Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Why making a former defence lobbyist your defence minister is a bad idea

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...

New Defence Minister lobbied for Airbus
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.

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Anonymous said...

Jaysus, Mary and Joseph this gang of two faced nits have gone from smoulder to blaze in record time haven't they?

Red Tory said...

Hilarious. These idiots simply cannot control themselves. Week one and thy're spewing hypocrisy like there's no tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

There is reason to consider the Airbus,.....

for decades, the Canadian Military has been saddled with lots of equiptment that in many regards, was bought because the old crap was falling apart and this ( the cantidate equiptment) happened to be available.

that how we wound up with the Leapard Tanks, the Ulti├Ęs,..... tons of assorted crap.

The C130J is an uprated Herc that has been rushed into production due to a massive shortfall in American lift capabilities.

The Airbus has some cost savings as it utilises some commonality with Airbus s commercial passenger aircraft, has a greater range of configurable capabilities and has a more agile flight envelope.

The really sad part is that neither aircraft is of use to the DART team.

Personally, I think that the role of a Defense Minister is to lobby for funding, represent the Military priorities, justify to the Military the funding received and the Government dictated priorities, work on Defence Policies and deal with International Agreements.

Spending the money should be up to the Military, and they would have no one to blame but themselves, if they spent it badly.

But, that is much too practical an approach for Politics and really cuts the amount of gravy in the trough.

Anonymous said...

I must be honest, as a Tory, the appointment of O'Conner concerns me. I respect what he's done for the last 30 years, but this is a bit too shady.

We'll have to see what happens.

Jeff said...

The Libs will have to rely on their earned media for now JD and bank these clips for later, they don't exactly have the cash for an ad campaign. They will make for some nice campaign commercials.

"Campaigns are campaigns" could well be the next "I'm entitled to my entitlements."

WE Speak said...

So to follow your logic, someone who has worked in the financial industry should never be finance minister. Or someone who has extensive business holdings should never be in charge of Canada's tax code as it might benefit him personally or one of his companies.

Jeff said...

My logic, bbs, is very simple. Someone who was paid by Airbus to convince the defence minister which plane to buy shouldn't become the defence minister that decides wether or not to buy from Airbus.

Penelope Persons said...

I thought Harper had promised a 5 year cooling off period between lobbying and becoming a minister, or was it the other way around?

And if it WAS the other way around, why was it? Five years should be the rule, both ways.

From today's Globe and Mail:
"Mr. O'Connor was a lobbyist for Airbus from 2001 to February of 2004, four months before he was elected as an MP, according to the Lobbyists Registry.

"His former firm confirmed that he was involved in early efforts, roughly 2½ years ago, to interest the Department of National Defence in buying what became the A400M."

I wonder if they helped out with his campaign expenses?

Red Tory said...

Your “logic” makes no sense. There is a difference between being a lobbyist and having a background in one industry or profession that would qualify you for a cabinet position. Obviously, you’re going to want to have a lawyer as the Minister of Justice, someone with financial experience as the Minister of Finance and so on. The key word here is LOBBYIST. Right there you have a conflict of interest. How can you make an objective procurement decision when you were formerly being paid to promote the product of one company over another?

Jeff said...


The fine print of the platform was five years after leaving government before going to lobbying. The preamble implies going the other way is a problem toom but the specific policy position only deals with gov to lobbying.

As for contributions, I checked for 2004 and no contributions stand out, except for one from Calian, an Ottawa area tech company with some defence contracts. Will be interesting to see the figures for the 06 campaign, but they won't be out for some time.

Ian King said...

bbs, your "logic" is bogus. Having a cabinet mininster with knowledge iof the field is good; a cabinet minister who'd spent eight years working to get his clients contracts from those same departments is suspicious. For that same reason, I wouldn't want someone who'd been working for Bombardier put in charge of transportation, or a Cargill lobbyist in Agriculture, or someone who'd had mining clients for the past decade made minister of natural resources.

Red Tory said...

Okay, something is missing from this picture. He was a lobbyist, but didn’t get paid for it? Huh? What’s up with that? Apparently he received a rather trivial payment from one company, but other than that he was working for free. I don’t get it. Anybody?

Jeff said...


I think you're thinking about campaign contributions. His 04 election campaign filing shows contributions from just one defence-related company, Ottawa's Calian. That's (very shortly) after he ended his lobbying to run for office.

When he was a lobbyist, I'm sure he got paid quite handsomely. :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's funny. It must be hard being Jason Kenney. I mean, starting life as the unwanted offspring of Ned Beatty and Herbert "Cowboy" Coward must have been tough. Trying to defend Harper this week is even tougher.
John Reynolds squared off with Ujjal Dosanjh today on a CBC radio program. It, too, was very funny -- listening to Reynolds squirm.
Links to the audio files and part of the transcript is here:

Anonymous said...

Arms trading aside, his employment with the CIA linked Hills and Knowlton should have everyone nervous.
What was his roll and what "information" campaigns did he work on.
Why would a PR company hire a Canadian Force Brigadier General?

Anonymous said...

Arms dealing aside why would a PR company hire a Canadiaan Forces Brigadier General?
What should make everyone nervous is O'connors years of employment with the CIA linked Hills and Knowlton.
What was his role there and what"information" campaigns did he work on?