Tuesday, March 22, 2011

(More) Scandalous Behaviour:

“This government lies as routinely as it maligns, and it never apologizes.” Gerald Caplan, The Globe and Mail.  Somehow the Harper government has been allowed to present itself as relatively scandal free – while still invoking the Liberals’ sponsorship scandal. But a closer look reveals a shady – or worse – side.

“During the Chrétien government years, I reported extensively on malfeasance by the Liberals. To do the math on the Harper government is to conclude that, while it has no sponsorship scandal on its books, it’s already surpassed its predecessor on a range of other abuse-of-power indices. The government’s arc of duplicity is remarkable to behold.” Lawrence Martin, The Globe and Mail.

“In 2008, Mr. Harper did not start the campaign under a cloud of ethical controversy as he does this one. The prime minister has done well to trigger the election now before evidence of more scandal can accumulate.” Lawrence Martin, The Globe, March 23, 2011.
1a) Two Conservative Senators – Doug Finley, the 2006 and 2008 campaign manager, and Irving Gerstein, a major party fundraiser – and two former senior party officials, all very close to Harper, have been charged by Elections Canada for allegedly wilfully violating the $18.3 million spending limit by claiming national advertising expenses as local expenses in 67 ridings. With this “in-and-out” financing, including forged invoices. candidates claimed rebates on expenses they didn’t actually incur. Ironically, this financing charge, now before the courts, came after the case was reviewed by the Director of Public Prosecutions – established by Harper to deal with issues like the Liberal sponsorship scandal. Elections financing rules are designed to ensure fairness during campaigns.

1b) Globe Update: “The Federal Court of Appeal has struck down a ruling that Conservatives say cleared them of any wrongdoing in the so-called in-and-out election financing scheme. The ruling confirms Elections Canada's interpretation of electoral spending laws. The court says it was reasonable for the elections watchdog to be dissatisfied with the way the Conservative Party reported national advertising expenses for the 2006 election.” If found guilty the four senior Conservatives could face a year in jail and be fined $25,000.

2) With what has been reported as a “wealth of evidence,” Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand has accused the Conservatives of improperly reporting the cost of running two regional campaign offices in Quebec. More than $100.000 in campaign expenses was divided up and claimed by 15 candidates in Montreal and Quebec City. This was done in spite of the fact that many candidates never used these offices. Instead, they were staffed by party workers involved in the national campaign. Again, this provided a means to get around national expense limits.

3a) Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has been accused of breaking parliamentary rules when a (taxpayer-funded) staff member used his letterhead to raise funds for a Conservative party campaign. The letter explained that the party needs “an additional $200,000 of financial commitment” from various riding associations to make the two-week campaign in the ethnic media a pre-election success. NDP MP Pat Martin demanded Kenney’s resignation because the minister had “flagrantly, in the most cavalier way, abuse(d) all the rules surrounding offices and letterhead and parliamentary tools and equipment to shake down money for an advertising campaign.” The staff member was let go; Kenney apologized, calling it an “administrative mistake.”

3b) Liberal Immigration critic Justin Trudeau has asked Elections Canada to investigate Immigration Minister Jason Kenney concerning the above. The fundraising appeal was accompanied by a presentation “using data and statistics which may have been generated by Mr. Kenney’s department,” Mr. Trudeau stated in a letter. 
“If that was in fact the case, the use of Government of Canada data in order to target the votes of certain segments of the population is another abuse of government resources for partisan purposes, and would represent a substantial in-kind donation from the government to the Conservative Party.” He also told The Globe that there has never been such a “concerted, directed and engaged and strategic attempt to go and pick up votes using a minister’s powers.”

3c) According to Jack Layton, the “misuse of public funds” is not unusual in this government.  Harper has Senators using their offices, staff, phone budgets, and so on to raise funds for Conservatives.

4a) International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda says she reversed – falsified – a document, which favoured funding for KAIROS, a well-respected development group, after it had been signed by two public servants. Earlier she lied about doing so, saying she didn’t know who did it.  Harper saw nothing wrong with this. “Everything that happens at CIDA is an order from the PMO,” said a former Conservative staff member. Speaker Milliken ruled that Oda misled the House of Commons.

4b) “The ingredients of the Oda affair — secrecy, deception, stonewalling, contempt for Parliament, bureaucrats as fall guys and ministers as pawns — are evident throughout this government. And all stem from the same source: a refusal to deal openly with the public, to explain the reasons for its actions and take responsibility for them …” Andrew Coyne, Macleans’ Magazine

4c) From The Globe:  “The CIDA minister's refusal to answer basic questions about her contempt for this place goes beyond just the cuts to Kairos,” Liberal MP Anthony Rota said ... “It strikes at the heart of what the Prime Minister once claimed to promote. In an edict to ministers, he said that they must ‘answer honestly and accurately about their areas of responsibility.’ ”

5a) Of the three Harper-appointed watchdogs – Integrity, Ethics, and Lobbying – none has rocked the boat.  Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Christiane Ouimet investigated only seven of 228 complaints from public-service whistleblowers – “possibly saving the Harper government multiple embarrassments,” according to Globe columnist Lawrence Martin.

5b) According to a commission registry obtained by The Globe and Mail: “… 42 of the cases involved alleged misuse of taxpayer dollars or government assets. Another 50 or so cases involved charges of what is listed as ‘gross mismanagement.’ About 60 other allegations involved contraventions of Acts of Parliament.” Also, “… 58 claims of reprisals against public servants who sought to speak out.” There was also communication between Harper’s Privy Council Office and Ouimet, even though she was supposed to be independent.

5c) To add insult to injury for taxpayers, Ouimet who resigned last fall walked away with half a million dollars, and “all benefits accruing to retiring appointees.” In return, she agreed to be gagged, promising to keep confidential all information relating to her former office and not disclosing any details of her departure agreement. After a long delay, Ouimet finally appeared before a parliamentary committee, only to attack respected Auditor-General Sheila Fraser’s findings.

5d) “Prime Minister Stephen Harper said once that when a government starts to cancel dissent, it loses its moral authority to govern. Given the Conservatives’ reputation for secrecy and fierce partisanship and indeed the stifling of dissent, they will not be the recipients of much benefit of the doubt on her (Ouimet’s) file,” Lawrence Martin.

6a) Former long-time, top Harper adviser Bruce Carson is being investigated by the RCMP, as well as the ethics and lobbying commissioners. after allegations of unregistered lobbying in relation to meetings with officials at Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and two senior staff members from Minister John Duncan’s office.  He also met with Environment Minister Peter Kent. According to a report on the Aboriginal People’s Television Network, Carson, linked with H20 Global Group, was trying to sell $400 million worth of the company’s water filtration systems to First Nations. Under legislation brought in by the Harper government in 2006, senior federal officials can’t lobby on behalf of private companies for five years after leaving government. A secret contract reveals that Carson’s decades-younger fiancée, a former escort, stood to make $80 million from the deal.

6b) Former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer was accused of improperly using the resources of his wife Conservative MP Helena Guergis’ office for business purposes, and possibly lobbying government officials for green-energy contracts. Both have since been cleared by the RCMP. Guergis is now sitting as an Independent.

7) Harper was criticized for supporting Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal.  Grewal had produced tapes of conversations with Tim Murphy, Paul Martin's chief of staff, in which Grewal claimed he had been offered a cabinet position – in exchange for his defection. Experts analyzed the tapes and concluded that a digital copy of the tapes had been edited.

8) In 2008, it was alleged that two Conservative Party officials had offered terminally ill Independent MP Chuck Cadman a $1 million life insurance policy in exchange for his vote to bring down the Liberal government in the May 2005 budget vote.  This could be grounds for criminal charges since, under the Criminal Code of Canada, it is illegal to bribe an MP. When asked by journalist Tom Zytaruk about the offer, then-opposition leader Stephen Harper said on tape: "I don't know the details. I know there were discussions … The offer to Chuck was that it was only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election … I told them they were wasting their time. I said Chuck had made up his mind.” No charges were laid.

9) During the 2008 federal election campaign. Saanich-Gulf Islands, Julian West, NDP candidate, got 3667 votes, even though he was no longer in the race. It turned out that there was an automated telephone canvas several days before the election, urging people to vote NDP, with no mention that the candidate had dropped out. The calls were traced to someone associated with Conservative Gary Lunn’s campaign. Elections Canada investigated, but no charges were laid.

10)  Harper’s refusal to open up about Helena Geurgis.  Why really happened?  On the other hand, Harper is still protecting Calgary North MP Devinder Shory, who has been under investigation by the RCMP and Alberta police for his involvement in a mortgage fraud case at the Bank of Montreal.

11a) Paul Sauve of LM Sauve construction, with alleged former Hell’s Angels connections, told a parliamentary committee that the $140,000 he paid a Conservative lobbyist was probably distributed to party officials.  The company then got the $9-million contract to renovate Parliament Hill’s West Block.  “Because we paid, we received,” Sauve said. The RCMP is investigating. 

11b) Similar to the Bev Oda case, the Halifax Chronicle Herald reported that:  “The official approval document for the renovation of the West Block of Parliament was altered with a typewriter at the last minute so that the acting assistant deputy minister could sign it instead of Michael Fortier, the minister of public works at the time. Fortier has testified he wasn’t even aware that the contract was awarded.”

12) In 2009, audio recordings, photographs, and documents leaked from a Conservative Party student workshop in Waterloo exposed a partisan attempt to take over student unions and undermine Ontario Public Interest Research Groups (OPIRGs) on campuses across Ontario. At a session held by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association (OPCCA) and the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, campus Conservatives, party campaigners, and Member of Parliament for Kitchener-Waterloo, Peter Braid, discussed strategies to gain funding from student unions for the Conservative Party and ways to run for—and win—positions within those unions. They also identified campus radio stations and the Canadian Federation of Students as potential targets of a campaign to eliminate funding. In 2002, a secret Millennium Leadership Fund of the Progressive Conservative Party youth wing was exposed by the Western Gazette in an article called “Tories plot to infiltrate student government.”

13) The RCMP has also been asked to investigate whether the Harper government illegally leaked cabinet confidential information concerning Taseko Mines – which may have led to insider trading of the company’s shares.

14) In November, 2010, Conservative MP Kelly Block rose in the House of Commons to deliver a short statement: “Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Over the weekend, I spoke privately with most of the members of the finance committee about the leak of a report of that committee by a former member of my staff. Let me assure the House that at the earliest opportunity, I proactively took action and dismissed the staff member in question.” Block’s executive-assistant had sent confidential information to five lobbyists.

15) Harper’s former spokesman, Kory Teneycke, had to resign temporarily as political editor for Quebecor/Sun Media – which is setting up “Fox News North” – after fraudulent names were added to a petition.

16) Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant put her foot in her mouth, suggesting that Atlantic Canadians are too reliant on the Coast Guard to rescue them at sea when they find themselves in trouble. Gallant was forced to apologize. Rick Mercer had another idea: “ … stupid and talking, there's a cure for that. It's called you're fired.”

17) Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart launched an internal audit of Veterans Affairs, fearing “systemic privacy issues” when it was revealed that the medical and psychiatric records of retired captain, Sean Bruyea, were in the briefing notes of former VA minister Greg Thompson.

18) The Harper government seems to have a revolving door with Bay St. Nigel Wright, a major-shareholder in Onex Corp. – which has subsidiaries and interests in firms covering key government areas, including defence, health, aerospace, finance, and energy – has become Harper’s Chief of Staff.  Conflict of interest, anyone?


  1. From The Globe, April 3: "Bruce Carson was convicted on five counts of fraud three more than previously known, and received court-ordered psychiatric treatment before becoming one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's closest advisers. And his lawyer told The Canadian Press that Mr. Carson disclosed his entire criminal record during a security check that was required to become a senior staffer in the Prime Minister's Office. The latest revelations raise new questions about Mr. Harper's judgment in hiring Mr. Carson as his chief policy analyst and troubleshooter – roles Mr. Carson played until leaving the PMO in 2008.Mr. Carson would have been privy to top secret government files in his for job as a senior adviser to the prime minister.
    The PMO asked the RCMP last month to investigate Mr. Carson after a probe by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network alleged the 65-year-old may have illegally lobbied the federal government on behalf of a company that employed his girlfriend, a 22-year-old one-time escort."

    Mr. Carson would have been privy to top secret government files in his for job as a senior adviser to the prime minister.

    From The Globe, April 3: "Bruce Carson was convicted on five counts of fraud three more than previously known, and received court-ordered psychiatric treatment before becoming one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's closest advisers.

    And his lawyer told The Canadian Press that Mr. Carson disclosed his entire criminal record during a security check that was required to become a senior staffer in the Prime Minister's Office.

    The PMO asked the RCMP last month to investigate Mr. Carson after a probe by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network alleged the 65-year-old may have illegally lobbied the federal government on behalf of a company that employed his girlfriend, a 22-year-old one-time escort.

  2. Diamond Aircraft in the London, Ontario, area needs a loan to continue producing its D-Jet, a new Very Light Jet class plane. The company has managed to secure $20 million from the private sector and $30 million from Ontario, but these are both contingent on a $30-million loan commitment from Ottawa. So far, Harper has refused to make a commitment. Interestingly, until last fall, Nigel Wright sat on the Board of Directors at Hawker Beechcraft, a competitor, and will probably return there once his job as Harper’s Chief of Staff comes to an end.

  3. During this election campaign, Harper has had to distance himself from another tainted political organizer, Giulio Maturi, who was a top official in the 2009 campaign of disgraced former Montreal mayoral candidate Benoit Labonté. When Labonté dropped out of the race under a cloud of corruption allegations, he accused Maturi of trying to get him to use four campaign organizers paid for by a private company. This time, Maturi was the campaign manager for Agop Evereklian, the Conservative candidate in the Pierrefonds-Dollard riding. “I am not aware of the details of that situation but I have been told that person is no longer a volunteer on our campaign,” Mr. Harper commented. Amazingly, Conservative officials later told the media that the national Harper tour would no longer take questions relating to local campaigns.

  4. The Globe and Mail, March 29, 2011: “The Conservatives have run afoul of Canada’s national seniors organization after a rising star of the Tory caucus described Winnipeg Liberal MP Anita Neville, 68, as having “passed her expiry date.” Shelly Glover – the Tory incumbent in the Manitoba riding of St. Boniface who is a bilingual police officer and was recently named parliamentary secretary to the Finance Minister – made the controversial remarks in an interview with Global News. News reports say Ms. Glover was asked about the fact a Conservative candidate had yet to be named to run against Ms. Neville, who has held the riding of Winnipeg South Centre since 2000. “We need some fresh blood, we need some new people who have some new ideas and who are willing to stand up for their constituents. And I’m afraid Ms. Neville has passed her expiry date,” she said. Ms. Glover’s spokesperson later told Global News that the comment was a reference to how long Ms. Neville has held the seat and not a comment about her age. CARP, a national group that advocates on behalf of seniors and retired Canadians, is not convinced.”

  5. Toronto Star, April 13, 2011

    Kenyon Wallace

    A Conservative candidate in the GTA is at the centre of a growing controversy after his office asked multicultural groups in the riding if they would like to wear “ethnic costumes” to a photo op with Stephen Harper.

    The Star obtained an email sent by a campaign worker for Etobicoke Centre candidate Ted Opitz in which community groups are told Harper’s visit to the riding Thursday night creates a photo opportunity.

    “We … are trying to create a photo-op about all the multicultural groups that support Ted Opitz our local Conservative candidate and the Prime Minister,” reads the email sent Tuesday night by Zeljko “Zed” Zidaric with the subject line: “Opportunity – Thursday night with the Prime Minister.”

    “The opportunity is to have up to 20 people in national folklore costumes which represent their ethnic backgrounds. These people will sit in front row behind the PM – great TV photo op (sic).”

    The email continues: “We are seeking representation from the Arab community. Do you have any cultural groups that would like to participate by having someone at the event in an ethnic costume? We are seeking one or two people from your community.”

    In an email to the Star, Opitz said the message was sent by a campaign staffer without his knowledge.

    “I do not support its characterization or intent,” Opitz said.

    A spokesperson for the Conservative Party of Canada characterized the email as a “mistake.”

    “It was a mistake sent out by a local campaign staff person,” said Ryan Sparrow. “The national campaign does not endorse this email and it is completely inappropriate.”

    Opitz, a lieutenant-colonel in the Canadian military, is the senior regional advisor to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney ..."

  6. The Globe and Mail, April 18, 2011

    In the 2008 campaign, there was nary a peep out of the Conservative incumbent candidate in Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke Cheryl Gallant.

    The often outspoken and controversial MP, who has tried to keep a low profile over the past few years, is attracting attention again – this time for storming out of a live radio all-candidates’ debate, charging that the Green Party candidate had not been invited.

    Ms. Gallant, who was first elected in the Ottawa Valley riding in 2000, was criticized for missing most of the all-candidates’ meetings in the 2008 election. This time she appeared – briefly – but managed to avoid any questions by her behaviour.

    According to a report Pembroke’s Daily Observer, Ms. Gallant said: “In my four elections previous, I have never participated in a candidate meeting where a candidate had been barred, and I’m not going to start now.”

    The article described what happened next: “Then before a surprised crowd, she stood from her chair, removed her microphone, and left the building.”

    She accused the organizers of the event of not acting in the “best interests of democracy.” But the organizers said the Green Party candidate had been invited and had missed the deadline to accept. There were some suggestions Ms. Gallant was deliberately trying to avoid tough questions, and that her campaign may be in trouble.

  7. From The Globe and Mail, April 23, 2011

    Conservative partisans deliberately drowned out a journalist’s question to Mr. Harper during a Greater Toronto Area campaign stop Saturday as he was being asked about a Vancouver candidate’s endorsement by a man acquitted in the Air India bombing.

    The Tory Leader stood quietly while members of his staff and a crowd of about 500 at a Coptic Christian centre clapped and cheered loudly to prevent a CBC reporter from quizzing him further on his defence of Vancouver South candidate Wai Young.

    The Liberals have complained about an early April parents’ meeting at Khalsa School in the Vancouver area, saying Ripudaman Singh Malik was present and urged attendees to vote for Ms. Young and not Grit candidate Ujjal Dosanjh.

    Ms. Young has said she didn’t know of Mr. Malik’s background or his relationship with the Khalsa school, which he helped found.

    Mr. Harper repeated this defence Saturday but ignored a follow-up question on the matter.

    “She attended in good faith. She has been very clear. She and her campaign have no links and do not welcome in any way Mr. Malik into this party,” the Conservative Leader said.

    “We’re absolutely clear about that.”

    A reporter tried to press Mr. Harper on, this asking whether he “really believed” that Ms. Young would not know Mr. Malik, who’s been in the public spotlight for decades due to scrutiny on him after the 1985 airplane bombing that claimed 329 lives.

    But the Conservative Leader refused to answer this follow-up query, waiting as the crowd at the Coptic Christian Centre in Mississauga applauded and cheered him for about 60 seconds.

    It’s the first time a Conservative crowd has purposely drowned out a reporter’s question of Mr. Harper during the 41st election campaign.

    Encouraging were Tory staffers including Marc-André Plouffe, who before the campaign started was a senior adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office ..."

  8. From The Globe and Mail, April 23, 2011:

    The questions surrounding Mr. Malik’s support of Ms. Young is the second controversy the Conservatives have faced in recent days about candidate endorsements.

    In a rare act of dissent Thursday, Conservative cabinet minister Peter Kent criticized his own party for allowing a man who hosted a tribute to the Tamil Tigers to run as a candidate.

    “It is certainly a reflection on the party's lack of due diligence,”

    Mr. Kent told The Globe and Mail earlier this week, referring to the candidacy of Gavan Paranchothy, a Tamil broadcaster running in Toronto's Scarborough-Southwest riding. “Someone's obviously dropped the ball.”

    Last November, Mr. Paranchothy hosted a sombre program to mark Heroes Day, an annual commemoration of Tiger fighters killed in the Tamils' bloody separatist war in Sri Lanka. He called the dead militants “freedom fighters” and “heroes,” though Stephen Harper's Conservative government labelled the Tigers terrorists in 2006.

    “This program … is unacceptable and it flies in the face of the fact that our government listed the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist organization,” said Mr. Kent, a former foreign correspondent and the current Environment Minister, after he watched the program on YouTube, where it has been displayed for nearly five months.

    On Saturday Mr. Harper would only say that Mr. Paranchothy's “position is real clear and for a long time he's been rejecting the Tamil Tigers and this government has been the one that put this organization on the terrorism [watch] list.”