Sunday, March 12, 2006

The one-day Emerson story, day 33

I missed this story yesterday, but it seems another log has been thrown on the David Emerson fire, not to mention the Ethics Commissioner fire. A complaint has been filed with Bernard Shapiro alleging Emerson is an a conflict of interest on the softwood file because of his pension stake in forest giant Canfor.

The Vancouver Sun reported yesterday that Liberal MP and trade critic Dominic LeBlanc filed a complaint on the issue with Shapiro on Friday. You may recall solving softwood was one of the reasons Emerson gave for crossing the floor, as well as the 2010 Games.

If this issue sounds a little familiar, it should. As I blogged here, Emerson already recused himself from the softwood file, back when he was the Liberal Industry minister. As the former CEO of Canfor, Emerson still has a financial link to the company through his pension plan. Accordingly, he signed a public decleration of recusal in November 2004 with the ethics commissioner forbidding him from being involved in matters that directly involve Canfor. As I wrote last month, Canfor is specifically named by the U.S.'s anti-dumping case at the heart of the dispute. So yeah, the softwood dispute involves Canfor.

To quote a few lines from LeBlanc’s letter:

"He (Emerson) is directly involved in negotiations not only related to the possible agreement with the United States but also the refund of deposits held by the U.S. Treasury and paid by Canadian softwood producers," LeBlanc wrote.

"Canfor Corporation would be one of the largest depositors of money subject to this potential refund."

This potential for conflict Emerson saw in November 2004 seemed to go out the window however when Emerson crossed the floor to the warm, comfy, welcoming embrace of Stephen Harper’s cabinet. Should Shapiro decide to investigate I’d have to think the first question he’d ask Emerson would have to be “If you felt you were in a conflict then, why aren’t you in a conflict now?”

It would be useful to put this same question to Harper, but I’m sure he’ll be just as loathe to cooperate as always. Maybe they should hire a second ethics commissioner, because he’s going to be pretty busy will all this work. And I'm sure there's more to come.

On a side note, reading this article I see I went to university with Emerson’s new press secretary. Poor kid, I wish her luck.

Complaint raises Emerson 'conflict'
The minister still has a stake in forestry giant Canfor, Liberal says
Peter O’Neil
Vancouver Sun
Saturday, March 11, 2006
OTTAWA -- Trade Minister David Emerson is in an apparent conflict as Canada's lead negotiator in the Canada-U.S. trade dispute because he still has a financial stake in the forestry giant Canfor Corp., according to a complaint sent Friday to Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro.

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Anonymous said...

I am a little confused by this Conflict of Interest charge against Emerson concerning softwood. Wasn't Emerson calling the shots on softwood under Liberal rule and was he not in conflict then? See the Toronto Star story, "Did Emerson Block Deal?"
Feb. 9, 2006:

A BCer in Toronto said...

I can't read your link, but I think I know the story you're refering to. He wasn't calling the shots on the day to day, but as BC minister he had some say on the big picture, which is what the reusal envisioned. But what I think you're refering to is his alleged scuttling of a deal, and that would seem to potentially cross the line. Perhaps Shapiro can have a gander at that too.

Penny said...

Couldn't get your story from the link provided, but it was easy enough to google "Did Emerson Block Deal?" and get the story...

I found it a bit difficult to understand how much Emerson actually had to do with the deal from the story, apart from his reasons for wanting it parked, though brighter bulbs than myself can probably explain it all quite well - and I hope they will do so here, for my sake!!

Budd Campbell said...

It's a sad situation all around, not the least because Shapiro himself is somewhat compromised by his transparently silly bugger "no problem" determinations rendered so obsequiously for Paul Martin's people.

Emerson really should resign and run in a byelection just as Stronach and Brison should have done. But this thing has been pushed too far, and it's starting to reveal just how far off base Canadian federal politics have become.

A couple of people have now been charged by Vancouver Police with mischief for dumping piles of manure at Emerson's constituency office.

Furthermore, crowds of up to 700 have been attracted to rallies protesting the Emerson move. But for real issues, like the abuse of patients in our hospitals, couples being forcibly separated in their very last days of life and the daily assault of revolting "rethermed" food prepared by a Liberal friendly contractor in Toronto, where are the crowds? No where to be found.

It says something really negative and frightening about today's crop of young political activists that they will take time to protest purely political developments like the Emerson switch, primarily because of their urbane, consumer self-branding distaste for the Calgary based Conservatives and their backward stance on sex and morality matters, but will not take time to demonstrate on behalf of patients, mainly the forgotten and rather uncool elderly who are being mistreated in our public hospitals. It's among the very worst manifestations of yuppie politics and TV generation irresponsibility and idiocy.