- Written by Gordon Prentice
Just when you think there is nothing more to be said about a political scandal that happened in Britain over 20 years ago… along comes the Pandora Papers.
I see that the former UK Conservative Cabinet Minister, Jonathan Aitken, received £166,000 (C$282,000) for his hagiography of Kazakhstan’s autocratic president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. The book was published in 2009.
According to the UK's Guardian newspaper
“the Kazakh government appears to have secretly commissioned and paid for his book”.
The money was paid in tranches from 2007-2010 and was
“routed via Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands and discreetly sent to Oxford and the ex-MP’s company, Aitken Consultancy & Research Services Limited”.
Cutting out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism
Way back in December 1997, when I was an MP at Westminster, I called for Aitken to be prosecuted for perjury.
In 1993 when he was Minister for Defence Procurement his Paris Ritz Hotel bill was paid by aides of the Saudi Royal family. As a Minister he was banned from accepting hospitality which might place him under an obligation. It was a (relatively) small story that snowballed into something very big. Aitken sued the Guardian for libel, promising to use:
"the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play . . . to cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism."
In court, Aitken's version of events quickly unravelled and the action collapsed when it became obvious he had been telling lies about what had really happened.
He was subsequently convicted of perjury and sentenced to 18 months in prison but was released after seven months.
In his 2000 autobiography “Pride and Perjury” he absurdly blames me for his misfortune, claiming I launched a “surprising attack” on him during the 1997 Christmas Adjournment Debate which, to his mind, persuaded the police to investigate.
“This obscure parliamentary occasion is traditionally a minor, “last day of term” event in which backbenchers raise parochial items about their constituencies. To the astonishment, and in some cases the outrage, of the 15 or so MPs who were taking part in the debate, Mr Gordon Prentice, the Labour Member for Pendle, used the occasion to devote his entire speech to the view that I should be prosecuted for perjury…. He said I had a history of arms dealing and sponging off very rich Arabs.”
It all happened a long time ago and I considered it ancient history.
Which it is.
But it is still worth noting that Aitken was the paid apologist for an autocrat who ruled Khazakstan for almost thirty years.
Three years ago, Aitken was ordained as an Anglican priest.
Update on 7 October 2021: The Toronto Star editorial: Pandora Papers - Time to end the free ride
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Is Richmond Hill the most dysfunctional Council in Ontario?
In a word, yes.
(Photo: DiPaola front row 2nd from right. Perrelli front row second from left)
On 15 September the long serving Mayor, Dave Barrow, abruptly resigned from the Council days after returning to work following a six month long leave of absence, taken for medical reasons.
In Barrow’s absence the Council has been frequently deadlocked 4-4, paralysing decision-making.
In a parting shot, Barrow persuaded his colleagues at a special council meeting on 8 September to eliminate one of the two deputy mayors. Carmine Perrelli lost out to his rival, Joe Di Paola, who has been Acting Mayor for seven months.
Barrow’s resignation has triggered a battle for the succession with DiPaola and Perrelli being the two most likely candidates.
By-Election or Appointment?
But how should the Mayoral vacancy be filled?
DiPaola wanted to commission a polling firm to consult local voters on what to do next. A by-election would cost over $600,000. DiPaola believed this to be a complete waste of money given there will be a council-wide general election next year, in October. An alternative would be to appoint someone to act as Mayor until then. The Municipal Act permits this.
Carmine Perrelli, belligerent, argumentative and self-important, demands a by-election, saying the people must decide who is to be Mayor.
After a tumultuous Council meeting, councillors decide on a by-election which will be formally agreed at the next Council meeting on 13 October 2021.
Perrelli’s boorish behaviour has been, by any measure, beyond the pale.
He protests that DiPaola rudely interrupts him “without any procedural justification”.
Yet he interrupts others.
As I see it, DiPaola is a model of self-restraint, making his position clear in a tranquil, understated way while Perrelli rages and bellows and shakes his fist at the Moon.
Perrelli demands silence from others so he can concentrate on what he is saying:
“I would appreciate it Mr. Chairman if you would stop chewing while I'm speaking and making noise with your candy bar. It's very distracting.”
Perrelli demands the Council suspends its sitting while he takes a bathroom break:
“I don't have a point of order (but) I don't want to miss any of the comments my colleagues are making but I need to have a bio break so if you could just hold the process for two or three minutes I would really appreciate that.”
DiPaola calmly replies:
“You're welcome to leave (but) we are not going to recess.”
No longer welcome
DiPaola decides to exclude Perrelli from the meeting, citing his disruptive behaviour. He tells the Council Clerk:
“Councillor Perrelli is no longer welcome in this meeting, OK. His votes are not gonna count. I'm going to exclude him from the proceedings going forward. I've been as nice as I possibly could but… please mute his microphone. He is no longer part of this meeting.”
Perrelli is incandescent.
DiPaola’s ruling is challenged and the Council divides 4-4. The clerk advises that in a tie the Chair’s ruling stands.
DiPaola is pressed by Councillor Beros to allow Perrelli back into the meeting:
“When it comes to a vote of this magnitude I believe it is important that all members who are in attendance are able to vote. They’ve been democratically elected to their position and each vote matters.
I am gonna ask you for the last time, Sir, Deputy Mayor, Regional Councillor Perrelli, is here. His vote should matter on this motion."
“Councillor Beros, I certainly don’t want a vote of this magnitude to be affected by the absence of a member who was present at one point during the meeting. If Regional Councillor Perrelli is standing by and wants to sincerely apologise for his behaviour, accept responsibility for disruption of the meeting I will permit him to sit in and cast a vote so long as he agrees not to speak out of turn. We appreciate that.”
“… Thank you Council for reinstating me back into this meeting. (Laughs) Everybody knows who I am. I am very passionate about what I believe in and sometimes I get carried away."
"Thank you for the opportunity to come back because I think it’s important. And I will try to keep my passion under control.”
Note 1: Richmond Hill is represented on York Regional Council by its Mayor and two Regional Councillors - Joe DiPaola and Carmine Perrelli. Currently Joe DiPaola sits on York Regional Council as Richmond Hill's Acting Mayor. Godwin Chan is Acting Regional Councillor. And Carmine Perrelli as Regional Councillor.
Note 2: Regional Councillor Perrelli blocks critics from commenting on his tweets – just like Newmarket-Aurora’s newly re-elected Liberal MP, Tony Van Bynen. York regional Council will be holding a seminar in the Fall on how elected members use social media. It is expected the “You are Blocked” issue will be considered. The question is whether politicians (and not private individuals) whose salaries are paid for by taxpayers should be able to block on-topic comments which are not abusive or threatening.
Update on 12 October 2021: Minutes of the special meeting of Richmond Hill Council on 29 September 2021 are here.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Today, 30 September 2021, is the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
There is so much to reflect on.
In June, a shoes memorial sprang up spontaneously on Parliament Hill following the discovery of 751 unmarked graves at a former residential school in Saskatchewan. (Below)
Calls to Action
Yet six years later, only fourteen of the Calls to Action have been implemented. The creation of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is one single step on a long path ahead.
The report calls for the protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. This would include
“the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children”.
Personally, I hope to see a national memorial in Ottawa which would force us to confront this truly terrible chapter in Canada’s past.
Many years ago I visited the holocaust memorial in Berlin. It covers 200,000 square feet in the heart of the city, close to the Brandenburg Gate and to the German Parliament, the Bundestag.
Some find it lacking.
But, to me, it was powerful and overwhelming and impossible to ignore. Or forget.
We already have a national memorial to the victims of the holocaust in Ottawa.
It is surely time to have one for the victims of the residential schools.
What form it should take is quite another matter.
From the Globe and Mail 30 September 2021: A Day of Remembrance is Good. Fixing the Legacy of Residential Schools is Better. and Court upholds landmark compensation order for Indigenous children
Update on 1 October 2021: Editorial from the Toronto Star: Trudeau's holiday makes a mockery of reconciliation day. And from Susan Delacourt: Justin Trudeau may have needed a holiday but he chose the wrong day to take it.
Update on 2 October 2021: from the Toronto Star: With his trip to Tofino Justin Trudeau just proved his critics are right about him
Update on 4 October 2021: From the Globe and Mail: Trudeau apologises
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Southlake Regional Medical Centre has agreed to an Independent Review of patient safety and staffing levels in the Medical Assessment Consultation Unit (MACU).
The MACU is described as "an acute, intensive in-patient unit for patients who don't require the Intensive Care Unit but have medically complex issues needing assessment and whose conditions can change instantly".
Separately, nurses have been raising concerns about the team-based nursing model in the Intensive Care Unit but the hospital has brushed these aside.
The Chief Executive, Arden Krystal, herself a former nurse, even refused to meet the nurses.
Newmarket Today covers the story here.
Update on 30 September 2021: from the Era Newmarket: Health Minister must stop "unsafe" care at Southlake. Vicki McKenna, the President of the Ontario Nurses Association, says Ontario's Health Minister and Newmarket-Aurora MPP, Christine Elliott, has not responded to requests for a meeting with the nurses "even though they are her own constituents".
This morning I sent the following email to my MPP:
Dear Ms Elliott
I am a constituent of yours.
You will have read the article in today’s Newmarket Era in which the President of the Ontario Nurses Association, Vicki McKenna, claims that:
“Team nursing in (Southlake’s) Intensive Care unit is dangerous. It was tried - in a failed attempt to save money - and discarded decades ago.”
She says that 95% of the hospital’s ICU registered nurses and registered respiratory therapists want team-based nursing in the ICU stopped. We are told they have asked for a meeting with you but have received no response.
Besides being my MPP you are also the Minister of Health.
Can I ask if you intend to meet the nurses to hear their concerns? And if not, why not?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Update on 10 Ctober 2021: Dawn Gallagher Murphy, the MPP's Office Manager, writes:
"Your concerns are acknowledged. Your email is received. As to the specific concern raised, yes, I can acknowledge that MPP Elliott is aware of these concerns. I cannot comment on anything further."
Update on 18 October 2021: The Ontario Nurses Association confirms that the nurses have not, as yet, been invited to meet Christine Elliott to discuss their concerns.
Update on 26 October 2021: From Newmarket Today: Nurses get petition going on Intensive Care Unit staffing concerns
Update on 9 December 2021: from Newmarket Today: Southlake abandons ICU nursing strategy
- Written by Gordon Prentice
This morning's Globe and Mail editorial reminds us how the Conservatives choose their leader.
Leadership hopefuls have to appeal to a tiny unrepresentative base to stand a chance of winning. And then, to win a Federal Election, they have to dump the commitments made during the leadership contest and appeal to the wider electorate. It is a Sisyphean task.
And yet the knives are out. The Conservative caucus meets on 5 October 2021 and MPs will decide whether they want Erin O'Toole to stay or go. (Right: O'Toole voting on 20 September)
The Globe and Mail sums it up this way:
"Whatever happens, both sides of the debate need to acknowledge two things: (A) yes, in a sense Mr O'Toole did betray the Party's most fervent supporters; and (B) if he wanted to win the election, he had no choice - thanks to the way the party chooses its leader."
O'Toole v Mackay
The Federal Conservative leadership vote is decided using a points system which gives ridings equal weight regardless of the number of members casting a vote. O’Toole targeted Quebec ridings with tiny memberships, playing to their passions and prejudices.
A riding-by-riding analysis by the CBC tells us there were as few as 1,210 votes between O’Toole and Peter Mackay, not the official margin of 27,000. And if Mackay had gotten his act together - targetting riding associations with miniscule memberships and telling them what they wanted to hear - he could have won.
In politics there are no prizes for coming second.
Mackay should have had a quiet word with the master of political manipulation and skulduggery, Ontario’s former Progressive Conservative leader, Patrick Brown.
Brown's modus operandi is set out for all to see in his vengeful autobiography: “Takedown: the attempted political assassination of Patrick Brown”.
It is a classic guide on how to climb to the top of the conservative greasy poll when ethics don’t matter.
Brown v Elliott
Brown courted the votes of New Canadians by taking up their concerns. Any concern would do. He explains how he defeated Christine Elliott, now Newmarket-Aurora's MPP, in her own backyard of Oshawa. He boasts about signing up 10,000 Tamil members.
“It was thanks to the support I had in the Indian, Tamil and Filipino communities. They won the riding and the leadership contest for me.”
"These communities supported me because I had supported them."
Christine Elliott subsequently ran for the PC leadership against Doug Ford but lost (again) even though she had more votes from individual members.
Sleight of hand
Leadership contests shouldn't be conducted by sleight of hand.
We need full transparency to help us understand how our political leaders get to the top - and what they said and did to get there.
Note: Justin Trudeau won the 2013 Liberal leadership contest getting 81,389 votes out of 104,552 ballots cast during the week-long vote.
The voting system gave Canada's (then) 308 ridings equal weight in the final tally. Each riding was given 100 points, and a candidate got the number of points equal to the percentage of votes they won in that riding.
The NDP does it differently.
'The Greens have their own problems.
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