Canada’s most corrupt Premier: Doug Ford or Jason Kenney?

It’s a close call.

Image result for north99: Canada’s most corrupt Premier: Doug Ford or Jason Kenney?

Since being elected, Doug Ford and his government have been embroiled in scandal after scandal. A poll conducted in July showed that about 60% of Ontarians considered his administration to be corrupt.

Jason Kenney now appears to be following in Ford’s footsteps, entangling himself in a web of unscrupulous behaviour and sketchy dealings.

Both Premiers have a penchant for shady governance, but who stands above the other as Canada’s most corrupt Premier?

Doug Ford: King of patronage and nepotism

Right out the gate, Ontarians got a glimpse of Ford’s proclivity for doling out cushy jobs and appointments to friends and allies.

In July 2018, Doug Ford rewarded his friend and former Progressive Conservative Party president, Rueben Devlin, with an obscure appointment that paid $350,000.

The Ontario Premier’s real troubles began back in late 2018 when he attempted to appoint his long-time friend Ron Taverner as the OPP commissioner. Ford’s government even lowered the requirements of the hiring process so that Taverner could be eligible. He would end up being handed the job but later stepped away from the controversial appointment after public backlash.

By the spring of 2019, Doug Ford had overseen a growing list of patronage appointments. His family lawyer was handed an appointment with a six-figure salary. Failed PC candidates received high-profile jobs in the public sector. Former staffers and lobbyists alike had their fair share of roles to play in Ford’s new government. Most notably, Ian Todd, a senior staffer on his campaign, was appointed to represent Ontario in Washington, D.C., a position which would pay him $350,000 a year.

Things came to a head in June of 2019 with the now-infamous Dean French scandal. French, the Premier’s chief-of-staff, was handing out public jobs to his friends and family. Perhaps the most shocking of all was the appointment of Tyler Albrecht, a university graduate who played lacrosse with French’s son. The 26-year old Albrecht had no substantive work experience, but he was a friend of the French family. That, it seems, was enough under the Ford government to give him a $164,000 a year appointment to represent the province in New York.

Ford and his government went into full crisis management mode. A cabinet shuffle, a promise to change the appointments process, and a 5-month disappearing act — they were all meant to make sure the public forgot about his cronyism. However, if the federal election results are any indication, “the people” remember.

Jason Kenney: A Graft-y Fraudster

Kenney was dogged with scandal from the day he became Premier. His leadership race was riddled with irregularities and an alleged ‘kamikaze’ candidate that ensured Kenney won the UCP’s top spot.

Shortly after arriving in office, Kenney announced a wave of patronage appointments, packing Alberta’s public boards, agencies, and commissions with UCP loyalists. Failed candidates, donors, and campaign staffers all got a piece of the pie. Instead of spreading out his patronage like Ford, Kenney rammed his crony appointments through in one blow.

Then came the news that Kenney had used $16,000 in public funds to fly fellow Conservative Premiers on private jets. The misuse of taxpayer dollars to facilitate a partisan photo-op was just the beginning of Kenney’s most recent problems.

Shortly after, his closest advisor came under fire for using public funds to pay for trips to London, fancy dinners, and luxury hotel accommodations. In the span of a few months, Kenney’s right-hand man spent $45,000 on just four trips to the United Kingdom.

On top of all this, there came the discovery of graft in Kenney’s inquiry on ‘foreign-funded’ climate activists. The inquiry’s commissioner had spent more than a third of his budget on fees to his son’s legal firm. Commissioner Steve Allan, appointed by Kenney himself, had given the firm a sole-source contract worth $905,000.

Now Kenney has fired the Elections Commissioner — the one man capable of thoroughly investigating the ‘kamikazee scandal’ from the UCP leadership race — and announced plans to roll back election finance laws and open a floodgate of dark money into Alberta election campaigns. One can only imagine the forms of corruption this wave of corporate money flowing into Alberta politics will create.

And the winner is…

While Doug Ford has a head start on Kenney, it appears that Alberta’s Premier has learned from Ford’s early mistakes in his efforts to reward his buddies and political allies.

While Ford has thus far received more public blowback for his scandals, Kenney’s interference in election oversight and campaign financing suggests that he is — shockingly — already overtaking Ford as Canada’s most corrupt Premier. SOURCE

 

Alberta’s Energy Regulator Blasted for Conflicts, Mismanagement and Misusing Millions

It’s no surprise, say critics of agency responsible for regulating oil, gas and coal production.

Oil well
Critics of the energy regulator’s performance on issues like cleanup of abandoned well say that reports the agency was mismanaged are no surprise.

Three separate Alberta government investigations have slammed the controversial Alberta Energy Regulator for mismanagement, the misuse of millions of public dollars and conflict of interest.

Separate reports by Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler, Public Interest Commissioner Marianne Ryan and Auditor General Doug Wylie detailed how senior members of the AER set up a private organization called the International Centre for Regulatory Excellence (ICORE), initially described as non-profit.

The centre’s original mandate was to promote “best in class” regulatory practices. But it later set out to become an international training centre for regulators.

Trussler was blunt and scathing in her report, saying the scheme was intended to benefit CEO Jim Ellis and three other AER employees. Ellis retired in November.

“The primary motivation behind ICORE Energy Services (NFP) was to create future employment or remuneration for Mr. Ellis,” Trussler reported. “He thus furthered his private interests.”

The auditor general found that ICORE consumed at least $5.4 million of AER funding between 2017 and 2019. Approximately $3.1 million has been recovered.

The auditor general’s report noted that about two years ago, AER staff started to worry about “time spent on non-Alberta regulatory activities, efforts to commercialize AER intellectual property, and the belief that some of the efforts were in pursuit of personal benefits by a few individuals.”

It concluded the regulator acted outside of its mandate, spent public money inappropriately and failed to prevent conflict of interest.

It also noted the “tone at the top at AER did not support a strong control environment or compliance with policies.”

Revelations by a whistleblower last year sparked the investigations.

The Alberta Energy Regulator, an industry funded agency responsible for regulating oil and gas activity and coal mining in the province — including oil sands development and fracking — has frequently been criticized for failing to provide proper oversight.

The reports described it as out of control and unaccountable, despite supposed government oversight.

“I found a culture at the senior management level at the Alberta Energy Regulator that promoted a wrongful manipulation and omission of facts designed to mislead both the board and the government,” Trussler reported. “I found those actions to mislead both troubling and unacceptable.”

Shaun Fluker, an associate University of Calgary law professor who has written extensively about the regulator, found the reports alarming but not surprising.

“It is troubling, to say the least, that the CEO of Alberta’s Energy Regulator can scheme to this extent — and for so long — about using public time and money for private gain with very little apparent concern about any of this ever being revealed,” said Fluker in an email to The Tyee.

“This raises serious questions about the extent to which there is any real ministerial or cabinet oversight over the operations of the AER,” he added.

The reports also cast doubt on the AER’s overall performance, Fluker added. MORE

Why Has Trudeau Risked So Much for SNC-Lavalin?

Four related mysteries fuel flames of an ever more ruinous scandal.

SNCLavalinControversyComic.jpg
Cartoon by Greg Perry.

Justin Trudeau has hit the panic button.

Unicorn sightings during Question Period are down to zero.

After weeks of being drubbed by the opposition over LavScam, the prime minister is now threatening a lawsuit against Andrew Scheer, his chief detractor in this misbegotten affair. What’s next? Suing Andrew Coyne?

They say drowning people will clutch at anything. But a threatened lawsuit against Scheer? The Michelin Tire Man is more menacing than the leader of the Official Opposition. This guy edits his tweets when he gets a paper airplane thrown his way.

And didn’t this PM promise a new, open way of doing politics? Dumping MPs who won’t bend to his will, effectively firing a cabinet minister who didn’t take the hint on a big file, shutting down the justice committee investigation of this travesty, and now waving a libel action around does not exactly conjure up sunny ways.

Having already claimed two star female federal cabinet ministers, the clerk of the privy council, and the PM’s principal secretary, it appears the next victim of LavScam could be Justin Trudeau himself. And all because one way or another, the PM seems determined to spare SNC-Lavalin a criminal conviction for its alleged bribery and corruption in Libya. Why?

MORE

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Andrew Coyne: Trudeau’s lawsuit threat all part of a cunning play for sympathy

For the gambit to pay off, the Trudeau team had to exceed previous expectations of ineptitude. Never let it be said that they were not down to the challenge

David Suzuki: Carbon, climate, and corruption coalesce in concrete


Getty

The recent scandal facing Canada’s government has concrete at its base. As one of Canada’s largest engineering and construction companies—employing 50,000 people through offices in more than 50 countries and operations in more than 160 countries—SNC-Lavalin uses a lot of concrete. Infrastructure projects are important to industry and governments. They provide employment, keep GDP and the economy growing, and offer “concrete” proof that progress is being made.

But, as the Guardian points out: “As well as being the primary vehicle for super-charged national building, the construction industry is also the widest channel for bribes. In many countries, the correlation is so strong, people see it as an index: the more concrete, the more corruption.”

SNC-Lavalin, which has already been sanctioned by the World Bank for bribery and corruption, faces similar charges at home. But as a major Quebec-based employer with its hand in some of the country’s largest infrastructure projects, it’s seen by provincial and federal governments as too important to fail. MORE

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Five Facts to Help You Assess the SNC-Lavalin Affair

Did Trudeau and his people do wrong? Some points to consider.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
The spinmeisters are out. Let’s go over what we know. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

One thing we learned in the wake of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s testimony is that Canadians should quit feeling smug about the hyper-partisan, fact-free state of politics in the U.S.

The reaction, from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s immediate and unsupported call for Justin Trudeau’s resignation to Liberal attacks on Wilson-Raybould’s ability to withstand the pressure of her former job as attorney general — when, in fact, her ability to withstand pressure seems one of the few certainties at this point — was marked mostly by partisan rhetoric. Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault went full Trump, calling the justice committee’s investigation a “witch hunt.”

Ignore the tidal wave of spin and misinformation. Here are five things to consider as you assess the rights and wrongs of the SNC-Lavalin affair.

First, it was legitimate for the prime minister, cabinet members and political staff to try to persuade Wilson-Raybould to step in and reverse the decision that SNC-Lavalin should face bribery and corruption charges over its activities in Libya. MORE

Wendy Holm: Connecting the dots—SNC Lavalin, the Site C Dam, and continental water-sharing

The proposed Site C Dam, southwest of Fort St. John on the Peace River in northwest B.C.
The proposed Site C Dam, southwest of Fort St. John on the Peace River in northwest B.C.GOVERNMENT OF B.C.

Water has no substitutes. When you need water—for crops, for
households, for industry, for fish and wildlife habitat, for tourism—nothing but water will do. Its value is limitless, and this writing has been on this wall for generations.

Follow the money.  If the value of water is limitless, the incentives to stay in the game are huge. In February 2015, the RCMP laid fraud and corruption charges against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. for massive fraud ($48 million) and corruption ($130 million) in its procurement of contracts in Libya.

This month, former Canadian attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet following alleged pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to shelter SNC-Lavalin by allowing it to enter into a Deferred Prosecution Agreementa “pay the fine, don’t do the time” manoeuvre that would rescue SNCL from a 10-year ban on Canadian government work if found criminally guilty.

SNC-Lavalin has been one of the principal engineering firms behind the Site C Dam from the outset—the dam that sound economics, science, logic, communities, professionals, First Nations, scholars, international organizations (UN), and good public policy seem incapable of even slowing down.

You’ve got to ask yourself whyMORE

Jody Wilson-Raybould and the paradox of reconciliation in Canada

Image result for hayden king

Hayden King is Anishinaabe from Beausoleil First Nation on Gchi’mnissing in Huronia, Ontario. He is the Executive Director of Yellowhead Institute, based in the Faculty of Arts at Ryerson University.

…At the end of her meticulous recounting of what she called “inappropriate” pressure her colleagues applied in an effort to defer SNC-Lavalin’s prosecution, Ms. Wilson-Raybould linked these two threads: “my understanding of the rule of law has been shaped by my experience as an Indigenous person and leader. The history of Crown-Indigenous relations in this country includes a history of the rule of law not being respected … And I have seen the negative impacts for freedom, equality, and a just society this can have firsthand.”

Knowing these dynamics better than most, and despite any of her efforts, Ms. Wilson-Raybould has been a part of a government responsible for perpetuating lack of respect for the rule of law, in this case in relation to Indigenous issues. How can all of this be reconciled? MORE

Earlier this year, in response to widespread outrage, “rule of law” was official government messaging when the RCMP served a pipeline company’s injunction in Uni’stot’en territory, on lands the clan has not agreed to share in a treaty (what the Supreme Court calls “title” lands). From Oka, through Ipperwash, Caledonia, Elsipogtog, and two dozen other examples of conflict over land, the rule of law is a prime-ministerial invocation that twists the law.

On criminal justice, the Supreme Court has demanded that the over-incarceration of Indigenous peoples be addressed with unique sentencing protocols known as the Gladue Principle. The directive is overwhelmingly ignored by lower courts, provincial and federal officials, and incarceration rates continue to rise.

Law after law dating back to the Gradual Civilization Act in the mid-1850s have discriminated against Indigenous women. Canada has argued in court that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms doesn’t apply to First Nation women. Indeed, there is still gender discrimination in the Indian Act.

Indigenous children are somehow invisible to the rule of law, too. Last week the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued its seventh non-compliance order against Canada for failing to fully and completely end discriminatory policies.

Late last year, in a speech to First Nation leaders in B.C., and on the eve of her demotion to Veterans Affairs, Ms. Wilson-Raybould called out those among us who have little faith in Canadian institutions and laws. These individuals, she said, “in the name of upholding Indigenous rights, critically oppose almost any effort to change [within the Canadian constitutional framework].” This is an apt characterization, though to be fair, the heretics have ample evidence of corrupt institutions on their side. MORE

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Wilson-Raybould’s place in Liberal party at risk after SNC-Lavalin testimony
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