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Another session of scandals 

[PoliticsWatch posted 6:15 p.m. October 11, 2005]

Former Liberal cabinet minister David Dingwall's name has come up in three of the current controversies in Ottawa.

The first two weeks of the fall session of Parliament have been dominated by old and new scandals in the nation's capital.    

Political and government scandals appear to have no end sight with new ones cropping up on an almost weekly basis. 

PoliticsWatch presents its latest reader's guide to the top scandals and scams. 

Sponsorship Scandal

It's pretty quiet now, but when Justice John Gomery issues his first report on the sponsorship program on November 1, it is expected to have a reverberation across the country and could potentially decide the outcome of the next election.

The question is how big an impact Gomery's report will have. 

A lot will depend on how much of the testimony suggesting the sponsorship program was politically controlled and purposefully used to benefit the Liberal party in Quebec Gomery gives credence to.

Here is just a small snapshot of three of the biggest allegations made during the inquiry. 

> The former director of the Quebec wing of the federal Liberal party, Benoit Corbeil, testified he paid nine party staff members and officials $50,000 in cash stuffed in envelopes shortly before the 2000 federal election. He said he received the money in yellow envelopes from Jean Brault, the head of Groupaction, one of the companies that benefited the most from the sponsorship program. 

> The man who ran the program in its hey day, Chuck Guite, testified that it was well known in the federal government that contract competitions were being rigged. Guite said that new rules that were put in place by the Liberal government in 1994 to end patronage had little change on the political element in awarding contracts. 

"It was politically driven," he said. "The government in power will design a policy to arrive to where it wants to arrive."

> Testimony and documents from Brault's days in the witness chair show he made over $1.1 million in indirect payments he said were destined to the Liberal party. He said that was facilitated by dramatic overpayments made by the sponsorship contracts he won from the federal government. 

David Dingwall's Severance

A Crown corporation president's hefty expense bills are discovered and he resigns within 24 hours of the first news reports. Usually that would settle the issue and end the story there. But that's not the case with the resignation of David Dingwall from the Royal Canadian Mint. 

The Liberal government finds itself painted in a corner because of their assertion that Dingwall is legally entitled to a severance package even though he voluntarily quit.

Revenue Minister John McCallum says there is a legal obligation, but cannot specifically name a section of the three laws he cites. 

"He can't point to the law because it doesn't exist," Calgary Sun columnist Licia Corbella recently wrote. "If it did, Canadians would simply make their living by quitting their jobs endlessly." 

And that is what is at the heart of the Dingwall controversy. It's not so much the expenses but the perceived double standard that is not going down well with the public, many of who have quit their jobs and not only were not given a severance deal, but couldn't even qualify for Employment Insurance benefits. 

The government now finds itself in a no win situation. They can pay Dingwall a severance and say they're giving him the legal minimum. But the public will be left to wonder the true amount because of privacy laws prevent disclosure of that information. Or they can opt not to pay a severance, contradicting their vehement claims of the past two weeks of a legal obligation to pay Dingwall.

Technology Partnerships Canada

A repayable loan program that has allotted $2.7 billion over the past decade but only received $111 million back in repayments is plenty of ammunition for an opposition party. 

Now factor in another controversy involving the same program where lobbyists charge commissions for helping secure those loans for the companies, even though the rules of the program prohibits such contingency fees. 

That sums up the problems with the Technology Partnerships Canada program, which Industry Minister David Emerson announced last month will be wound down. 

The decision to wind the program down comes after an audit of the 47 companies discovered 11 had hired lobbyists on a contingency basis even though they signed contracts with TPC agreeing not to enter in such arrangements. 

Dingwall is also linked in the controversy as his name was leaked to the Globe and Mail as one of the lobbyists who received a "success fee" of $350,000. The company that hired Dingwall, Bioniche, has repaid the fee to the government, but the Conservatives and the NDP are criticizing the loophole in lobbying laws that essentially allow the lobbyists to enter in such an arrangement and not be penalized. 

So far, the audit of just 47 companies has found $2.4 million was paid in improper contingency fees. 

The whole TPC controversy has branched out and raised questions about the role of the federal registrar of lobbyists, who is supposed to monitor breaches of the Lobbyist Registration Act. The registrar is not an independent officer of Parliament, like the ethics commissioner, but instead works in the Industry department, the most lobbied department in the federal government and the home of the TPC program. 

The public interest group Democracy Watch is launching a court challenge of the structural bias of the registrar's office. And Emerson said in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen this week that Democracy Watch has a point.

"You could argue that it ought not be in Industry Canada. I think that's a legitimate position to take. Industry Canada has traditionally been a target for lobbyists," he said. "You could argue for the appearance of total neutrality, that perhaps he should be an officer of Parliament or something along those lines."

Driving Minister Pettigrew

Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew is standing behind his decision to  have his chauffeur accompany him on two foreign trips in 2001 and 2002, even though he did not transport the minister. 

Pettigrew has defended taking his chauffeur on the trip, arguing that he was required for security purposes. But unnamed Liberals quoted in the media described Pettigrew's reason as "lame."

The minister's chauffeur recently took a leave of absence from his job, but Pettigrew's office told the Montreal Gazette that it was unrelated to the controversy. 

Air Liberal 

Are government cabinet ministers living like rock stars and taking unfair advantage of their access to the government's fleet of Challenger jets? 

A recent undertaking by CPAC and Le Devoir found that since Prime Minister Paul Martin came to power ministers have taken $335,000 in "questionable" flights on the Challenger when commercial airliners could have been taken instead. 

Treasury Board rules say the fleet of four Challengers can be used by ministers to travel to locations without commercial airline service, for emergency travel or to save time and money. 

Trips taken by Finance Minister Ralph Goodale and Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan to their ridings were highlighted by the CPAC story. John Williams, chair of the Commons public accounts committee, says his committee may take a closer look at the controversy.

Mystery Scandal 

There is a new potential scandal involving a Canadian firm working in Africa that receives funding from the Canadian International Development Agency. CIDA is offering few details other than to say it has referred the matter to the RCMP. Interestingly, the story first came to light when the government revealed accidentally it was conducting a major audit by posting a sole source $2 million forensic accounting contract on the MERX tendering Web site. The government described the audit as an "investigation into possibly criminal matters." 

Ongoing and recent scandals

> The federal government and Hewlett-Packard are suing the bureaucrat at the centre of a scandal where $146 million was spent for computer maintenance subcontract work that never happened.

> A top Canadian diplomat in Beijing has resigned following reports he is being investigated for allegedly seeking bribes ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 in exchange for visas from already rejected Canadian student visa applicants. 

> A lack of proper screening and patronage for the federal government's appointments to the Immigration and Refugee Board. 

> A former PCO administrative assistant, was sentenced to a year of house arrest for stealing $16,000 by forging phoney travel advances. 

> A $2 million loan from the softwood assistance plan given to a prominent Liberal in B.C. who owns a lumber mill. 

> A B.C. Liberal's allegations the government skirted competitive bidding rules by allowing fake invoices for small flag suppliers as part of the Heritage' department's efforts to hand out one million free Canadian flags

> Wild reports of lavish spending of money earmarked for a native addiction centre in Manitoba known as the Virginia Fontaine Addictions Foundation.
> Various issues regarding potential conflicts due to the prime minister's family shipping firm, Canada Steamship Lines, including how the federal government grossly underestimated the amount of business the government conducted with the company. 

> Allegations of misconduct by Public Works and Government Services employees in the tendering of a contract to Royal LePage to provide moving and relocation services for National Defence and RCMP employees. 

> A Canada Customs and Revenue Agency employee arrested over allegations he sought up to a half million dollars in bribes from companies trying to get tax breaks.

> A retired Public Works official working at RCMP headquarters, charged with allegedly writing $250,000 in government cheques to himself before he retired. 

:: PoliticsWatch Election Archive

> Many More Hot Scandals and Scams 
> Many More Hot Scandals and Scams 
Summer of Scandal 

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