How the Conservatives Helped Us (or didn’t)

January 24th, 2016

“Good morning Peggy.  As discussed, I enclose a briefing note in advance of our meeting at 10:30AM on January 9th.”

So started an email to Peggy Anderson, a Ministerial Director in the Harper Government.  It was a follow-up to a meeting we had scheduled the previous week.

“As outlined in the briefing note, it is the view of PSKnight Co. Ltd. that this regulatory entity is operating outside the rule of Canadian law, largely stemming from its decision to engage in commercial activities within the market that it is regulating.”

Ms Anderson received this email at 9:14AM on January 8th, 2013.  Before noon that day, Ms Anderson had cancelled the meeting.  Why?

Well, continuing the email; “Resolution will likely necessitate federal action to disentangle the current CSA [aka: Canadian Standards Association] structure and to amend the federal CSA charter, both in order to return the activities of CSA to within the bounds of regulatory necessity.  Ideally, we would like to work together to ensure that these objectives are accomplished with a minimum of political turbulence.”

When she scheduled the meeting the previous week, Ms Anderson had only known that the subject of the meeting was regulatory.  When she reviewed the Briefing Note however, she learned the scale of the problem at CSA and that it was her Minister who’d be responsible to clean it up.

In this light, Ms Anderson stopped emailing PS Knight Co, instead choosing to cancel the meeting by phone.  You know, no paper trail.

There was no reason given for the cancelled meeting, at least at first.  It’s just that she was suddenly too busy that day.  And the next, and any day likely to feature a meeting on this subject.  Then came the official reason.

“The CSA is part of Government, so its a conflict of interest for the responsible Minister to deal with it.”  Sound strange?  In fairness, there is a kernel of truth in her claim.  The CSA launched its lawsuit against PS Knight in 2012, so the meeting request was in the context of ongoing litigation.  Yet the entirety of the issues contained in the Briefing Note were external to that litigation.  Beyond this, the Government had just finished its fight with the Canadian Wheat Board, eliminating its “single desk” marketing on August 1, 2012, and it did so in the context of ongoing litigation.  Never mind, Anderson was now committed to her excuse.

In the years that followed, we were never granted a meeting with Ms Anderson, she kept her Minister well protected from knowledge of Government corruption.  And which Minister would that be?  Any guesses?

“He’s been voted the ‘best overall,’ ‘hardest working,’ and ‘most knowledgable’ MP by his colleagues”.  Here’s another hint; “He served […] as the Minister of National Defence in 2015”.  Another hint?  “In 1997, Calgary voters elected him for the first time as a Member of Parliament.” 

That’s right, it’s Jason Kenney.

Most famous for being Minister for Immigration, Jason Kenney was notorious for his long hours and hard work in the immigrant community.  It’s politicking, and the practice is the same in the immigrant community as in any community, it’s making the best possible impression with the most impressionable.  He was awfully keen on it.

The trouble of course, was that Kenney wasn’t as keen on the actual job of being a Parliamentarian.  He was keen on soirees, big splashy affairs, with media, well dressed people, and wine and cheese.

In contrast, a “federally chartered regulatory entity mandated to ‘coordinate the efforts of producers’ for the standardization of engineering materials in Canada” is sheer drudgery.  Kenney preferred the wine and cheese.

Thus, in early 2013, we failed to secure a meeting with Kenney or his Regional Director.  It was fairly clear that Kenney was being protected for reasons of plausible deniability.  That is, they wanted to him to be able to say, convincingly, that “I have no knowledge of corruption in this Agency but, of course, if I’d known I would have taken action.”  That was Anderson’s job, to shield her boss.

So we approached from a different angle.  Through a well placed third party, we arranged a back-channel message to Kenney’s personal email, by-passing his protectors.  Kenney ignored the message.

Then, in February of 2013, we received an unsolicited phone call from a Mr. Ron Thompson, the Minister’s Executive Assistant.  The call was impressive, as recounted to a colleague shortly afterward;

“Ron Thompson’s call was one of the rudest telephone experiences of my business career.  I don’t think I got a single sentence fully delivered, every line of speech was interrupted condescendingly.  It was like he was trying to bait me, trying to get me angry.  I’ve endured this before, so it didn’t work.  Still, he persisted, contradicting everything I said, even the basics about Kenney’s position as Provincial deputy.  He kept saying ‘no’, or equivalent, as in ‘no, we aren’t going to help you’ and ‘no, this isn’t our issue,’ and so-forth.  Eventually, I commented that this sort of condescension doesn’t really help Kenney’s reputation in Calgary, if it happens to enough of us word will get out.  He responded by accusing me of terrorism, that I was ‘targeting’ Kenney for some sort of unspecified hit job.  It was quite a peculiar phone call.”

Perhaps the most interesting feature of Thompson’s out-of-the-blue condescension was his excuse for so happily not helping;  the CSA, apparently, “is a private company, so it would be a conflict of interest for Kenney to deal with it.”  Remember the excuse of Kenney’s Regional Director?  “The CSA is part of Government…”  Bit of a contradiction, this.

Well, we kept pushing.  On June 21, 2013, we wrote to Jason Kenney requesting a meeting with him or his staff “regarding the ambiguous legal status” of CSA and our growing concerns about the growing pile of CSA problems we were then discovering.

We outlined the fact that CSA “has become a commercial entity vested with the powers of government,” that “CSA is lobbying Industry Canada [for] protection from civil litigation,” and that “CSA has been granted de-facto powers of taxation over Canada’s industrial and construction sectors.”  Those statements ought to be jarring, especially to a man apparently dedicated to clean government.

We continued;  “the CSA uses its federally chartered regulatory position to advance its commercial interests.  There are sizeable legal liabilities associated with tolerating a federal agency that believes itself free to utilize the power of government while freed of the accountabilities of government.”  We suggested a solution; “In order to restore the integrity, performance and reputation of CSA, we believe that CSA needs to become either an entirely regulatory agency as envisioned at its inception, or an entirely commercial entity without regulatory responsibility or authority.” 

Of course, agreeing to a meeting would eliminate Kenney’s plausible deniability.  Actually, so would knowledge of our request.  So, to offset plausible deniability, your correspondent hand delivered the request to Kenney’s office.  That’s when we met his EA, the always entertaining Ron Thompson.  We’ll write more on that later.

Our letter to Jason Kenney likely never made it anywhere near Jason Kenney.  Part of Thompson’s job, like that of Peggy Anderson, is to protect Kenney from embarrassing information.  To ensure that the Minister did indeed hear about the CSA problem therefore, we used a second back-channel route to the Minister’s personal inbox.

This third party knows Kenney pretty well and can afford to be blunt.  Quoting from their email to Kenney; “The evidence against the CSA is significant and strongly suggests a series of long standing criminal activities by them.”

Like the previous third party communication however, we heard absolutely nothing in response from Jason Kenney.  Yes, we can verify that he was fully informed of the CSA scandal, he just didn’t want to deal with it.  He was too busy impressing the impressionable.

He’s Jason Kenney, after all.  He was Minister for Immigration, Wine and Cheese.