Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

LOANS-gate: Minister Van LOAN And The $550M Canada DRIC LOAN

Do we call it LOANS-gate now?

The DRIC scandals are coming. It is getting very, very ugly with more to come I am sure. Can you feel it too?

And just wait until people are placed under oath during the lawsuits! It becomes tough to lie if you know that you can go to jail for perjury.

First we have the $550M loan (which DRIC-ites try to pretend is not a Loan) offer affair by Canada's Transport Minister Baird made to Governor Granholm of Michigan with the involvement of Prime Minister Harper. Something was needed to "make it happen."

That payment seems to have been designed to influence the Michigan Legislature to induce them to pass P3 legislation so Canada gets the bridge it wants, or rather to put pressure on Matty Moroun to sell out as the PM wants him to do with his secret mandate letter.
That action would allow MDOT to endrun the Michigan Senate and start the DRIC project to try to crush the Ambassador Bridge Company.

I regret to say that this letter and what Minister Baird said in his interview may cause considerable grief down the road.

That loan could have been easily made just for the DRIC project without any strings. Instead it is directly tied into the passage of the P3 legislation and other required legislation in Michigan.

DRIC could be built with traditional debenture or governmental financing but that would NOT allow the Senate to be ignored even if they vote DRIC down. Only the proposed Michigan proposed P3 legislation with no legislative oversight would do that and that is why Canada is so desperate to see the Bill passed

Now do we have a different loan scandal----the Van Loan affair?

Ohhh, so now we know what he meant.

Remember I Blogged about this some weeks ago but did not know what it meant :

"BLOGExtra: Minister of International Trade Van Loan Bombshell

I wrote at the time:
  • I wonder exactly what it means since Dan Stamper stated clearly that Minister Van Loan before he became an MP was writing letters to the Government supporting what the Ambassador Bridge was proposing as "the right answer." That is completely contrary to the Government position that DRIC is the way to go."

Here is part of what Van Loan wrote that explains it clearly:

Frankly, I find it shocking. Why then has Van Loan remained silent? In his former position of Minister of Public Safety, he had responsibility for Customs (CBSA) and was involved in border crossings matters.

So what is it with the Minister? It seems to me that he is pro-Bridge Company yet he is a Minister in the Government which is opposed to the Bridge Company. How does he reconcile that?

How can he remain in the Government and especially as a Minister if he does not favour what the Government wants?

He seemed to be pro-Ambassador Bridge since this proposal would have helped Moroun and negated any need for a DRIC bridge:

  • "In Washington to talk to his U.S. counterpart, Canada's public safety minister said Wednesday that they agreed to meet twice a year to head off problems that might snarl trade at the border…

    Van Loan said the two sides would probably meet once a year in Canada and once in the United States, perhaps at the border itself.

    He also got a commitment from Napolitano that Washington will look again at the idea of what is called land pre-clearance, he said.

    Under a proposal favoured by Ottawa, American officials would check U.S.-bound trucks on the Canadian side of the border and vice versa, easing trade bottlenecks.

    Van Loan said he suggested a pilot project at the Windsor-Detroit border but nothing was settled.

Of course this was never carried out and then Van Loan subsequently was moved out of his Department.

What is curious about this was that I was contacted by a Government Official who confirmed to me that there was a relationship between the Bridge Company and Van Loan. He was said to be their "consultant." It was almost as if there was a desire to get rid of Van Loan for some reason by disclosing this information to me and expecting me to BLOG it.

I never understood why the call was made and chose not to do anything with the inforamtion to see how this would be played out.

Consultant, no way---Van Loan was LAWYER for the Bridge Company. It may even be worse now since there are Rules of Professional conduct that have to be complied with.

This file is getting weirder every day. How can it possibly be? How could he have taken the job of the Minister responsible for Customs? It is bad enough that he was in the Cabinet of a Government whose views were completely opposite to his but to be a member of the Government overseeing the day-to-day affairs a former client and having a major influence over its expansion plans! Unbelievable!

Moreover, believe it or not, Van Loan was Leader of the Government in the House of Commons when Bill C-3---the International Bridges and Tunnels Act--- was being debated, a Bill targeted at and designed to hurt the Ambassador Bridge Company! How could he stay in that job for that matter?

Yet Minister Baird can claim in a Globee and Mail article:

  • "The war of words intensified Monday as Patrick Moran, corporate counsel for the Moroun family’s transport holdings, said Peter Van Loan, Canada’s International Trade Minister, supported the Moroun family’s position while he served as a lawyer representing the Ambassador Bridge.

    Before being elected in the York-Simcoe riding in 2004, Mr. Van Loan did some legal work for Canadian Transit Co., a holding company that owns the Canadian half of the Ambassador Bridge. Mr. Van Loan, while serving as a lawyer for Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP, told the Ontario government that “twinning the Ambassador Bridge was the only resolution to border congestion,” a view that contradicts Mr. Baird’s pro-government stance, Mr. Moran said.

    Mr. Moran released a three-page letter written in February, 2001, by Mr. Van Loan to the Ontario Transport Ministry – a letter that touts the Ambassador Bridge’s “critical function.”

    Mr. Van Loan couldn’t be reached for comment Monday, but Mr. Baird played down Mr. Moran’s criticisms. “Peter Van Loan was paid to represent a client. His law firm was paid money by Matty Moroun. Everyone is entitled to representation,” Mr. Baird said.

    In any event, Mr. Van Loan “has recused himself on this issue” at the cabinet table, said Mr. Baird, who is in charge of the Detroit-Windsor file."

Accurate but narrow perhaps? What happened at other than the Cabinet table! When did he recuse himself? Minsiter Baird must now prove it!

The questions that must be addressed are obvious:

  • Did the Government know about his former relationship. If not, why not

  • Did Minister Van Loan disclose it. If not why not

  • How could he be House leader whn Bill C-3 was being debated

  • Is Minister Van Loan in breach of the Law Society rules by acting against the interest of a former client in the exact same matter

  • How could he be the Minister responsible for CBSA given his former role

  • Did Van Loan reveal any confidential infoirmation that he learned as counsel for the Bridge Company and if so, what was it

  • Did Van Loan take or not take any action that may have hurt or even might have helped his former client.

To be direct, is this another Ottawa scandal? Is this an issue for the House of Commons Ethics Officer considering this section of the Conflicts of Interest Code:

  • "12.(1) A Member who has a private interest that might be affected by a matter that is before the House of Commons or a committee of which the Member is a member shall, if present during consideration of the matter, disclose orally or in writing the general nature of the private interest at the first opportunity. The general nature of the private interest shall be disclosed forthwith in writing to the Clerk of the House.

    (2) If a a Member becomes aware at a later date of a private interest that should have been disclosed in the circumstances of subsection (1), the Member shall make the required disclosure forthwith."

Note as well:

  • "13. A Member shall not participate in debate on or vote on a question in which he or she has a private interest."

Will the Opposition do the following:

  • "27.(1) A Member who has reasonable grounds to believe that another Member has not complied with his or her obligations under this Code may request that the Commissioner conduct an inquiry into the matter."

I really liked MDOT's spokesperson's comment:

  • "Michigan Department of Transportation Bill Shreck dismissed Van Loan's letter.

    "He wrote that letter in February 2001, then along came September 2001: 9/11," Shreck said.

    "9-11 was a game changer. If we hadn't started the second, side by side span of the Blue Water Bridge before September 11, 2001, we wouldn't have built it after 9-11.

    "Nobody would build twin spans now because of security risks. The world has changed, but maybe they missed it."

Gee Bill, after the interview that your boss gave, never "dismiss" anything a Canadian says since we rule Michigan.

DUH....MDOT's Spokesperson obviously has never heard of the Peace Bridge in Buffalo/Fort Erie. The plan is to twin the Peace Bridge there even after 9/11 ie one bridge right beside the other.

If security is such a big deal for bridges, why isn't MDOT spending half billion dollars on a NEW bridge at Port Huron away from the Blue Water Bridge rather than fixing up the plaza there since it is such a security risk after 9/11!

Clearly the Governments will say anything to beat Moroun!

The Opposition in Ottawa including our local NDP MPs have bigger fish to fry than the scandal around former Conservative cabinet minister Helena Guergis and her husband Rahim Jaffer. Their issue involves improper lobbying which is serious enough but does not compare with our border crossing which everyone says, for the last decade or so, is the most important infrastructure project between our two countries.

We have seen deliberate misinformation being spread, blocking actions designed to frustrate the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project, strange loan payments made and now a conflict within the Canadian Government:

  • "The letter by Mr. Van Loan points out an inconsistency of opinion within the prime minister's cabinet regarding the best alternative for a new bridge over the Detroit River," said Dan Stamper, president of the DIBC. "The transportation minister is supporting the DRIC while the minister of international trade is on record supporting the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project."

This file is a farce already! Can this truly be how our Government is run?