Monday, September 01, 2014

The metamorphosis of Minister Dufus from "Helicopter Pete"to "Contract Pete" .....

"That's Minister Dufus to you!"

Good Day Readers:

Ever notice how these days Peter MacKay can't seem to get through a week without saying or doing something stupid? His stupidity will cost the Conservatives dearly come next election.

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk
Ex-MaKay Aid Jay Paxton won contract

Former staffer landed communications gig with security forum 3-months after departure

Brett Bundale Halifax City Hall
Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Press Secretary Jay Paxton, right, with former Defence Minister Peter MacKay as he is questioned by media on Afghanistan after caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (The Canadian Press)

Another former Peter MacKay staffer appears to be benefiting from a multi-million dollar federal grant awarded to a Washington, D.C., organization.

Jay Paxton was communications director in the office of the minister of national defence under MacKay from 2010 to 2013, and press secretary for the Department of National Defence before that.

Paxton served as MacKay’s spokesman and often travelled with the defence minister, including to Nova Scotia in November 2012 to attend the Halifax International Security Forum, according to Paxton’s travel expenses.

The non-profit organization is based in the United States but the annual conference is held in Halifax.

Paxton left the federal defence minster’s office in June 2013, about two months before MacKay was shuffled to the Justice Department.

By October 2013, Paxton’s name appeared as the communications contact on a news release issued by the Halifax International Security Forum — one year after he travelled to the conference with MacKay and only three months after leaving his federal post.

Upon leaving the minister’s office, Paxton launched his own Ottawa-based public relations firm PAX Strategies.

On his firm’s website, the Halifax International Security Forum is listed under “clients and partners.”

In an interview Wednesday, Paxton said he submitted a competitive bid on a contract to provide communications for the security forum and emerged as the winning bidder.

“I started a company and I bid on a contract to provide communications solutions for the 2013 Halifax forum and I was successful with that bid,” he said from Ottawa.

“I had one contract with them and that was to deliver communications solutions for the 2013 forum,” Paxton said. “I put together a professional, experienced, non-partisan team to deliver that contract.”

Paxton declined to say how much the contract was worth, noting that it was “a competitive process that was put forward so we don’t publicly discuss those fees.”

While he acknowledged that his former role working for MacKay gave him a “solid understanding” of the security forum, he said his bid and the communications solutions he provided were non-partisan.

Joseph Hall, vice-president of the Halifax International Security Forum, said Paxton submitted the most comprehensive, competitive, high-value bid.

He said Paxton offered an expertise on the event and the local media market that other bidders, which were American, did not.

“He had the capacity to put a Canadian team together that could work with us,” Hall said. “We looked at the value for money, the ability to deliver the product and their special knowledge,” and Paxton was the strongest candidate, he said.

Furthermore, Paxton had approached the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner before submitting a bid, both Hall and Paxton said. Hall said given Paxton was cleared by the ethics commissioner, “there was no further question that it was patronage.”

Sherry Perreault, a director with the office of the Ethics Commissioner, said in an email that the office’s investigations are confidential. But she added that individuals who have lodged or been the subject of a complaint are not bound by the same confidentiality rules.

Meanwhile, ahead of last year’s conference MacKay announced that the federal government had renewed its funding for the security forum, despite the Washington, D.C., organization’s failure to make the event self-sufficient as outlined in a 2010 funding agreement.

Ottawa committed $9.8 million, through the Defence Department and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, for the non-profit to continuing organizing the conference through to 2018.

On Tuesday the Canadian Taxpayers Federation released documents obtained through the federal Access to Information and Privacy Act. The documents raised questions about another former MacKay staffer, Peter Van Praagh.

The former senior policy adviser in the Department of Foreign Affairs under MacKay is now president of the Halifax International Security Forum. In 2010, the federal government earmarked $9.96 million for the conference and stipulated in its contract that Van Praagh would be project manager of the Halifax event.

Kevin Lacey, Atlantic director of the taxpayers group, said there’s a troubling pattern of behaviour at the Halifax International Security Forum

“This organization has already received millions from taxpayers and we deserve to know who the Halifax security forum employs, how much they’re paid and who they have service contracts with,” he said. “If the Halifax Security Forum wants to get taxpayers money, they should be accountable for it.”

About the Author
BRETT BUNDALE HALIFAX CITY HALL

E-Mail: bbundale@herald.ca
Twitter: @CH_bbundale

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