Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Anatomy of a Hoodwink: Brought to You by Tony Clement and Peter Mackay

Using the Frank Luntz strategy of running a campaign on the promise of accountability, the Reform-Conservatives hijacked an election on
just such a promise.

And in 2006, not long after being elected, they kept their promise by introducing the Accountability Act.

Then later in 2006, they took that Accountability Act, tucked it away in a drawer, and never mentioned it again.

Now I know the talking points on this, provided courtesy of the Conservative Party of Canada; are to imply that they tried but the opposition sabotaged their efforts.

Not true.

At least not when it came to part of the act, that involved the creation of a Public Appointments Commission.

Ironically, the intent of this commission was to prevent cronyism and nepotism, when it came to hiring practices; yet the name they brought forward was none other than Gwyn Morgan, a longtime party fundraiser, even back in the Reform Days.

And the Opposition's concern was not only the fact that he was a party insider, but also that he had made some seemingly racist remarks in the past, that caused concern that hiring practices might be based on discrimination.

Gwyn Morgan seems like a decent guy and has a lot of experience in industry, but he was still not the best candidate based on these two things.

Did Harper know that and actually hope this would happen to give him an out? Knowing how he operates it's more than possible, but probable; so that when he did start appointing cronies all over the place, he would have justification.

In fact, after a whole whack of these appointments was made public, Kady O'Malley asked 'Did he Have a Choice?'

That promise, however, was made before opposition members rejected the Prime Minister's choice to head up the commission: Gwyn Morgan, the former CEO of EnCana. Once that had happened, Harper told reporters that he would be scrapping" the commission and proceeding with appointments "in the traditional manner."

But to add even more hypocrisy to the whole affair, taxpayers still funded the office with no function, and this phantom commission has just put in a request for additional funds.

This brings me to Tony Clement, Peter MacKay, and the fast one they appear to have pulled on us.

Yesterday this 2007 story came down the CAPP pipeline. It concerned the hiring of a man who was closely linked to Tony Clement. Mr. Clement knows how to play the game, having spent several years with the Mike Harris government in Ontario.

The federal cabinet has named a Toronto pharmaceutical distributor with close ties to Health Minister Tony Clement and a company division in India to a government agency that promotes trade and business contacts between Asia and Canada.

The appointment -- which a New Democratic MP says fails the "smell test" -- was included in a round of patronage appointments Prime Minister Stephen Harper has approved over the past three months.

Not long after the appointment of Vikram Khurana, it was revealed that Clement actually owned 25% of Khurana's company, Prudential Chem Inc.; a definite conflict of interest. So Tony Clement transferred his shares back to the Toronto drug distributor, and the whole thing was swept under the rug.

But not so fast.

Enter Peter MacKay.

News Release
February 3, 2008

New Glasgow, Nova Scotia The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), today announced $1 million in funding for Prudential Consulting Inc. to establish an operating division in Atlantic Canada, a move which will help develop a medical transcription industry across the region.

This was partnered with an initiative by the Nova Scotia provincial government:

Nova Scotia Business Inc.
October 9, 2008

Prudential Consulting Inc. (PCI), an Ontario-based medical transcription company, is expanding its business in Nova Scotia. The company plans to create up to 70 new jobs over the next five years. The province, through Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI), is supporting the company's expansion with a payroll rebate set at a maximum $590,400. It is an earned incentive tied to the company achieving hiring targets.

They've since moved into other provinces, including New Brunswick.

Now I'm all for the promotion of businesses that will provide jobs. However, you do have to ask yourself, why is this company, owned by a friend of Tony Clement's; getting all the juicy contracts?

And you also have to ask yourself, based on Clement's background; what this is really about?

We know that in Ontario he pushed strenuously for private health care, earning him the nickname 'Two-tier Tony'.

New Brunswick blogger, Countering the Nanny State, may have provided the answer.

On the Prudential Consulting deal with the government ... Prudential received $1 million funding from ACOA to train medical transcriptionists and provide transcription services to the medical community across the country. This is a private company who just recently toured our NB and NS hospitals ... It's not a simple coincidence that 350 is the current number of transcriptionists working in our NB & NS healthcare institutions.

... And if there is such a demand for medical transcriptionists today, why isn't this money offered to our own provincially funded Community Colleges in Campbellton & Cape-Breton who currently offer this training but have been struggling to make due. I'm placing my bets that Prudential's hidden true intention is to hire our very own provincial healthcare transcriptionists (coincidentally adds up to the ... numbers Prudential promised to hire).

So the Reform-Conservatives appoint a buddy and business partner of Tony Clement's to head up a government agency responsible for promoting business and lobbying for contracts. They defend this by having Clement turn his 25% share in the business back to his former (?) partner and claiming that the position does not include remuneration.

But as NDP MP Pat Martin claimed "... the real value from such a post comes from business contacts and the prestige associated with the position."

We now know what else comes from the post: One million from the federal government, $590,400 from the Nova Scotia provincial government and $ 800,000 from the New Brunswick provincial government, all going to the Khurana/Clement business Prudential Chemicals (and Consulting) Inc.

And if Countering the Nanny State is correct, this was not about creating new jobs, but simply transferring the public service jobs from the eastern provinces, to a private, for-profit, concern. And another thing to watch for is the outsourcing of these jobs to places like India.

See how smooth that was?

Pat Martin was right. This doesn't pass the smell test.

This is definitely a story worthy of follow up. Did the various governments ask for guarantees that the jobs would be additional and local? Were there other companies better equipped to handle this? Being familiar with the way that Tony Clement, and in fact this entire government acts, I think this may have been just one more step toward private health services.



  1. Frankly speaking, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    You failed to mention SARS fiasco, when face masks were sold to the Ontario government at $5 a piece; by "supposedly" different enterprises. Add that ONE MILLION Dollars MARGIN.