Tuesday, June 30, 2009

'Oh, what a Tangled Web I Weave, and in Patronage I do Believe'

As so often happens, when I'm investigating one Conservative scandal, I'm led to several more, and in the case of Julie Couillard and Maxime Bernier, it's absolutely endless.

The maze created by this government to conceal mass corruption should go into the Guinness Book of World Records, because it's absolutely mind boggling.

Or maybe it's more biblical, with this begetting this and that beginning that.

What led me down this path in the maze, however, was a little blurb I read concerning Julie Coillard's mother. Julie of course was Maxime Bernier's ex-girlfriend.

By the time I ran the entire lane, the story connected to Jay Hill, Rob Merrifield, Stephen Harper, John Baird, Peter Van Loan, Michael Fortier, and countless others.

The note I found that again piqued my curiosity was "Cote would also play a key role in hiring Diane Bellemare, Julie Couillard’s mother,`as president of the Employment Insurance Board of Referees. " Cote was an aide to former head of public works, the unelected Michael Fortier.

That note led me to this story:

Checks into Bernier, Couillard raised no concerns, MPs hear
Meagan Fitzpatrick,
Canwest News Service
June 17, 2008

OTTAWA -- A background check was done on former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier as recently as April and no concerns were raised about him or his relationship with his ex-girlfriend Julie Couillard, the prime minister's national security adviser told a Commons committee Tuesday.

A background check is done to ensure there are no criminal, security or other concerns, Bloodworth said, and involves a criminal record check by the RCMP and a security assessment by CSIS.

Bloodworth told the committee she has read about the allegations about Couillard's background in the media, including her former relationships with men tied to biker gangs and the Mafia, and doesn't know them to be fact.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is conducting a review of the security breach, but some opposition MPs want a full public inquiry, especially as more details continue to come to light about Couillard's background.

Earlier in the day, under questioning about the Bernier affair in the House of Commons, government House leader Peter Van Loan confirmed that Couillard's mother, Diane Bellemare, received a federal appointment last August to the employment insurance boards of referees and he defended her credentials.

"She, of course, was found acceptable by the Human Resources public servants who examined her, and spoke to her about her background and understanding of the employment insurance system, her understanding of the geographic area of Saint-Jerome and on that basis her appointment was recommended and ultimately made," Van Loan said.

But opposition MPs say it raises questions that Bernier's then-girlfriend's mother would be recommended for a political appointment.

And this one:

Federal officials confirmed last night that Ms. Couillard's mother, Diane Bellemare, obtained a federal appointment last August to be a member of the Employment Insurance Boards of Referees, officials said last night. The three-year position was approved through an order-in-council and was made on the recommendation of Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg.

And also this one:

Couillard's mother hired by government

Meanwhile, it was revealed that Couillard's mother, a hospital fundraiser, was herself subjected to a background check when she was appointed to a federal employment insurance tribunal. Diane Bellemare got the job — which the opposition claims could pay up to $50,000 a year — while her daughter was dating Bernier.

During Tuesday's question period, government House leader Peter Van Loan defended the hiring of Bellemare, saying she passed "rigorous" security checks and was more than qualified for the position. .. Van Loan did not answer repeated opposition questions about whether Bernier had recommended Bellemare for the post or been present when cabinet approved the appointment.

However, I hadn't expected it to lead me to this one, which is much more damaging:

Harper ramps up patronage posts in British Columbia
Peter O'Neil,
Vancouver Sun
May 22, 2007

Nobody should be denied an appointment because of political affiliation, nor should they have an inside track."

Strahl said Merry Hallsor, from a longtime Conservative family, is qualified to serve as a member of the board of referees under the Employment Insurance Act because she served on that body when Brian Mulroney was prime minister. Hallsor lost her job when the Liberals won power in 1993.

"She spent time on the board, so I don't think anybody would deny she is experienced, she has the qualifications and she's fit for the job." (Unlike Couillard`s mom whose qualifications are sketchy)

Hugh Gaffney of Surrey, who was named last month to the board of referees under the Employment Insurance Act, said his appointment isn't related to his wife's work as a Conservative riding association executive member and supporter -- in frequent letters to the editor -- of Tory MP Russ Hiebert (South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale).

"I certainly hope not," he said.

- Marilin Loveless of Victoria, a member of the Canadian Alliance national council overseeing the 2004 merger with the old Progressive Conservative party, was named a member of the National Seniors Council.
Remuneration: Not available.

- Harvey Merrill Grigg of Coquitlam, who came in third for the Tories in the 2004 election in Vancouver East, was named a member of the Canada Pension Plan Review Tribunal. Remuneration: $350 a day plus expenses.

- Jessica Anne Bergen of Prince George, a former party member who wrote a long letter in a local newspaper in 2003 attacking new Liberal leader Paul Martin and defending the Canadian Alliance, was appointed as a member of the board of referees under the Employment Insurance Act. Hallsor and Gaffney were also appointed to the same body. Remuneration: $400 a day plus expenses.

- Sharon Hayes, Reform MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam from 1993 to 1997 and later a director of the social conservative group Focus on the Family Canada, also got a spot on the EI board. (Maurice Vellacott high ranking member of focus on family)

- Eric Sykes of Richmond, a former campaign organizer for veteran MP John Cummins, was named to the Canada Pension Plan Review Tribunal.

- Stuart Douglas Boland (Bud) Smith, the former Social Credit minister who had close ties to the federal party, was appointed director of the Prince Rupert Port Authority. Remuneration: Not available.

Other notable appointments before April:

- C. Tung Chan of Richmond, a prominent Chinese-Canadian community leader and the former vice-president of the Richmond Progressive Conservative riding association, was named last November to the board of the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada.

- Heather Jane Chutter of Vancouver, a former member of the Vancouver Quadra riding association board, was appointed in November to the EI referees board. She is the ex-wife of Geoff Chutter, a Tory activist who ran unsuccessfully in Quadra in 1993 and 1997 for the old Progressive Conservative party.

It was the appointment of Stuart Douglas Boland (Bud) Smith, that connected to Rob Merrifield, Jay Hill and John Baird. I haven`t travelled down the others yet, but will when I'm feeling stronger. Right now I've got a headache.

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