column was published in the North
Shore News on
Feb. 2, 2000)
By Leo Knight
the best efforts of the federal government, the gross
mismanagement of the Transitional Jobs Fund within the Human
Resources Ministry (HDRC) has not quite disappeared.
but not quite.
suggested last week that the proposed subsidy to Canadian NHL
teams was nothing more than a smokescreen designed to focus
attention away from the scandalous incompetence of the HDRC in
the disposition of over three billion taxpayer dollars.
appears they almost got away with it, but the story now seems to
have got some legs and is beginning to be an issue across this
minister responsible, Jane Stewart, was forced to issue a
statement last Friday trying to undo some of the damage.
release begins by saying that "there has been a great deal
of misinformation and confusion in the last few days. ..."
then said the words which immediately make me suspicious of any
politician who deigns to utter them: "I wish to set the
record straight ... "
she really means is that we've got it right and she now has to
muddy the waters as much as possible.
for her, her defence is weak.
be clear on several counts," she begins. "Money is not
missing. HDRC has the records of all cheques issued through our
accounting mechanisms, and we know to whom we made
payments...," she pleads in defence of the department
know to whom they doled out the governmental largesse.
doesn't mention that of the 400-plus files that were examined at
random by the auditor general, 87 of the files were completely
empty of any documentation. Nothing, not even one of those
infuriating yellow sticky things that inhabit our lives.
also conveniently didn't mention that her own riding of Brant, a
"have" area by any measuring stick, received over $30
million from HDRC in the past three years.
in that figure is the Brant School of Hairdressing which,
according to the HDRC, received $11,400 in job creation grants.
Not so, according to the owner of the hairstyling school, Lena
VanKerrebroeck. According to her she never received a dime and
like the rest of us only knows the one-way flow of money to
businesses on the HDRC list from Stewart's riding include
Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, the Prison Art Foundation and
Dunk's Custom Log Sawing. Even the giant sportswear company
Adidas got a little of the taxpayer's lolly.
it's not just Stewart's riding where there were questionable
grants. One needs to look very carefully at the prime minister's
riding of Shawinigan to understand the problem. There are a host
of dubious grants to a variety of businesses in the PM's
backyard, some of which have been reported by the National
Post. But one of the most telling is the hotel project
called Auberge Gouvernor Shawinigan owned by Belgian businessman
Pierre Thibault, who has, shall we say, a checkered past.
built his $6.4-million hotel with $2,025,000 of federal grant
money, including $600,000 in money from HDRC announced on March
13, 1997, without any departmental paperwork whatsoever.
enough, Chretien further publicized the grant in his
constituency bulletin in April of 1997, the month the federal
election was called. Funnily enough, HDRC's own guidelines say
that grant money will not be given to restaurant and bar
seems that the HDRC administers the Transitional Job Fund as
nothing more than a political slush fund for the Liberal party.
And we get to pay for the privilege.
truly naive among us are wondering why no heads have rolled as a
result of this scandal. But let's have a quick look at some of
minister responsible is Jane Stewart, the daughter of Bob Nixon,
former leader of the Ontario Liberal party and chief bagman for
the Libs in Ontario.
has been groomed for power most of her life. According to my
sources in Ottawa she is the anointed one, the choice of
Chretien as his replacement when he retires.
is responsible for an annual budget of, are you ready for this,
$26 billion. To put this in perspective, the budget administered
by Health Minister Allan Rock, once considered a front-runner
for the top job, is only $1.8 billion.
former deputy minister for HDRC is Mel Cappe. He was promoted to
Clerk of the Privy Council. He is the de facto head of
the federal civil service and principal secretary to the
other words, he wields the most power in government.
sets the agenda for cabinet. Only he decides what will be
discussed. He decides who will see the prime minister.
is virtually omnipotent and answerable to no one. His salary
went from $165,000 to $250,000 per year with the promotion.
bureaucrat who was responsible for the administration of the
Transitional Job Fund is Martha Nixon.
the time of this mess she was Senior Director General, in charge
of Operations of the HRDC Investment Branch. She is now the
Assistant Deputy Minister in charge of Operations in Immigration
Canada. Any wonder why we have a problem with our refugee
as a final insult to us, the forlorn taxpayers, senior managers
in HDRC were given performance bonuses in 1996-1997 totalling
$980,000. If you're not sick yet, there's something wrong.
is a stench to this scandal that will not go away. One wonders
if this mess, dubbed "Shovelgate" by Southam columnist
Lawrence Martin, will be what finally inspires the battered, but
thus far apathetic, Canadian taxpayer to start a tax revolt.
some countries it would be enough to overthrow the government.