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
PoliticsWatch presents its latest reader's guide to the top scandals and scams.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Are government cabinet ministers living like rock stars and taking
unfair advantage of their access to the government's fleet of
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
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
> 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.
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