By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 23, 2012 - 0 Comments
The NDP has turned up more documents concerning Tony Clement and the G8 Legacy Fund. Specifically, they seem interested in the following passage from an October 2011 memo prepared for the deputy minister of industry, based on a conversation with a former employee of FedNor.
FedNor also assisted the Minister’s office in the prepartion of letters to advise unsuccessful applicants that their projects would not be forwarded to Minister Baird for his consideration. A list of unsuccessful applicants was provided by the Minister’s office to FedNor officials and letters were prepared in accordance with the direction received from the Minister’s Office.
Finally, once Minister Clement’s office provided the list of recommended projects to Minister Baird’s office, FedNor officials transferred the catalogue of projects to Infrastructure Canada officials. All 242 project proposals were sent; this included the 32 projects which were recommended by Minister Clement.
Charlie Angus stressed the r-word in relating all of this to reporters this morning, but Tony Clement has already described his role in much the same way. Consider this explanation from his appearance before the Public Accounts Committee last fall (emphasis mine). Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 9, 2011 at 8:51 AM - 8 Comments
The Canadian Press reports that the Harper government is suddenly less interested in hearing from the auditor general.
Five different individuals – inside and outside Auditor-General Michael Ferguson’s office – told The Canadian Press this week that officials there expect the opportunities for him to testify on his quarterly reports will be reduced … This week, Conservatives on the public accounts committee rejected a Liberal motion to call the newly appointed Mr. Ferguson to testify about the controversial G8 legacy infrastructure fund … Earlier this fall, the Conservatives on the same committee declared it unnecessary to pursue the study of an auditor general’s report that was tabled before the May 2 election.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 4:24 PM - 37 Comments
After QP this afternoon, the Speaker reported to the House on the case of the “sure” deletions. According to Speaker Scheer, the word was deleted from the official transcript at the discretion of Hansard’s editors, without input from Tony Clement or anyone in Mr. Clement’s office.
Due to stringent timelines and the voluminous amounts of text, the technical task of editing is frequently parcelled out to multiple editors whose collective work for a given meeting is then reviewed by a Senior Editor. These Senior Editors look at the full context of the preliminary verbatim transcript, including the intonation of the person speaking, in order to accurately convey the intended meaning in the final transcript. Thus, they routinely authorize the removal of redundant words, false starts, hesitations, words that might lead to confusion as to the true intent of the statement, and so on. Sometimes entire sentences are restructured for clarity. Even within the testimony of a single witness or Member speaking, it is not unusual for words to be removed in one place and retained in another if the editors judge that, in the latter case, the words do not lead to confusion or convey an unintended meaning.
Mr. Clement duly demanded an apology from the NDP’s Charlie Angus and, speaking with reporters, attempted to explain the realities of human speech patterns that caused him to answer in the affirmative when no such indication was intended. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 7:15 PM - 10 Comments
For months he has been the subject of indignation and accusation. He is said by his opponents to have frivolously and flagrantly spent public funds, drawn from an account approved by Parliament for entirely unrelated reasons, on various trinkets And he is said to have subsequently avoided taking responsibility for himself, remaining in his seat while others were sent up to explain his actions away.
But now he stands accused of intervening to have the word “sure” removed from the official record of his testimony before a parliamentary committee. And so he stood, rising immediately after Question Period to solemnly proclaim his innocence on this count and to call on the Speaker to investigate.
“These baseless and outrageous allegations form a serious breach of my privilege,” he declared, “which is impeding my work as a member of this House and as a minister of the Crown.”
Mr. Clement stopped just short of demanding a full public inquiry with subpoena powers, but a police raid of the Hansard office seems in order. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 4:51 PM - 9 Comments
After QP this afternoon, Tony Clement stood with the following point of privilege.
Mr. Speaker, it has come to my attention that certain changes were made to the evidence of the meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on November 2, 2011, including my testimony. Members of the NDP opposition have alleged that I made those changes. I have not, nor has anyone in my employ. These baseless and outrageous allegations form a serious breach of my privilege, which is impeding my work as a member of this House and as a minister of the Crown.
I respectfully ask that you review this matter to determine how and why these changes were made and that you provide assurances to this House as to the reasons for any changes to the official record of this place. The suggestions from the opposition regarding any role by me are absolutely false, and I look forward to your attention to this matter. In conclusion, I believe you will find all the necessary information in my letter that I provided to you before question period. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 11:32 AM - 4 Comments
“There was a time when a minister who spent $50-million without providing any documentation would have been subject to serious sanction,” Mr. Angus said. “We now have the question of a parliamentary minister of the Crown coming to a parliamentary committee, providing false information and having someone, whoever it was, alter the public record.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 7:39 PM - 28 Comments
The Scene. Tony Clement, his suit tightly buttoned up, arrived at precisely 3:30pm in the appointed room where the public accounts committee was scheduled to demand some kind of public accountability of him. The next hour and 45 minutes would mostly be spent trying to explain why there was little reason to be there.
He did not sit at the far end of the table alone. Beside him sat John Baird, the Foreign Affairs Minister who now officially splits his time between representing this country on the world stage and speaking on Mr. Clement’s behalf in the House of Commons. Around the two cabinet ministers sat a total of four previously anonymous bureaucrats. To the left of this group sat no less than eight Conservative MPs, here as members of the committee (or rather, as would soon become clear, loyal representatives of the Conservative Party of Canada). Behind these Conservative MPs sat their dutiful aides. And in the area reserved for the spectators appeared to be still more professional supporters, including at least one young man from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Opposite the Conservative brigade sat four New Democrats, one Liberal, their own dutiful aides and, for whatever reason, Pat Martin. Later, Elizabeth May stopped by, though her attempt to ask a question was foiled after the debate about whether she was allowed to ran so long that there was no time left for her to actually do so.
“It is indeed a pleasure to be here,” Mr. Clement said by way of opening. The rest was smiles and laughs and sighing. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 11:57 AM - 3 Comments
We are a few hours away now from Tony Clement’s appearance before the public accounts committee. Greg Weston offers five questions Mr. Clement needs to answer.
Exactly who in government approved the pilfering of the border improvement fund, and given the severity of the auditor general’s findings, what disciplinary action has been taken against those responsible? … How do Canadian taxpayers benefit if a minister becomes involved in nepotism and meddling with officials trying to protect the public purse?
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 4:27 PM - 3 Comments
Pierre Poilievre, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Transport, responding this afternoon to the NDP’s Alexander Boulerice, who asked if the government would allow a parliamentary inquiry into the G8 Legacy Fund to proceed.
Mr. Speaker, there already has been an inquiry into it. There has been an exhaustive review by the interim Auditor General. If I could quote a truly great Canadian, “The facts have not changed.” Everyone could take a moment now to recognize that truly great Canadian, ladies and gentlemen, the honourable member for Calgary East.
The member for Calgary East is Deepak Obhrai, who was, until yesterday, the Conservative MP assigned to handle questions about the G8 Legacy Fund when John Baird is absent from the House.
Today’s round of Legacy Fund questions after the jump. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 9:55 AM - 1 Comment
Peter Kent reiterates to the Star that his conversation with Vern Freedlander wasn’t as Mr. Freedlander reported it. Whatever the case, Mr. Freedlander wasn’t registered as a lobbyist.
Freedlander billed the Town of Huntsville a total of $16,588.51 from December 2008 to September 2009, including a monthly retainer that worked out to $187.50 per hour.
One email from Freedlander to John Finley, the Huntsville economic development and grants officer, lays out the work the consultant would do for the municipality and his fee. “I will be available for phone consultation, lobbying efforts, anything you need,” Freedlander wrote in the Dec. 3, 2008 email. Apart from the email discussing the alleged conversation with Kent and another email requesting the contact information of someone at the foreign affairs department, there are no signs that Freedlander spoke to federal officials about the G8 Summit on Huntsville’s behalf.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 7:32 PM - 14 Comments
The Scene. At some point some months ago, it was decided—by whoever makes such decisions in whatever underground lair the important decisions are rendered—that Tony Clement would not be standing in the House any more to account for his actions in regards to the G8 Legacy Fund. Presumably, this seemed like a good idea at the time. Conceivably, this was thought to be fine communications strategy, at least insofar as “communications” now mostly involves figuring out how best to steer conversations away from any kind of reflection.
This decision was likely based on the premise that the questions would eventually cease to be asked if Mr. Clement refused to respond. That the opposition parties would get bored or distracted or frustrated, and the questions about gazebos and such would subside and everyone would move on to something less consequential.
Alas, the solution has become a communications problem of its own. For here we are, months later, and the questions have not ceased. Each and every day (or nearly so), at least one MP from the NDP side is sent up to ask at least one more question of or related to Mr. Clement. And each and every day (or nearly so), Mr. Clement sits and does nothing on his own behalf, except maybe to mutter at the question asked of him or applaud the answer offered for him.
We arrive at this daily spectacle as a result of what must only be termed an epiphany on the opposition side. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 2:10 PM - 5 Comments
Tony Clement said a Toronto-based media consultant he recommended for a municipal job in his riding did not know what he was talking about when he said infrastructure projects were being approved directly by Cabinet.
“That’s false and ridiculous,” Clement, the treasury board president, said Tuesday when asked about what Vern Freedlander, vice-president of production at X2O Media Inc. told Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty in a December 29, 2008 email. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 12:36 PM - 1 Comment
The NDP persisted again yesterday in asking questions about the G8 Legacy Fund. With Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird away from the House, the government side, again, sent up Deepak Obhrai to respond.
Mr. Obhrai’s responsibility for the management of the G8 Legacy Fund remains unclear. It would seem he is responding as the current parliamentary secretary to the minister (Mr. Baird), who, in a previous portfolio (
IndustryTransport), had the authority to sign-off on the requests made by Tony Clement and Mr. Clement’s mayors.
The list of Conservative MPs who could be said to have more to do with the expenditure of public funds for infrastructure and/or the ethical standards for the behaviour of cabinet ministers would include some or all of: Finance Minister Jim Flaherty,
Industry Minister Christian Paradis, either of Mr. Paradis’ two parliamentary secretaries (Pierre Poilievre and Mike Lake), Transport Minister Denis Lebel, Mr. Lebel’s parliamentary secretary Pierre Poilievre, government House leader Peter Van Loan, Mr. Van Loan’s parliamentary secretary, Tom Lukiwski, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mr. Harper’s parliamentary secretary, Dean Del Mastro. Not to mention Mr. Clement himself.
Whatever Mr. Obhrai’s relevance, the Conservatives seated around him seem to find great humour in watching him stand and respond.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 8:30 AM - 1 Comment
The Star obtains new emails related to the goings on in Huntsville.
An email dated Dec. 29, 2008, has Freedlander detailing a conversation with Environment Minister Peter Kent, his former broadcast colleague, who at that time was minister of state for the Americas. His written recollection of the conversation suggests that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and John Baird, who was then minister of transport, were approving infrastructure funding applications submitted to them by their Conservative caucus colleagues.
“(Kent) told me he will whole-heartedly (sic) support the Huntsville IMC at cabinet and wanted to make sure we pass along our pitch to Tony Clement ASAP,” says the email addressed to Doughty and copied to two other senior municipal officials. “Peter tells me that right now MPs are being asked to provide infrastructure projects to cabinet for direct approvals by Baird and Flaherty. They earlier shovels get in the ground the better.”
Mr. Kent’s office denies any such conversation ever took place.
Vern Freedlander was previously referenced in an email between Tony Clement and Huntsville mayor Claude Doughty, in which Mr. Clement put Mr. Freedlander in touch with Mr. Doughty about a job. (Mr. Doughty told the CBC that Mr. Freedlander began working for the town of Huntsville on that job in early 2009. The email obtained by the Star predates that, but only slightly.)
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 24, 2011 at 9:36 AM - 7 Comments
Stephen Maher wonders where the G8 Legacy Fund paper trail is.
FedNor official Tom Dodds “noted that FedNor is going to evaluate all projects applying basic tourism principles and provide a recommendation in a report for March 30.” This is the way things are supposed to work. Municipalities make submissions. Officials consider those submissions, apply criteria, and select projects. So when the auditor general later reviewed the fund, auditors were surprised to find there was no paperwork showing how projects were selected. Where’s Dodds’ report?
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 7:00 PM - 26 Comments
The Scene. First, the unquestionably good news.
“Mr. Speaker, today, myself, the NDP shipbuilding critic from Sackville-Eastern Shore, and all New Democrats celebrate with the workers of Nova Scotia and British Columbia,” Nycole Turmel informed the House.
Alas, this is Question Period and so this much would not suffice.
“But for other workers,” Ms. Turmel continued, “yesterday’s announcement came up $2 billion short. Instead of announcing the full $35 billion in contracts, the government picked winners and losers. The Prime Minister left major shipyards like Davie vulnerable. Why?”
The NDP leader’s lament was not well received.
“This is your angle?” begged James Moore from the government frontbench.
“You’re the loser!” cried a voice from the near corner of the Conservative side. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 1:10 PM - 13 Comments
Unable to get via Twitter to his question about Tony Clement’s promised committee appearance, John McCallum tried the Question Period yesterday. John Baird promptly stood on Mr. Clement’s behalf and assured the House that Mr. Clement would be taking questions from a parliamentary committee at some point.
This segued nicely into a lively exchange between Charlie Angus and Mr. Clement.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 5:55 PM - 30 Comments
The Scene. These are awkward times. Various people are marching in the streets and camping in the parks, shouting various things about various concerns. No one is quite sure what it means or if it means anything except to say that some people are somehow unhappy about something. And that they may have some cause to be somehow disenchanted.
Our elected leaders are thus put in variously awkward positions. And so increases the likelihood that they will say awkward things.
Witness Ted Menzies, affable-seeming minister of state for finance. Yesterday he was presented with the spectre of said protests and the suggestion that perhaps said protestors were on to something.
“Mr. Speaker, it is fortunate that all Canadians have the right to peacefully express their views,” he said, as if this were some kind of profound observation.
“Canada does not, by the way,” he continued, “have the degree of economic inequality that we are seeing in other countries that have perhaps started this movement.”
Two sentences in, Mr. Menzies had already gone wobbly. For while we can indeed boast a level of inequality less crushing than that of the United States, our gini coefficient is still on par with that of riotous Greece. Which is to say that the sea of troubles is lapping from inside the house. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 7:26 PM - 8 Comments
After QP this afternoon, Liberal MP John McCallum tweeted a little mockery of Tony Clement.
As of this typing, Mr. Clement has not responded to this last provocation.
The minister’s argument here is that, though he and his mayors came up with the list of projects to be funded and though he took questions during QP about the G8 Legacy Fund a year ago and though he took questions about the G8 Legacy Fund from reporters in the House foyer last month, since it was Mr. Baird who, in his previous portfolio, signed off on the funding of those projects, it is thus now Mr. Baird’s responsibility to stand inside the House and account for the spending.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 11:30 AM - 10 Comments
Stephen Maher connects various dots in the G8 Legacy Fund affair and lays down a challenge for the Conservatives.
“Rules were broken,” says interim Auditor General John Wiersema. “Lawyers could have an interesting debate as to whether any laws were broken.” He said there was no point in further audits. ”I’m not convinced that more audit work is what’s called for here. I believe this is now a matter for Parliament to deal with.”
If the government takes the auditor general’s advice and lets a committee look into this mess, we may find out where the money went and Clement may be cleared. If, on the other hand, the government shuts it down, there will be no reason to have any faith in Clement’s competence or judgment.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 7, 2011 at 10:44 AM - 2 Comments
When questions were raised this summer about potential legal ramifications to the handling of the G8 Legacy Fund, I emailed Lorne Sossin (a friend of the show) to get his thoughts. After the interim auditor general again mused of the “interesting debate” that could be had, I checked in with Dean Sossin again to see if he had anything more to add.
His responses to both my queries below. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 4:52 PM - 4 Comments
No sketch today on account of some Ontario election responsibilities. In lieu, here is the Prime Minister’s answer this afternoon to the question, in regards to Tony Clement, “Does the Prime Minister realize that the minister has lost all credibility?”
Mr. Speaker, if this is a reference to the G8 funding, I think this has been looked at thoroughly by the Auditor General. The government has accepted those recommendations. There were 32 projects. They were all public. They all came in at or under budget, and they are all good projects for the area.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 1:45 PM - 16 Comments
A day after one of his mayors is reported to have mused on the best way to avoid access to information laws, Tony Clement manages to miss a scheduled appearance at an international conference on freedom of information.
Clement says the incident was a “mistake” and had nothing to do with recent controversies over his role in G8 infrastructure spending. ”It never appeared on our schedule,” he said in a telephone interview late Wednesday, adding he would apologize to organizers on Thursday. “Obviously, we made a mistake — we’re not perfect. I’m going to have lots of people looking into this in the morning.”
Meanwhile, the interim auditor general has mused again that, in regards to the use of border infrastructure funds for G8 Legacy projects, “lawyers could have an interesting debate as to whether any laws were broken.”
By macleans.ca - Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 1:32 PM - 9 Comments
‘Rules were broken’
“Rules were broken” when the federal government went on a spending spree in Conservative minister Tony Clement’s riding ahead of the 2010 G8 summit in Muskoka, the federal auditor-general told reporters after a hearing before a Commons committee on Wednesday. The spending wasn’t properly documented, nor were explanations given to the Parliamentarians charged with overseeing government expenditures, said interim Auditor-General John Wiersema. The $50 million in spending on projects ranging from a gazebo to new public washrooms was completed without a paper trail, and no government documents exist to justify the 32 projects undertaken in Clement’s Parry Sound-Muskoka riding. “It’s not right,” Wiersema added.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 9:42 AM - 8 Comments
The mayor of Huntsville draws the operative lesson from the G8 Legacy Fund affair.
He says he considers the emails to be private conversations and he’ll use the phone in future to avoid leaving a record of such discussions … ”To me, these emails are conversation … but they’re in a form that’s now reproduceable,” he said. ”I guess we’re all going to go back to telephones.”