The non conformer's Canadian Weblog

November 11, 2009

Alleged CONSERVATIVE mis-spending and influence-peddling


NDP MP Olivia Chow and lawyer Brian Iled ARE  seeking federal investigations into alleged mis-spending and influence-peddling by its Conservative Party loyalists.  If true, recent published allegations reveal “a shocking disregard for the public interest and normal rules of governance on the part of Stephen Harper’s appointees to the TPA board,” Iled told reporters in his law office.  Instead of rousting members who were accused by former colleagues of undefendable expenses and accomodating unacceptable party lobbying, he said the PM’s people “shot the messengers, replaced them with more loyal Conservatives and ignored the whistleblowers.”  Iled, head of Community Air, a group devoted to grounding the TPA-run Toronto City Centre Airport, said the Authority “has become a playpen for Stephen Harper’s political appointees with their own agenda and no accountability for their actions.”  He and Chow called for a return to mainly city appointees — similar to those who ran the old Toronto Harbour Commission — until the government restructured ports in 1999.  NO ‘SIGNIFICANCE’  Costing taxpayers $10 million a year, they said Toronto’s port authority status can’t be justified as having “strategic significance to Canada’s trade.”  Chow said she was mostly stonewalled after earlier seeking disclosure of expenses, including “outrageous entertainment and travel,” such as steak dinners at a leased restaurant in its Harbour and Bay Sts. headquarters and “lavish lunches” by ex-president and CEO Lisa Raitt, now minister of natural resources.  Chow and Iled have targeted such spending at previous press conferences.
‘BLATANT’ INTERFERENCE  In September, she blasted John Baird for “blatant” political interference after the transport minister appointed two new TPA members to replace two who criticized board practices.  Chow yesterday called one new member “another Conservative fundraiser,” with no experience in Toronto waterfront issues.  After a newspaper published leaked documents and last week reported altered versions of TPA board minutes, the Authority issued a statement saying the articles contained “many inaccuracies and falsehoods.”  

OTTAWA-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government have been using taxpayer-funding announcements to boost the fortunes of unelected Conservative candidates, critics charge.  While Conservative allies and would-be MPs are welcome at public announcements to splash taxpayers’ money around Canada, opposition MPs say they’ve been pushed to the sidelines and even left in the dark about funding announcements taking place in their ridings.  Some New Democrat and Liberal MPs say they have only learned about funds going to their ridings when they looked in the local paper after the fact and saw unelected Conservative candidates prominently featured at government-financed events.  Liberals believe that if Elections Canada looks into the practice, Conservatives could be held in violation of strict laws intended to keep partisan and government spending separate.  “This is one more example of abusing government resources to benefit the Conservative party,” says Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay (Willowdale), who is in the midst of filing multiple official complaints to the Treasury Board and Elections Canada over the government’s advertising and promotional practices. “This is another attempt to buy Canadians with their own, taxpayer money,” she said.  This fall, Moncton Liberal MP Brian Murphy was barred from entry to an announcement by the Prime Minister at the Irving shipyards in New Brunswick.  Hall Findlay says of the Conservatives: “These guys just don’t seem to get it. It’s not their money.”  Andrew MacDougall, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office, said the government “makes Economic Action Plan announcements with our provincial and municipal partners.” In Edmonton-Strathcona, the only Alberta riding the Conservatives do not hold, local Tory candidate Ryan Hastman has participated in at least five government announcements over the past few months, while the local NDP MP, Linda Duncan, says she has been excluded from all of them. Hastman boasts of his participation in pictures on his Facebook page.  Duncan, who calls the “whole process offensive,” says it becomes doubly irritating when a Conservative candidate claims credit for funds she helped to get for the community, as the duly elected MP.  “What I find reprehensible about all this is that they just can’t seem to accept the fact that Edmonton-Strathcona voters elected me, not a Conservative,” Duncan said.  Hastman was on hand, posing for pictures with Labour Minister Rona Ambrose, when the Conservatives gave a $14.8 million cheque to the GO community sports centre in Edmonton in September, for example.  Duncan had worked with the centre to get the application into the government before the deadline elapsed earlier in the year – and says she only found out about that deadline because someone accidentally sent her an email directed to the Alberta Conservative caucus.  The same thing happened recently in the riding of Welland, Ont., held by New Democrat MP Malcolm Allen. When the Prime Minister stopped in to announce federal stimulus money going to Niagara College last month – which came with a provincial contribution as well – there was pointedly no mention of either Allen or the provincial MPP, Peter Kormos, who is also a New Democrat.  “It’s kind of disappointing,” said Allen. “It’s the taxpayers’ money.”  The local Conservative candidate, Leanna Villella, was apparently involved in the event and the organization of it, as she explained in a blog entry.  “After the press conference, we headed over to the local restaurant M.T. Bellies where I got the chance to sit and talk with the Prime Minister, Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson, and (St. Catharines) Member of Parliament Rick Dykstra. Together we discussed the challenges facing our riding, and also got the chance to outline the possible solutions,” she wrote.  “I would like to thank the members of my campaign team who worked so hard all week to make sure that this event ran smoothly.” It is not clear from Villella’s blog entry whether this visit to the riding was financed by the federal government or the Conservative party, since the event appeared to be part official, part political business for the Prime Minister.  But MacDougall, the PMO spokesman, said that at the Niagara event, “the mayor of Welland, Damian Goulbourne, regional chair Peter Partington, Liberal provincial cabinet Minister Jim Bradley, and the president of Niagara College all participated in the announcement in question.  “The local New Democrat MP, Mr. Allen, voted against the EAP and its investment in Niagara College,” MacDougall added. “However, just like other community leaders, he could have attended the event.”

Critics cry foul at Tory photo ops. Conservatives use announcements to boost profile of candidates, opposition says  Conservative candidate Ryan Hastman, shown with Labour Minister Rona Ambrose in September, has participated in at least five government announcements over the past few months in the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona. LEFT OUT: Riding’s NDP MP Linda Duncan.  

Chris Alexander, future Tory candidate in Ajax-Pickering, was on hand when Harper announced a funding boost for the Toronto Reference Library in October. LEFT OUT: Riding’s Liberal MP Mark Holland
Denise Ghanam, Conservative candidate in Windsor-Tecumseh, participated in a $1.3 million funding announcement for Essex County in September.
LEFT OUT: Riding’s NDP MP Joe Comartin
Troy Desouza, Tory candidate in Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, B.C., was on hand in August when Harper rolled out a funding plan for community colleges in B.C.
LEFT OUT: Riding’s Liberal MP Keith Martin
Bernard Trottier, who will run for the Tories in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, joined Harper at a Tim Hortons in September to welcome the firm back to Canada.
LEFT OUT: Riding’s Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff
Rudy Husny, Conservative candidate in Outremont, Que., participated in the announcement of $1.7 million in funds for Montreal’s World Trade Centre.
 LEFT OUT: Riding’s Liberal MP Thomas Mulcair
Really good people now do not and should not do these bad things Conservatices especially

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