Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Big Jungle Jim goes to Ottawa and gets a secret promotion!

Good Day Readers:

This is an excellent article by Marie-Danielle Smith which appeared recently in Embassy Magazine.
Marie-Danielle Smith

So your sunny ways, middle class Liberal federal government is more open, accountable and transparent eh? Ha!

Clare L. Pieuk

Carr replaces McKenna as Chair of powerful defence committee

A membership revealed, sources say shipbuilding scuffles promoted secrecy

Marie-Danielle Smith
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. (Embassy and Hill Times file photos)

The Liberal government has finally revealed which ministers sit on a powerful cabinet committee that is vetting major defence procurement files like new fighter jets and frigates.
Until this week, the government wouldn’t even admit the committee existed, despite it holding meetings as early as December.
The revelation comes as Ottawa's shipbuilding saga heats up, with shipyards jockeying for position.
The defence committee “meets as required” and is mandated to “consider and co-ordinate major acquisitions of defence equipment,” according to a document posted online and dated February 22.
A well-positioned source tells Embassy the committee named a new Chair last week, replacing Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. The new Chair is Jim Carr, the Minister of Natural Resources. The Committee is Vice-Chaired by Treasury Board President Scott Brison.
Other members include Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, Procurement Minister Judy Foote, Transport Minister Marc Garneau, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo, and Science Minister Kirsty Duncan.
Ms McKenna doesn’t make the list, even though multiple sources confirmed that she was still chairing the committee’s meetings as of January.
She and her office recently told reporters she is not involved, but would only say so in the present tense.
Multiple calls to Ms McKenna’s office for clarification went unanswered, as did calls to the Prime Minister’s Office.
A member of Ms Foote’s office, one of the sources to originally confirm Ms McKenna as Chair, could not confirm what Ms McKenna’s status was or why she would have left the committee.
Shipbuilding expert hired
The government's refusal to reveal the committee's existence, mandate or membership was confusing to many in Canada’s defence community, as well as the Conservative opposition.
Sources say the committee has already devoted some time to looking at the replacement of CF-18 fighter jets, and the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy that will replace Canada's fleet of navy frigates as well as other ships.
Two meetings have occurred since the beginning of the year, Embassy has confirmed. One meeting on January 28 was attended by top military brass including Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance. His office would not confirm or deny the meeting.
Last week, on February 19, the Committee met to specifically discuss shipbuilding issues. A few days later, on February 22, the government announced it was going to hire an outside shipbuilding consultant.
The announcement was made jointly by four Committee Members: Ms Foote, Mr. Sajjan, Mr. Tootoo and Mr. Bains.
Steve Brunton, a retired Rear Admiral from the United Kingdom's Royal Navy, has “extensive experience in overseeing shipbuilding programs and naval acquisitions,” reads a government press release.
“He will provide Ministers and senior government officials with independent expert advice on multiple facets of the NSPS, including risk and program management, construction benchmarking and competitiveness and performance and operational improvements.”
Mr. Brunton is coming in on a one-year contract that can be renewed for up to 10 years. He’s not the only recent British import—two other British officials are reportedly on loan to help shape Canada’s upcoming defence policy review.
Davie never heard from government
Scuffles between competing shipyards have already caused some embarrassment to the Liberal government. That’s the reason this cabinet committee’s activities are so tightly controlled, multiple sources have suggested.
With the government actively reviewing shipbuilding, organizations such as the Shipbuilding Association of Canada have seen an opening for suggestions to reverse the controversial decisions by the previous government, including awarding Irving Shipbuilding a prime contracting role for navy combat vessels.
On the other side of the country, Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards is overseeing non-combat vessels.
Overall estimated costs for the NSPS have been skyrocketing, leading experts to conclude that the government has a lot of re-evaluating to do.
"Irving Shipbuilding is supportive of the government's intention to actively seek input from industry," Kevin McCoy, the president of Irving Shipbuilding, told Embassy in an emailed statement. "We will continue to work closely with the Government of Canada to ensure the right foundations for the Canadian Surface Combatant Program are in place."
Competitor Davie Shipbuilding, out of Quebec, lost out on the bulkier contracts of the NSPS, not least because it was insolvent at the time. 
But on November 30, the government approved a $700-million contract with Davie for an interim supply ship to be delivered in 2017. That will tide the navy over until new ships are built. The last two supply ships had had to be retired in 2014, and new ones won’t be available until 2020.
Other shipyards including Seaspan and Irving complained this was a sole-source contract.
Reports by former CBC reporter James Cudmore, who now works for Mr. Sajjan, emerged earlier in November that Irving had sent letters about that to several cabinet ministers, including Ms Foote and Mr. Sajjan.
A couple of days after letters were sent, reports allege that cabinet decided to put a 60-day hold on their decision. Cabinet ended up approving the contract on time.
“We never actually had any communications from the government that the contract was indeed in question,” a spokesperson for Davie said.
“We were working with senior department officials without interruption. We heard only in the press that two of the smaller shipyards had worked together to send a message to cabinet officials.”
Cabinet's shipbuilding program review is good news for Davie, the spokesperson suggested. “The new government appears to be taking great steps to rectify major flaws in the program created in the last government,” he said.
“We’re offering a series of value propositions which would save the government billions of dollars.”
FleishmanHillard, Davie end relationship 
Another new development recently emerged in the shipbuilders’ feud as the public relations and lobbying firm FleishmanHillard has stopped representing Davie.
The firm’s Kevin Macintosh stopped lobbying for Davie on the Hill as of January 11, according to the federal lobbying registry.
In a phone call with Embassy, he confirmed he no longer works with them, but couldn't offer a reason as to why the relationship ended. “You know, the assignment just came to an end,” he said.
A Davie spokesperson said that they are not aware of FleishmanHillard’s other clients, but the reason for the rift boiled down to the fact that their “top guy” at the firm left to go to another agency. The firm lost several others who were also the “key people on our file,” the spokesperson said.
“The last one standing was Kevin Macintosh,” he added.
Given that Mr. Macintosh is an “old friend and business acquaintance of [Conservative MP and former Defence Minister] Rob Nicholson,” that “doesn’t really help” Davie, the spokesperson said.
Government House Leader Dominic Leblanc recently came under scrutiny as his long-time friendship with the Irving family prompted the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to order a “conflict of interest screen" to "avoid the perception of preferential treatment.”
A disclosure to the Ethics Commissioner dated January 27 states Mr. Leblanc must abstain from participating in any matters or decisions related to the group of companies.
Mr. Bains recently met with Mr. Irving in Moncton, New Brunswick. Mr. Leblanc was in Moncton too, but he denied any involvement in facilitating the meeting during Question Period February 16.
Irving representatives have also recently met with Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mr. Tootoo, according to the Office of the Lobbying Commissioner.


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