Stephen Chase and Robert Fife, writing in the Globe and Mail, continue to harry the Trudeau regime over its dealings with big business. In this case, they report that “The federal government alerted New Brunswick’s Irving family that The Globe and Mail was seeking information from public servants about whether the family’s shipbuilding company had claimed an Alberta French fry plant as an industrial benefit of a contract to build warships for the Canadian navy.“
They write that “The Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development said late Wednesday that Ottawa is obligated to get the consent of Irving Shipbuilding before providing any information to the media about industrial and regional benefits [IRB] agreements it has with the federal government – an arrangement a government spokesman called “common practice” in keeping with contractual wording … [but, they say] … the standard contract wording that the government cited only contains a broad reference to co-ordinating public communications …[and] … The obligation on the part of the Canadian government to alert Irving Shipbuilding when reporters ask questions about its shipbuilding contract comes to light only weeks after the conclusion of a political drama and court case in Ottawa over allegations that secrets were leaked to shipbuilders. And it surfaces only days after Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains unveiled a wide review of federal privacy laws and promised more stringent enforcement against companies that violate the privacy of Canadians.“
They explain further that “On Monday, The Globe sent an e-mail to media relations at Department of Innovation asking whether Irving Shipbuilding or holding company J.D. Irving Ltd. had claimed the Cavendish Farms frozen potato processing plant in Lethbridge as an investment to fulfill its obligations under the Arctic and offshore patrol ships contract … [because] … Under Canada’s IRB policy – later renamed the industrial and technological benefits policy – the federal government requires prime contractors of defence procurements to undertake business activity in Canada equal to 100 per cent of the value of the contracts they are awarded. Key objectives of this policy are to support the sustainability and growth of Canada’s defence sector and boost innovation through research and development … [then Messers Chase and Fife report] … A second e-mail was sent to the Innovation Department’s media-relations account Tuesday after the department failed to respond. Later that day, a lawyer representing J.D. Irving e-mailed to say: “We understand that you and The Globe are about to publish a story regarding the Industrial Technological Benefits [ITB) and Cavendish Farms and the Irving companies.” … [and next] … Jonathan Lisus of the Toronto law firm Lax O’Sullivan Lisus Gottlieb LLP threatened to take legal action if the story contained allegations of improper conduct.“
There’s a lot more in the article including about the JD Irving conglomerate’s proclivity for using lawsuits as a first resort ~ rather like Justin Trudeau’s failed threat to sue Andrew Scheer for telling the truth? ~ including a threat to sue Postmedia defence writer David Pugliese for reporting on welding problems in the building of the Harry DeWolf class of Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships. The story seems to suggest that Irving and the government are, somehow, conspiring to suppress bad news … I don’t think so.
I am pretty sure that there is no requirement for bureaucrats to warn Irving when the media takes a very legitimate interest in how the taxpayers’ hard-earned money is being accounted for and the “Cavendish Farms frozen potato processing plant in Lethbridge” does, at first glance, and at second and third glance, too, seem an odd “industrial benefit” to be charged against an Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship ~ frozen being about the only connection. But I am not surprised when there are close, friendly contacts between mid-level and senior bureaucrats in Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) and the prime contractor on a HUGE project. There needs to be constant contact between PSPC bureaucrats and Irving‘s managers and executives. Most of the bureaucrats are trying to ensure that the contract is completed on time and within budget, a few are trying to land new jobs with Irving and its sub-contractors. The Irving executives and manager are, by and large, trying to ensure that they maximize the company’s profits for doing the work specified in the contract, a few are trying to get something from taxpayers for doing nothing of value. Most, on both sides, are good people trying to do their best for their employers.
Some bureaucrats think Irving was treated unfairly by the Harper government. They believe that Chantier Davie was excluded from the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy for good and valid reasons, it was near bankruptcy thanks to a generation of bad management, and they think that Project Resolve, which gave the Navy the MV Asterix on time and within budget, was nothing more than a political ploy to safeguard a seat in a Conservative riding in Quebec ~ the Davie shipyard facilities are in Conservative MP (and minister in the Harper cabinet) Stephen Blaney’s riding of Bellechasse -Les Etchemins -Lévis.
Many bureaucrats believe, as do I, that Scott Brison was acting well within the bounds of his duty as President of the Treasury Board when he decided to review the Project Resolve contract … I don’t know if he was induced, in any way, to do so by Irving and it doesn’t matter why he chose to do so; what he did is what the Treasury Board is supposed to do. Those bureaucrats also think that Davie and the Conservatives and the Navy, represented by Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, acted improperly to try to cheat on the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy for partisan political purposes and that, in the process, Irving was treated poorly. They may also think that Irving is still being treated unfairly by the media which has put it under a microscope thanks to the Mark Norman trial.
I have no brief for either Davie or Irving or the Trudeau government. I am on record as saying that Project Resolve/MV Asterix was good for Canada, good for the Royal Canadian Navy and Good for Davie. Equally, I have no brief for the public service, but I assert, with great confidence, that the vast majority of public servants, junior, senior and the famous Mandarins, are loyal, competent, hard-working and honest.
I think the Trudeau government needs to replaced in October because I think it is full of weak people pursuing ill-conceived policies, I do not think it is conspiring with Irving to subvert democracy, but a few civil servants are, probably, too lose too a few too many Irving executives.