Friday, October 20, 2006

Oh dear, John

It's been a rough ride so far for the members of the members of the Mike Harris "dream team" in Stephen Harper's cabinet. First it was Tony Clement seeing no problem with the Health Minister owning shares in a pharmaceutical company (sold that stock yet Tony?) and now it appears Treasury Board president John Baird may have run afoul of federal privacy and access to information laws.

The Liberals have sent letters to the ethics commissioner, the privacy commissioner and the information commissioner asking for an investigation into Baird's actions as federal point person on the City of Ottawa's controversial light rail expansion (Baird represents an Ottawa-area riding).

As The Hill Times reported Monday, Baird demanded the City of Ottawa provide him with a copy of the contract the city signed with the LRT contractors, a request that is apparently not standard procedure. He was however given a copy of the confidential contract, with the following stipulation in the cover letter:

"This information is being submitted to Treasury Board, in confidence, for its expedient review. The parties also advise that there is information in the Agreement which, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to result in material financial loss or gain to, or could reasonably be expected to prejudice the competitive position of one or more of the Parties or to Siemens Canada Limited or PCL Constructors Canada Inc., as contemplated by section 20(1)(c) of the Access to Information Act.

"This Agreement contains Third Party Information and Personal Information as contemplated by the Access to Information Act and delivery and acceptance of this Agreement is based on the premise that no information contained in the Agreement and no part of the Agreement will be disclosed to any person other than those who have a need to review the Agreement for the sole purpose of the internal review by the Treasury Board without the express consent of the Parties or pursuant to an order of a court of competent jurisdiction."

However, that boring legalese apparently didn't stop Baird from releasing excerpts from the contract, often personally, to members of the media. It's probably worth noting there's a municipal election happening in O-Town and the city's longtime Mayor, Bob Chiarelli, is a well-connected Liberal.

I briefly covered Ottawa City Council back in the early 2000s when Baird was Mike Harris' community and social services minister; the city and the province were continually fighting over amalgamation costs and needless to say Baird and Chiarelli did not get along well at all.

There needs to be an immediate investigation into Baird's conduct here and pending that resignation he needs to resign from cabinet. At the very least he may have violated the confidentiality agreement with the city, if not access and privacy laws. Playing politics with federal infrastructure funding is one thing, but this is another. A minister of the crown has responsibilities beyond politics.

Between pharma stock owning Tony Clement, contract releasing John Baird, floor crossing David Emerson, the unelected Senator Michael Fortier and now Peter McKay calling his ex-girlfriend a dog and then denying it despite the fact there's an AUDIO TAPE, it is increasingly obvious that when Harper's gang talked about accountable government during the election they didn't actually mean, you know, a government that was, like, accountable and stuff.

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Anonymous said...

As suspect as Baird's actions were and I do think they need to be looked into, the LRT plan for this city is such a mess.

$1 billion dollars to build a north to south train that will boost ridership only marginally when the city is developed east to west, needs to be reviewed.

But I agree, it appears Baird has overstepped the line.

Anonymous said...

You forgot Gurmant Grewal and the fact that PMS had no problem with that...

Jeff said...

Grewal, yes. If I was to list every incidence of Conservative arrogance we'd be here all day, so I decided to focus just on incidents involving current Con cab mins.