “The strongest Conservative leader will be the one who can draw the party’s diverse factions together in common cause. The leader could follow the example of Stephen Harper, who kept social conservatives in the tent by adopting an array of family-friendly policies that did not offend mainstream public opinion. A good example was income-splitting, which reduced the tax penalty paid by one-income households. More controversial was funding an international program on maternal health that excluded contraception or abortion in its design.”

Chris Selley (National Post) on Andrew Scheer’s use of party funds to pay private-school fees: “Mind you, Scheer is very well-acquainted with the politics of private schooling. During the leadership campaign, he proposed a $4,000 tax deduction for parents of kids attending private schools. He ditched the idea in advance of the election campaign, blaming the Liberals’ ‘budget mess,’ but it was clear it would have been a serious political liability: the self-styled man of the people offering a public benefit to parents of private-school kids, at least many of whom are relatively well-to-do. The only thing worse would be if, having ditched the idea, he had retained an even more lucrative benefit for himself. Whoops.”

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