Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Summertime Harper minister ethics investigation: the heat is on

Well this kind of came out of the blue today: "Ethics watchdog to probe Paradis-Jaffer chat." News that Rahim Jaffer's direct personal calls to Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis' cell phone and the ensuing urgent attention by Paradis' department focussed on Jaffer and his partner Glemaud's business proposal about solar panels on federal roofs...will be probed by the Ethics Commissioner (her letter at that link). What a concept!
July 6, 2010—Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has confirmed that her Office is conducting an examination under the Conflict of Interest Act in relation to the Honourable Christian Paradis. As is the case with any ongoing investigation, the Commissioner cannot comment on it. The results will be released in a report at a future date.
Remember the facts, demonstrating the incredible ease of access Jaffer had to his former colleagues:

Jaffer called Paradis on the minister's cellphone last August, asking him to go for beers and telling him about a project he was working on through his company, Green Power Generation, to install solar panels on federal buildings.

Paradis arranged for his parliamentary affairs director, Sebastien Togneri, to deal with Jaffer and set up meetings with bureaucrats.

Documents tabled with a House of Commons committee show that civil servants were asked to speed the process of meeting with Jaffer and business partner Patrick Glemaud.

"The sector has had this for weeks. What's the hold up?" Togneri asked the deputy minister's office when a meeting had not been set up a month later.

While the Harper Conservatives have tried to sell this story as no harm, no foul, there wasn't any money granted to Jaffer and his partner, that's not all that matters. If it were, there would be no investigation. Now we have one. Access for insiders is the issue.

It's a surprise when this Commissioner actually proceeds with any kind of investigation these days. There have been a number of prima facie cases of questionable activities by Harper ministers that she's done nothing about. Tony Clement's recent video promotion for a constituent, where the EC seems to have pre-cleared what turned out to be a questionable appearance is the latest example of that.

This is the second controversy in recent months for Paradis, the other involving the access to information blockage that Paradis' office oversaw. Harper's Quebec lieutenant is creating quite a record.