Monday, November 14, 2011

Harper's former SIRC Chair

A follow-up to the news of the past week that Arthur Porter, the chairman of the civilian CSIS oversight board (Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC)), has resigned that SIRC post "amid revelations of his business dealings with a notorious international lobbyist and his own close ties to the president of Sierra Leone." Today there's news that he's also leaving his post at McGill although this seems to have been in the works since the spring: "Arthur Porter to step down as director of McGill University Health Centre."
At the same time, many began questioning Porter’s increasing absences from the MUHC, which has 12,000 employees and is building a $2.3-billion hospital. Concerns were raised about whether the board had approved his involvement in so many outside organizations, from SIRC to Air Canada.
The bigger question, beyond the McGill focus, is why the Canadian government did not tweak to this concern about Porter's availability when it appointed him as chair in the summer of 2010. Beyond SIRC, he's been sitting on numerous other boards:
They include Air Canada, Golden Valley Mines — which has mining interests in Sierra Leone — CancerPartners UK, a private cancer treatment provider in the United Kingdom, and a cancer centre in the Bahamas.
Additionally, he was appointed by the Harper government to the governing council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The chair of SIRC, the position here that is of the utmost concern, is a post that requires serious attention and time commitment. For Harper to have appointed Porter as chair of this body was highly questionable given Porter's other commitments, in particular his full-time job as a CEO, let alone the other engagements. Presumably, a government that postures as being tough on crime and national security issues would want to ensure that the actions it takes, with such appointments, would reflect their rhetoric. 

While the attention is on Porter and McGill, let's not forget whose judgment is also in issue and that is deserving of a little attention.