Thursday, April 29, 2010

So We're Expecting John Baird to Make Sense Now?

As much as it annoys the hell out me every time I hear someone in the media talking about
Harper's Reformers being secretive after promising transparency, I must admit that their expecting John Baird to make sense, gave me a chuckle.

And then it annoyed the hell out of me.

They should realize by now that there never was an accountability act and there was never any intention of producing an accountability act. Sure there were a few words on paper, but they were mostly just four letter words. Lots of them. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah ....

My first clue, besides the Republican Pollster Frank Lutz's advice to Harper on how to get a majority: preach accountability, flap about lowering taxes and tap into national symbols like hockey; was the fact that little PP got instructions for this so called accountability act from Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner.

Yikes. What Bernard Madoff wasn't available?

The Conservatives are considering an American-style law that would pay a bounty to a whistleblower who sues a company that defrauds the federal government or wastes taxpayers' money. Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, who is overseeing the Harper government's whistleblower reforms, is meeting with U.S. legislators in Washington over the next several days to see if the U.S. False Claims Act can be adapted to Canada as part of the much-touted Federal Accountablity Act.

In Washington, Mr. Poilievre is meeting with Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who chairs the House Committee on the Judiciary, as well as officials from the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, to explore whether employees in security agencies should be excluded from whistleblower laws. He will also be briefed on the Bush administration's Notification and Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation Act -- known as the No Fear Act -- which came into force in 2003 to make departments more accountable for violations of anti-discrimination and whistleblower protection laws.

A monetary reward for whistleblowers is one of the six reforms Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised during the electin campaign to beef up the Liberals' whistleblower bill.

So who's Jim Sensenbrenner?

On April 26, 2005, it was widely reported that Sensenbrenner has had lobbyists pay for his transportation, a violation of congressional rules. His total travel expenses are higher than any other congressman

Although the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Katrina and the inadequate government response to the disaster is expected to cause further economic misery for the poor residents of New Orleans and other affected areas, Congressman Sensenbrenner has refused to allow victims of the hurricane to enjoy any exception to the recent Bankruptcy Reform, a recent bill passed with widespread support of the banking industry that aims to make it more difficult for consumers to declare bankruptcy. "If someone in Katrina is down and out, and has no possibility of being able to repay 40 percent or more of their debts, then the new bankruptcy law doesn't apply," Sensenbrenner said.

Sensenbrenner held an important role in the Impeachment of Bill Clinton, acting as one of the House managers.

Sensenbrenner believes in criminal prosecution of broadcasters and cable operators who violate decency standards as opposed to the current Federal Communications Commission regulatory methods.

His revolving door lobby

He won "jerk of the week" honours for denying global warming

And remember NAFTAgate when Stephen Harper tried to derail Obama's campaign? It was Sensenbrenner's son Frank who was behind it.

Frank Sensenbrenner, the one-time Young Republican fundraiser now at the epicentre of a scandal over a leaked Canadian memo which wounded Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama, was always a poor fit at the Canadian embassy. The ambassador, Michael Wilson, didn't want him there.

The diplomatic corps on Pennsylvania Ave. didn't want him there and ultimately were so distrustful of the son of a right-wing Republican congressman, they muttered that they wanted his door left open so they could hear who he was talking to.

But officials in Stephen Harper's office wanted him there and Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day particularly wanted him there, based on Sensenbrenner's long links, dating back to school days, with the former Reform party, the precursor of today's government in Ottawa
The Republicans aren't out of office, they're just now in Stephen Harper's office, teaching 'accountability' ... to John Baird and little PP. Crafting clever lobbying loopholes so convoluted we may never know where our money is. While Alykhan Velshi is telling Canadians who and who can't come to this country and talk.

Anyway, the net result of this relatively little-known loophole is this: Even if a minister "quietly designates" his parliamentary secretary as "the government's exclusive gatekeeper" for a particular grant or contribution program -- which, according to the Hill Times, was what Transport Minister John Baird did by "tasking" Brian Jean with "identifying potential projects ... and candidates ... to be considered for the Green Infrastructure Fund ... and forwarding them to the department for evaluation" -- there is currently no way to find out which companies, or consultant lobbyists, may have come knocking on that gatekeeper's office door.

Which, I have to say, doesn't seem quite as transparent a system as one would, perhaps, expect to see in what Pierre Poilievre is so fond of reminding us was supposed to be the "toughest anti-corruption law in Canadian history." What, for instance, is to stop a minister from designating his or her parliamentary secretary as the contact point for all lobbyists, which would allow any subsequent discussions to flourish unfettered by any obligation to report all registrable interactions? Pretty much nothing, as far as I can tell, although as the aforementioned staffer pointed out, it's their job to enforce the law as it stands.

Maybe Mark Foley could get Jason Kenney a date:


  1. See all the loopholes the Conservatives, and other parties, have left in the federal government's accountability system at:

    Hope this helps,
    Duff Conacher, Coordinator
    Democracy Watch