How the Conservatives Helped us (or didn’t) Part III

October 2nd, 2016

“The Kenney hand-delivered letter was delivered today.  I got to meet Ron Thompson, the charming idiot who was so stunningly rude to me on the phone a few weeks ago.  While he was reasonably well behaved, his demeanour was everything I was expecting it to be.”  This, from a RestoreCSA email, dated June 25, 2013, to a colleague in Ottawa.

Ron Thompson calls himself a “Government and Issues Management Specialist,” which appears to be a self-made title for his official role as Constituency Director, which itself is a nice way of saying “Secretary.”  He worked for Jason Kenney, he ran Kenney’s constituency office.  Now he works for a cab company.

RestoreCSA readers will recall that Ron Thompson called us in February of 2013 in what was then “the rudest telephone experience of my business career.”  Thompson’s call was also part of Kenney’s efforts to avoid knowledge of the growing CSA scandal. 

On one occasion, a well known business executive wrote to Hal Danchilla, a fixture of Kenney’s campaign to lead the Alberta PC’s, to warn against tolerating corruption in the Conservative Government.  From this letter;

I “had a chat with Gordon [Knight] again about why Jason should meet with him about the CSA:
1.  He is regional minister for Southern AB and is responsible for AB issues that impact the national government.
2.  Gordon was advised by parliament and by Jason’s constituency president he is the right person to see.
3.  This was confirmed by both Peggy Anderson and Ron Thompson.”

The letter then offered an explanation for the advice Kenney was getting in Ottawa;

“The reason the MPs are advised by the civil servants that the CSA isn’t a fed agency, doesn’t report to government, etc. is there are a number of these same bureaucrats with legal culpability for CSA’s conduct.  Naturally, they are busy convincing ministers, like Jason, to cover for them without regard to the political cost of their elected masters.”

That’s an accurate assessment, by the way, this executive knows how Ottawa works.

Their closing line was;  “Again, I am offering and highly recommending that you meet with Gord and vet him yourself.”

On September 10, 2013, Danchilla responded in self preserving brevity;

“I’m not working with anyone that has hired Sheila Copps.  But, I still love you.”

Ms Copps response of September 20th?  “Hey Hal, Why the hard feelings?”

Well, that’s a rhetorical question if there ever was one.  Hal Danchilla was looking for an excuse to avoid dealing with the CSA issue.  If he met with RestoreCSA to discuss the scandal then he would have had to brief Jason Kenney on it.  If Kenney was briefed on corruption at CSA, he’d have to do something about it, but fighting corruption wasn’t on Jason Kenney’s radar.

But it should’ve been.  Indeed, the Conservative Government was elected in response to Adscam, it was put in power to clean up corruption.

On June 15, 2013, we outlined the problem to a senior operative in the Conservative Party.  We were blunt;

“Far from fighting what Harper called the ‘bureaucratic clubs for civil service elites’, these three MPs have championed them.  James Moore has even endorsed the idea that domestic law can be privately owned by politically connected companies (the CSA scandal). Jason Kenney’s Calgary staff (ie Ron Thompson) is a case study in bullying and condescension, hardly the sort of service we voted for.”

Then we got a tip.  A Conservative insider had heard about our plight at the hands of their Party and offered an off-the-record discussion.  Apparently, on the inside anyway, Jason Kenney’s staff are known as his Achilles heel.  Kenney, we were told, doesn’t know how to hire people and doesn’t know how to delegate anything.  He does it all himself, hence his reputation for long hours of work.  So we did some digging into the backgrounds of the people Kenney’s hired.

Naturally, we started with Ron Thompson. 

Apart from being a Most Esteemed Government and Issues Management Specialist Executive Guy, he is also the architect of the Royal Roads University acquisition.  According to Ron Thompson, “one of the highlights of [my] career so far was when I put forward a plan, organized a group, and arranged financing to purchase and operate two universities [sic] Royal Roads University and College International de St. Jean.”

Having met him however, he just didn’t seem to have the gravitas to execute a major acquisition, much less two of them.  So we made some inquires.

We wrote a letter to the former Director of the Colleges and Institutional Planning Branch, Government of British Columbia, a man who would later serve as Vice President of Royal Roads University.  Here’s what we wrote to him;

We are “currently doing research for a story on Jason Kenney, MP and have noted that his Calgary office manager, Mr. Ron Thompson, appears to have been the architect and organizer of the Royal Roads College / University transfer some years ago (source: https://ca.linkedin.com/in/uqwweiy3). [Apparently] you were heavily involved in this transfer in your former role with the Provincial Government. Are you able to confirm that Mr. Thompson was indeed;  1) the architect of the purchase and transfer plan, 2) the principal organizer of the transaction, and;  3) the lead financier / finance broker for both the purchase and the operation of Royal Roads?”

Well, this started a long email string and, happily, we were Cc’d throughout it.

The former Director of Colleges forwarded our questions to a some of his former colleagues with the following note;

“I did get this email about the early days of the creation of RRU, and I am not I recall Ron Thompson [sic]… Can either of you refresh my memory?”

But Thompson didn’t feature in anyone else’s memory of the transfer either.  From the responses;

“I was very much involved in the transition in that I worked for you then Gloria during the hand over,  I do not recall who had the lead from the RRU/Federal side so it could have been Ron Thompson, though the name does not ring a bell.   […] to say he was the broker for the initial operation of the university seems a stretch.  You were the lead in that regard in my mind.   

And again; 

“On the province side, as I recall you, then Gloria (after you went out there to lead the project on the ground)  had the lead and stick handled a committee that was headed by Keith Saddlemyer, and included Scott Wallace, and Catherine Vertessi.   Prior to legislation, we created a society under the Companies Act as I recall and I don’t think there was too much money involved though there might have been a nominal one dollar amount to secure what I believe was a long term lease (99yrs?).  My claim to fame is I hired Fred Oppel, a lawyer to create the society as a legal entity that could proceed with the seminal steps in establishing the university and I signed off on the original request to establish the society which named the original board members which included yourself if memory serves.”

So, no role for Ron Thompson then?

It seems not.  The Assistant Deputy Minister involved in the transaction said of Thompson, “I don’t recall anyone by that name.”

The “highlight of his career” doesn’t appear to have happened.  Yet Thompson “obtained this wide and varied knowledge in many different settings.”  How reassuring.

Government employment does not usually attract the best and the brightest.  The CSA is testament to lacklustre management in government agencies, just as Thompson and Danchilla are reminders that every politician, even Jason Kenney, can be undone by poor hiring choices.

The largest power in the land is the Federal Government, yet it has done nothing across two administrations and spanning over four years to fight the corruption corroding one of their own agencies.  The least powerful entity in the land is the small business, and ours is very small indeed.  Yet we have exposed CSA conduct and Government complicity.  With no arrogance intended, we have accomplished more on this issue with nearly zero dollars then the Government has accomplished with unlimited access to the Treasury’s dollars.  The Government has an army of civil servants to wage their war against us, whereas we hire and contract selectively, carefully, for maximum impact on minimal investment.

The difference in effectiveness?  At RestoreCSA, we hire well.