Tuesday, March 28, 2006

David Emerson No Stranger to Conflicts of Interest issues.

Is David Emerson really the kind of guy that makes a good Minister for International Trade. Will he make decisions that are good for you and me or will he always be thinking of his friends? What a tangled web some of our politicians weave, sometimes never quite crossing the line of breaching the law, or breach specific conflict on interest rules. It is somewhat amusing how our politicians can so easily switch back and forth between Senior Government positions, Government Minister positions, CEO of corporations which need, want or will substantially benefit from government policies. You would think that as a result of this we would end up with a lot more conflict of interest issues.
Conflict of interest has to be one of the most difficult items to prove. The Federal Governments definition of Conflict of Interest is below.
"For the purpose of this Act, a member has a conflict of interests when the member, the member’s spouse or a dependant in relation to the member has significant private interests ... that afford the opportunity for the member to benefit, whether directly or indirectly, as a result of the execution of, or the failure to execute, any office of the member." http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/library/PRBpubs/bp362-e.htm

The benefit directly part is probably pretty easy to prove. At some point or another a paper trail will show up that will get you in hot water. The indirectly is much, much more difficult. An example of indirectly might be as simple as getting a job in the future as CEO of a major corporation along with major pay and pension benefits that go along with it.
As you can see the indirect one would be both impossible to prove,as well it may not have any appearance ever of a conflict of interest. As the big guys say that's just the way things get done. Who benefits? Both the big business and the CEO. Who doesn't benefit usually one way or another - it's you and me.
Here's some of David Emerson's brushes with conflicts of interest and lobbying.

1. Action of Oxford Academy and Central School District regarding contingency budget expenses and conflicts of interest. Sept 15 1992"Although I have dismissed this appeal, I must take judicial notice of the fact that David Emerson, Board President is also President and owner of more than 5% of the stock of the Blue Ox Corporation. This corporation has contracted with respondent district since 1985 for the sale of fuel oil. General Municipal Law '801 prohibits a municipal officer from having an interest in any contract with the municipality of which he is an officer. General Municipal Law '802 lists the only exceptions. The record does not reflect that this contract fits into any exception. Although respondent asserts that David Emerson disclosed his interest pursuant to General Municipal Law '803, disclosure of such interest in no way cures a defect. If respondent was heretofore unaware of this violation, then respondent is now on notice. The continuation of such contracts may result in the removal of any board member engaged in this willful violation of the law."

2. David Emerson and Forest Practices Code.Question period BC legislature. "And guess who's leading the attack to get rid of the Forest Practices Code. Guess who's saying that the Forest Practices Code is overregulatory and full of red tape: none other than people like David Emerson. He stood up the other day -- representing, of course, Canfor -- and spoke volumes of praise for the Leader of the Opposition. He knows that the Leader of the Opposition is bought and paid for. They've made their contributions, they've got their deal, and part of that deal is to get rid of the Forest Practices Code.

3. David Emerson and BC Ferry dealArticle from http://www.nupge.ca/news_2004/n19se04a.htm;
"Federal industry Minister David Emerson, former B.C. Ferries chairman, has been asked to waive $ 125 million in federal import duties.Emerson has a major conflict of interest in the case because he happens to be a former chairman of B.C. Ferries and has close connections to David Hahn, the American CEO recruited by Campbell and the Liberals as the new head of B.C. Ferries."

4. David Emerson and VA AuthorityQuestion period BC legislature."All tax policy is, of course, constantly under review. Mr. David Emerson has been to see me and my staff. He did lobby, as do most groups, for tax reduction, and we've carefully considered his comments. I might note, however, that after he came over on behalf of the airport authority and asked for further tax concessions -- this government had already exempted the new airport authority from any of the income tax, property transfer tax or other taxes -- he then had a press conference and announced that they themselves are looking at imposing a brand new departure tax on everybody leaving the airport. It's quite interesting that we get the same message from everybody: give us tax relief, but don't worry about anybody else's problems.

5. David Emerson CEO Canfor, Lobbist, Softwood Lumber NegotiatorArticle at: http://www.straight.com/content.cfm?id=4139
From article:"Canfor is a member of the B.C. Lumber Trade Council, which employs André Albinati of Earnscliffe Strategy Group as a lobbyist. The B.C. Lumber Trade Council also employed Michael Robinson as a lobbyist until September 24, 2003--three months after the media reported that Robinson was leading Martin's prime-ministerial transition team. Emerson is also listed in the Lobbyist Registry as Canfor's "principal representative" when it hired Bob Plecas to lobby Industry Canada and other ministries concerning softwood lumber. "

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