Well, things just keep getting more and more interesting. The Toronto Star reports this morning that, in a nut shell, there was a deal to be had with the U.S. to settle the softwood dispute before the election but David Emerson and the Paul Martin PMO put it on hold for political reasons.
Wow. I don't know where to start with this. I'll proceed on the basis this report is true. If so, no one comes out of this looking good.
...Emerson was instrumental in delaying a breakthrough in the decades-old … the former Liberal industry minister worried that a pre-election announcement would damage Liberal prospects in key British Columbia ridings.
So, I guess the line that Emerson was an independent, non-partisan kind of a guy doesn't quite hold water, now does it?
They say the B.C. government and its powerful forestry industry only lost interest in the plan after meetings with Emerson.
Paging Gordon Campbell to the white courtesy phone, Gordon Campbell. Gordo, you got some 'splainnin to do.
...along with concerns in Paul Martin's office that a pre-election deal would stop the then-prime minister from using George W. Bush as a campaign punching bag, convinced Liberals to delay formal negotiations at least until after the January election.
Oh that's just freaking genius guys. Whose bright idea was this? Marrisen? Cunningham? Beaton? Yeah, let's put off settling a dispute that has cost thousands of jobs and devastated coastal B.C. so Martin could paint the Americans as bogeymen. Morons.
But for reasons Liberals now blame on Emerson, it stepped back from a deal that now falls into Stephen Harper's lap.
Emerson comes out of this looking like shit, and I'm far from letting him off the hook. But I am more pissed-off with Paul Martin, his PMO, and whomever else in the Vancouver MRO that went along with this asinine decision.
According to the sources, Emerson, a former top lumber executive, also warned that some companies could object to the higher stumpage fees.
This puts the conflict of interest allegations around his letter of recusal into a new light. He shouldn't have been involvd in this. One of those forest companies that could object? Canfor. The company Emerson was supposed to be recused from issues involving? Canfor. The company he's the former president and CEO of? Canfor. The company with a direct financial interest in the stumpage fee question? Canfor. The company Emerson still has financial links to, which is why he had recused himself? Canfor.
It's not clear if or when Conservatives learned about the advanced softwood talks. What is known is that the small circle of those aware of the backroom discussions expanded during the final campaign weeks…So less than 24 hours after the election, Emerson and Conservative campaign co-chairman John Reynolds were discussing the defection…
Wow, what a story. Emerson comes out of this with his credibility and integrity torn to shreds. Mr. Non-partisan held-up a settlement for a) political considerations, and because b) his old friends at Canfor might not like it. It's a file he publicly recused himself from. And when exactly did he start talking about moving to the Conservatives, and what role did his holding-up the deal play?
I also find it amazing/surprising the Liberals would leak this as some kind of smoking gun, because they come out of this looking like absolute idiots, buffoons and worse. As I said, they held up a vitally important trade deal to settle a dispute that has devastated coastal B.C., and also impacted Northern Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes so they could play the U.S. bogeyman card for votes in Ontario (Toronto).
As you can guess I'm a British Columbian, from an area economically impacted by this dispute, and this pisses me off big time. I want names. Who was involved? Are they still working in Ottawa? This is bullshit. Politics is politics, but when you're in government that's a trust with the people of Canada. They've betrayed that trust.
Feb. 9, 2006. 04:52 AM
NATIONAL AFFAIRS COLUMNIST
OTTAWA—Here's the plot of a real-life political thriller: David Emerson defected to the Conservatives this week carrying a multi-billion dollar softwood lumber deal that Liberals, for political reasons, didn't finalize before the federal election.