News today in the G&M that new Conservative defence mininister Gordon O'Connor, whose appointment is already under fire because he is a former lobbyist for the defence industry, will have as one of his first orders of business making a decison on a $4.6 billion purchase that could involve Airbus, one of his former clients.
The military is in the market for new transport planes, and they need these things yesterday. You may recall last fall, former Liberal defence minister Bill Graham and chief of defence staff General Rick Hillier proposed a fast-tracked procurement process to purchase Lockheed Martin's C130J aircraft, a modern version of the Hercules aircraft we currently fly.
That plan was derailed though by Conservative attacks this would circumvent a long, drawn-out procurement process, and that Airbus and its A400M plane, although it won't be ready to fly until 2008, should be given a chance to compete.
Who led those Conservative attacks? Why their defence critic of course, the former defence industry lobbyist with Hill and Knowlton, Gordon O'Connor. And it turns out that, guess what, Airbus was one of O'Connor's clients!
So O'Connor helped derail a proucrement plan favoured by the military that would have seen them get planes faster so his former client could be given a chance to compete. His scuttling of the plan successful, he'll now play a big role in designing the procurement process and selecting the winner as defence minister.
Webster's dictionary defines a conflict of interest as "a conflict between the private interests and the official responsibilities of a person in a position of trust."
But surely O'Connor will recuse himself, right? Well, he wasn't talking yesterday. But here's what he said Monday:
"I will not recuse myself from anything. I do not have any links to any company whatsoever."
Sure, if you don't count BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Airbus, and the 24 other defence contractors he was a registered lobbyist for...
O'Connor pushed Ottawa to buy A400M but denies any conflict of interest
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
OTTAWA — Canada's new Defence Minister, Gordon O'Connor, was involved in lobbying the armed forces to buy military transport planes that are now at the centre of the hottest military-supply controversy in Ottawa -- one that he will have to settle.