The Special Committee on Records reconvenes at 1:30pm today (Thursday, August 27, 2020) and we will know when it is over whether the committee will be on track to achieve its stated objectives. When debate on Motion 86 was taking place, it was clearly stated that this committee would finally find out: ‘Who deleted the emails?”
For the mover of Motion 86 – Hon. Peter Bevan-Baker – there was no doubt in his mind what the key aim of the Special Standing Committee would be:
Peter Bevan-Baker:“Indeed, a special committee is, I would say, the only way to reestablish public trust in our records retention systems and to finally find out the answer to that now infamous question: Who deleted the emails? This investigation on records rightly belongs in a special committee of this Legislative Assembly. A special committee will conduct its work in full public view, it has the power to subpoena and compel witnesses, and it will be able to follow the investigation wherever it leads. Indeed, a special committee is, I would say, the only way to reestablish public trust in our records retention systems and to finally find out the answer to that now infamous question: Who deleted the emails?: [Hansard, June 25, 2020, p. 2712].
During the subsequent debate on Motion 86 on June 30th, Hon. Steven Myers made it crystal clear that it was his and his government’s intention to achieve the very same objective.
Steven Myers:“I was part of the opposition who stood day after day after day after day, session after session after session, calling: Who deleted the emails? That hasn’t changed.”[Hansard, June 30, 2020, p. 2847].
So far – after three meetings of the committee – it doesn’t appear to me that a decision has been made as to what “road” to take with the line of questioning. The person at the very heart of the matter – Brad Mix is the person behind those important egaming documents that were also being illegally withheld from the court.
I’ve already alleged that the evidence now clearly shows that Mix committed perjury in his sworn answers given during cross-examination [See: “New FOIPP Documents Reveal Brad Mix Committed Perjury“] saying that he didn’t even know what the initials “FMT” stood for, meanwhile, he was in charge of the “FMT Project” files which were never disclosed to the court nor in FOIPP requests. Ms. Rose drew special attention to how those two years of emails overlapping the same 2 year egaming period were deliberately deleted.
The 4th meeting of this Special Committee has taken place and what has been discovered so far? Nothing I can put my finger on that we didn’t already know. And I am not at all surprised at the dirge of insight. When are the key players like Deputy Minister Erin McGrath-Gaudet; Hon. Matthew MacKay; Pam Gorvette (Brad Mix’s Assistant for many years who participate in FOIPP searches and the cover-up)? People with involvement and/or first-hand knowledge of the issues?
Brad Mix’s name hasn’t been mentioned to my knowledge; Brad Mix hasn’t been called as a witness to my knowledge; and when the former Auditor General, Jane MacAdam, mentioned “other missing emails’ yesterday during her appearance at committee, something she became aware of during her special audit of egaming, there were no follow up questions like, “Were those Brad Mix’s records? “ or “What else can you tell us about that?”
I know members of the committee have been, are and will continue to be very busy with many files and commitments. They hardly got a summer break with the long Spring Sitting of the House.
But this critical committee work must be a priority. Homework needs to be done. I was quite surprised to hear – more than once – the former Auditor General have to refer members of the committee back to reports that were already tabled in the Legislature with the answers to their questions, revealing their lack of knowledge and preparation, not to mention waste of her and their time and missed opportunity to ask something that would generate insight and advance the work of the committee.
Have all the committee members even read Karen Rose’s Order? I really hope so. It deserves multiple slow reads where the significance of her words for the work of the committee can be fully appreciated. For example, ponder what she says about her inability to understand the motive for public servants lying to me (applicant 1) and Paul Maines, President of CMT (applicant 2):
 I find that the EGTC has failed to comply with rules relating to the destruction of records set out at section 15 of the Archives and Records Act, which was in force at the relevant time. Every public body has a duty to retain government records, including emails, in accordance with their retention and disposition schedules. By the loss of non-transitory email records, without having printed and retained paper copies, the EGTC, via the named employee, failed in this important duty.
I can think of a few questions this comment gives rise to get additional information, detail and insight from Ms. Rose. And this is a big one for me….lots of good questions pop off the page reading this:
 I find that the head of the EGTC did not respond to the Applicants openly, accurately and completely, violating section 8 of the FOIPP Act, when they failed to advise the Applicants that responsive records to their access requests had been destroyed, and were no longer accessible.
And this could lead to a fuller understanding of what she learned from the ITSS people about the possibility to learn more – or if learning more is even possible from forensic analysis of hard drives, or other hardware and/or software that might provide insight….avenues that she was either not mandated and/or authorized to pursue:
 The Acting Director was also asked about whether it is possible for ITSS to determine if emails were deleted. The Acting Director advised that it is not possible to tell if an email was deleted. Such a determination would require a keystroke analysis, which is not something ITSS does.
If the committee truly wants to discover “who deleted the emails?” stop asking questions about the record-keeping system, or at least questions looking for flaws or ways to improve the system. The question need to be laser-focused on the issues that might offer the committee a chance of achieving its objective – discovering who deleted the emails.
Ms. Rose went as far as she could go in saying what she said in her report – within the parameters and scope limitations in the FOIPP Act. I suspect she has much more to say. I hope questions are asked that elicit that information; and if not, I hope she volunteers the information she has whether or not the ‘exact’ questions that would elicit that information are asked, knowing what the committee wants (and needs) to know to do its job and fulfill a mandate given to it by our legislative assembly.
As for the committee, I hope they start using and asking for NAMES and exploring connections and ‘who did what’ stuff or this is going nowhere. Candid down-to-earth questions need to be asked….act like you really need to know and are in a hurry to find out, which is the truth.
I want to hear questions like: “Do you think there was a cover-up?” or “Who were the people you dealt with at ITSS…did they tell you why that ‘second email archive’ that Brad Mix had and they mentioned on the ITSS incident report that they couldn’t access?” Do you know what happened to that second archive?” Questions like that.
It’s time to stop following the “official” health directives originating from the World Health Organization (WHO) that then trickle down to PEI’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, through Canada’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tam.
The world is being completely hood-winked about a global pandemic that simply does not justify being called a global health emergency, notwithstanding the seriousness of the disease and the need for care and appropriate measures to protect those most vulnerable – immune compromised people and the elderly.
It’s time to confront some hard facts. But first, an admission that I too was scammed into believing the world needed to shut itself down along with everyone else when this whole thing started 6 months ago. It was on the basis of believing those lies that I took a very strong public stand in favour of severe restrictions of our freedoms and rights in the interest of the common good and public safety.
No one was more outspoken about the need to impose severe mobility restrictions when the WHO first declared a global pandemic and the PEI government only imposed half-measure restrictions. I posted a number of Facebook messages essentially saying that if what the WHO was telling us was true, and we currently had no COVID-19 on the Island, it would be foolhardy not to shut things down completely at our points of entry. Without any virus in the Island, no lock down would have been necessary as long as we didn’t let the virus come to PEI.
There was a lot of Islanders thinking the very same way at the time, and the PEI Government moved immediately to beef-up its efforts and put more resources in place to identify and track positive cases, with much greater surveillance at the points of entry.
What is now absolutely proven with credible evidence that I have already put together – and will publish in coming days in additional articles – is that what we are suffering under these fearful daily updates and forecasts is not now – if it ever was – justifiable with science and facts.
The so-called experts have been wrong at every step in continuing to demand that no option be considered as a response but to wait for a vaccine – and hide from one another and the virus until it’s ready. None of this is necessary, and the harm it is causing needs to stop.
Kids don’t need to social distance from one another in school. We can shake hands when we meet without fear of spreading death; congregate with ALL of the members of our church or religious communities at the same time; relax, and start healing from all the unnecessary trauma that has been foisted upon us and the entire world by a group of billionaires planning a global “reset”.
What has happened so far is pretty scary, but doesn’t hold a candle to what we’re about to see unfold!
You can’t reset or reboot something like the ‘entire world’ without first shutting it down. Well it was shut down. Get ready.
We need to stand up and demand intelligent, scientifically-backed justifications, evidence and verifiable facts for the severe provincial impositions on our lives.
Court cases and charter challenges are cropping up around the world, including here in Canada. The personal liberties being taken away by authorities that erase numerous guaranteed Charter rights under the pretense of a health emergency THAT IS NOT AN EMERGENCY can no longer be allowed to continue in PEI without the King government first justifying that those decisions being made are necessary.
It is no longer enough to simply cite the recommendations from Dr. Tam or the World Health Organization, or even the Federal government, all of whom are continuing to argue that the only way out of this ‘global crisis’ is to be vaccinated with radical new ‘futuristic’ micro technologies we know almost nothing about!
The mRNA vaccines Trudeau purchased from Moderna and Pfizer are so radical in their ‘newness’ that the only things we really know about them at this point are: (1) that they hold incredible power to transform the world, even the nature of what it means to be a human being, (2) that they are being introduced without public discussion, understanding, approval, and EVEN AWARENESS, and (3) that the current regulations in Canada governing the commercialization of these in vivo gene-editing and nanotechnologies are being passed over in a rush to inoculate the entire population with synthetic RNA and nanoparticles.
These vaccines are being called ‘cutting edge’ vaccines by the Federal Government, they’re not telling Canadians that Moderna and Pfizer describe how they work by saying they turn the human body into “manufacturing plants” producing products from their proprietary platform – a revolutionary gene-editing process promising to revolutionize human health delivery and methods. The products already in the pipeline are mind-boggling. This mRNA technology designing synthetic genes to tell our bodies what to be (what proteins to produce) is certain to rapidly transform our entire health care system once “approved” under the guise of an emergency.
What would have probably never been acceptable to Canadians is coming without so much as a public discussion. That’s not democratic and it’s not right. This can not be allowed to happen.
We are witnessing an anti-democratic global campaign to establish a new seat of world governance under the guidance of the un-elected World Economic Forum.
The WEF has established a vast global network over the past decade, with hubs financed by global billionaires such as Bill Gates, George Soros, Mark Zuckerberg and others. This global power grab and wealth transfer now underway is completely circumventing the democratic rights of both nations and citizens, especially those nations (G20 countries) participating and supporting the “Great Reset” plan to introduce radical new technologies to transform the world…countries such as Canada.
The argument that we don’t have any COVID deaths in PEI because we ‘locked down’ and “beat the virus” by keeping it away with rigorous social distancing measures is no longer plausible. The fact of the matter is that we have had 44 people infected and not a single death. In fact, NOT A SINGLE HOSPITALIZATION. How bright is the light bulb going to have to get before we wake up and realize that we are NOT in the midst of a health emergency in PEI, nor will we ever be, given the current severity of the virus?
Given the facts concerning the severity of this virus, I don’t consider the following statement from Dr. Morrison made just days ago as a “good-news” story announcing the “lifting” of some of the restrictions imposed on Island worshippers:
“Dr. Morrison confirmed that singing is also allowed with physical distancing of six feet between individuals and provided that non-medical masks are worn by those singing. This easing of a previous restriction will have a positive impact on worship services, choirs, music programs and events.”
Well I suppose that’s something to thank God for in muffled song: “That we now get to sing hymns through a face mask after a 6 month lock down that had 44 people infected with a virus so severe that not one had to be hospitalized. “
If it had been as severe as the seasonal flu from 2018-19, there would have been nearly 20 hospitalizations and a couple of deaths.
The Premier and Chief Medical Officer need to tell Islanders how these restrictions are based on any real and present danger. Emergencies can’t be maintained simply on the basis that a future emergency might happen. We didn’t do this to ourselves with more severe viruses circulating in our population last year or the year before…why are we doing it now?
The early predictions were wildly off-target for PEI, and the statistical facts about rapidly dropping death rates in countries throughout the world, Canada included, and growing evidence of a T-cell immune response and some degree of immunity in the population make equally-dire predictions about a ‘deadly second wave’ even more unbelievable.
With a population of nearly 37,000,000 people, Canada had 2 deaths from Covid-19 yesterday(August 23, 2020), as indicated in the following Health Canada update:
And the 2 deaths per 37 million was not an aberration, but evidence of a distinct trend.
Predictions of an especially deadly second wave this fall are even more baseless than the earlier forecasts of overflowing hospitals.
The PEI Government renewed the emergency health Order at an Executive Council meeting on August 11, extending the Order until September 14, 2020. It should not be renewed beyond that date.
There is no scientific or factual circumstances creating an emergency, so extending it beyond September 14 in the absence of any disease would be unwarranted overreach and abuse of power. A government should absolutely not be able to force someone in church to wear a mask to sing under these circumstances under threat of penal consequence.
It’s been over a month since news broke that a government employee who had worked on the PEI Provincial Park Wi-Fi tender process may have had a conflict of interest.
I suspect most of us have forgotten about that by now. with so many seemingly bigger scandals on the go these days…there’s special committees, court cases and motions to be heard over deliberately destroyed government records….it’s understandably hard to keep up.
That Bell bungle now seems so long ago.
That’s why I thought a time warp graphic of a Kerry Campbell’s CBC article graphic of a car leaving the camp (presumably to find a decent wi-fi signal) would be appropriate for this article.
Most Islanders have likely not thought about this for a while; however, I’m quite sure our struggling local internet industry fellow Islanders and families haven’t forgotten about it.
Minister Calls for a Review to be Overseen by Deputy Minister
“I got a call Tuesday evening after supper and legislature here. Somebody on the other end of the phone gave me a little information that was quite concerning to me; MacKay said in an interview. MacKay said he called his deputy minister that evening, who began investigating how the request for proposals had occurred.”
Four Island Internet providers who had also submitted bids were passed over by the bureaucrat making the recommendation to the Minister, an employee who just happened to be a former Bell Canada employee. Who was it? I don’t know. But whoever it was had apparently also worked on the previous Bell deal under the Liberals.
MacKay signed that contract with that Bell-controlled NB company based on a recommendation from that former Bell employee. Minister MacKay then undid that decision and initiated a new tender process when this became public. Now that initial decision is under review by his Deputy Minister.
Greens say: “Not good enough”
As was the case with the 3rd Party review of record destruction when the Privacy Commissioner’s Order confirming illegal acts and deliberately destroyed records, which prompted his Motion 86 and the establishment of the Special Standing Committee, Hon. Peter Bevan-Baker called for a thorough investigation to look into much more than that one tender contract for Camp Wi-Fi awarded to Bell and then rescinded :
“It brings into question, potentially, all of the previous contracts that have been signed by this government if it is the same individual who was involved in crafting those contracts and that becomes a much bigger concern,” Bevan-Baker told reporters.
And that was it…that’s all we’ve heard on the matter since then.
Was Rowledge quietly – very quietly – dismissed from his duties?
I received a phone call from a reputable source shortly after this issue became public back in early July. I was told a ‘head’ of some sort was apparently going to do some rolling, but no names. I had did a bit of digging and came up with the names of the key people working on the file, and since Stu Neatby had mentioned Joseph Rowledge in his article, he was one of them:
MacKay provided few other details of the conflict of interest related to the employee from his department. He indicated some companies had more detailed proposals than local ISPs.
“There might have been some discussions without the local ISPs knowing,” he said.
MacKay admitted this same employee was involved with the negotiation with the $74-million contract signed with Bell and Xplornet related to providing rural internet services to P.E.I. He did not name the employee.
The RFP lists Joseph Rowledge, a senior policy adviser, as the contact with MacKay’s department.
Rowledge was a key figure involved in the negotiation of the Bell and Xplornet contracts. He is also a former Bell Canada employee.
Ever since then I’ve been periodically checking the PEI government employee directory to see if any of the senior employees in the department who may have been working on the file may have disappeared. My plan was to then do up a little update story like I’m doing now.
I went to the PEI Employee Directory earlier today to check to see if those senior employees were still on the payroll. The other people I checked were; and just like before, Rowledge’s specs popped up as well:
But something just didn’t feel right about it all. I figured if a “head was going to roll” it should have rolled by now. I trusted my source.
I decided to call Rowledge’s number to put an end to all the pointless speculation. After a few rings, I heard the following voicemail message:
Woah! What was that all about? I double checked the number. It was correct.
I told myself, “don’t jump to conclusions…there’s usually a simple unforeseen explanation for phone troubles – not least of which is getting a hold of someone at Bell to fix them.”
Perhaps the Minister let Rowledge keep his job, but gave his phone number to someone else? Unlikely.
When I dialed Mr. Rowledge’s number and got Ms. Newson’s voicemail message, I first wondered if perhaps Rowledge got the boot and Ms. Newson was hired to replace him, and whether someone just forgot to remove Mr. Rowledge from the Government Directory.
Source: LinkedIn. Ms. Newson worked as a Settlement Officer until taking a Project Manager position at EGTC May, 2017.
But just to be sure, I thought I’d see if Mr. Rowledge’s same office/departmental division would come up when I typed in “Newson”. Sure enough, my hunch appeared to be correct that Rowledge got the boot and Newson got his job.
The database people were probably just slow in taking Mr. Rowledge out of the system after hiring his replacement. But did they also forget to update her title from “Project Manager, Corporate Projects” to “Senior Policy Advisor”. Talk about confusing!
Employee staff changes take time and it wouldn’t be that uncommon to have some of these anomalies with a firing, and a promotion to fill the vacancy from the firing. Maybe that explains it. To get to the bottom of this enigma, I figured I’d just call back later when I could talk to someone about Mr. Rowledge’s possible firing.
But then I noticed that it wasn’t the same phone number!
That seemed really odd. Why would that be necessary in a promotion to that position? Maybe circuits got switched so when I dialed Rowledge, it went to Newson working in the same office. Whatever the explanation, I was miles from knowing what was going on. I tried Maigan’s number, expecting to maybe hear something like: “Mr. Rowledge here…what can I do for you?” But like a creepy sci-fi movie with clones, I heard the following:
Another screw-up with Bell perhaps? Instead of “switched’ circuits” maybe the lines shorted and were accidentally joined when they were setting up the new employee replacing Rowledge? That’s it…that would send the same incoming signal to two phones simultaneously. uit without evidence of anything really, it was impossible to draw any conclusions.
Was Ms. Newson even a new employee? I decided to check.
Ms. Newson has been with the Department of EGTC with that same phone number for nearly 3 years, and with the PEI government longer than that.
So why did Ms. Newson need her boss’s phone number as well as her own?
O.K., who am I trying to kid…I don’t have a frigging clue what’s going on in that department!
Rowledge came into his position with Government May, 2017.
If he was fired – [and to be clear, that has yet to be confirmed] – what other deals and or negotiations was he involved in during the 3 years he was in that position that may relate to and/or involve Bell? They would likely also be tainted.
If something serious enough to warrant the invalidation of an entire tender bid process (despite a tight timeline to provide service Camp wi-fi)…if something serious enough to warrant a firing [recall that Neil Stewart broke multiple provincial laws in the course of his involvement with PNP and egaming scandals, and got promotions each time and never had to appear before any committe despite motions from opposition members for him to appear]…well, there’s likely a crime in there somewhere to be prosecuted. Is anyone going to check?
Why has there been no follow-up sharing of information with Islanders about this serious matter? Or for that matter, any number of important matters everyone knows so I won’t even bother listing here.
And what about Mr. Rowledge? Has he been fired? If so, on what grounds? Are there pending or active charges against him for any illegal or criminal matter? Any investigations? If so, by who under what terms and conditions?
If Rowledge has been fired, why is he still listed in the employee directory as a PEI Government employee ?
If Mr. Rowledge hasn’t been fired, why is there a personal voicemail message from Maigan Newson on his phone?
Was Maigan Newson given an extra phone and now has two official government phones and/or numbers? If so, have other staff complained about Maigan receiving special treatment? Have other staff asked for a second phone and/or a second number? If so, how will that impact the budget? And if the EGTC employees are all getting two phones, can someone please explain the workplace benefits of having two phones and/or numbers? Are two phones really necessary?
Has the RCMP been asked to undertake an investigation to determine whether there may be crimes committed? Who is doing an investigation? What’s the time line? When and in what manner will the results be available? To whom will they be available?
Are there other “former Bell employees” still working on any telecommunications files – or similar potential conflict situations that need to be addressed on these or other tender processes and files that also need to be reviewed and/or audited?
How is the review being undertaken by Deputy Minister Erin McGrath-Gaudet proceeding? Is there anything to report to Islanders on what has been learned to date? How long is the review expected to take? What are the scope and scope limitations for the review?
There’s so many questions. But perhaps the most important question of all for the purposes of effective departmental planning. And I am being absolutely serious here because I would be surprised if my concern doesn’t soon prove valid:
Does the Minister and/or Premier have a contingency plan for the continuation of the review of the Bell Scandal if the Deputy Minister is found guilty of breaching a court order and put in jail over her role in the cover-up of the confirmed DELIBERATE destruction of sensitive egaming records?
Any chance you could call a news conference and give us an update on these inter-related matters Minister MacKay or Premier King?
WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE: 10 AM
In did a bit more digging this morning. I called Mr. Rowledge’s number and it rang about 6 times and then went directly to Maigan Newson’s voicemail, saying:”You’ve reached Maigan Newson’s voicemail…,” with no mention of Mr. Rowledge.
I then called Ms. Newson and was told that Mr. Rowledge was on vacation. I thought it strange that the project manager for corporate projects wouldn’t know when her boss would be back in the office with September approaching.
I then sent Mr. Rowledge the following email:
I was looking for the ‘automated email’ response with information about his date of return from vacation but there was none. Will he be coming back from vacation, was he let go? It remains unclear. Sometimes the most important stories are not the ones that answer questions, but remind us that there’s important questions needing to be answered. This is clearly one of those stories.
There are times when such a bizarre set of circumstances are needed to bring about a particular outcome that the likelihood it will ever happen is deemed so remote people feel confident declaring it will only happen when “hell freezes over” or “blood gushes from a stone” or the perennial favourite. “when pigs fly.”
Mr. Burns from the Simpsons once made such a declaration, saying he’d donate a million dollars to the local orphanage…then quickly added: “when pigs can fly,” with a shared chuckle with Mr. Smithers.
Unfortunately, neither Burns nor Smithers were aware that a backyard-barbecue mishap had just happened at the Simpson’s which sent the “whole pig on the spit” into the town reservoir, where a further sequence of bizarre events happened, sending…well, you can watch what I’m trying to describe for yourself:
Unlike Mr. Burns – flying pigs or not – whether Ms. McGrath-Gaudet answers a whack of tough questions under oath in the PEI Supreme Court in a little more than a week or not – questions about her actions associated with breaches of Contempt Orders and confirmation of Illegal activity by the Information and Privacy Commissioner – is not hers to make. In fact, her appearance has already been decided and scheduled. On August 11th Ms. McGrath-Gaudet will:
Appear before a PEI Supreme Court Judge via Zoom;
Put her hand on a bible and/or otherwise swear an oath to tell the truth, then;
Be cross-examined by one of the leading lawyers in Canada about both her
Involvement in the denial of access to FOIPP requests resulting in breaches of Court Orders, but also
The Privacy Commissioner’s BRAD MIX ORDERissued on June 9th!
In this article I provide:
A summary overview of the key issues surrounding the upcoming August 11th Motion;
An explanation how this PEI Supreme Court Hearing “dovetails” with the Special Committee established by the Green Party’s Motion 86; and finally,
Offer a few concluding comments, and some information about how anyone can watch on August 11th what I’m’ sure will be a fascinating and historic event in PEI, with potentially far-reaching and long-lasting consequences for our democracy.
1. A Summary Overview of the Key Issues
I’ve already published a number of articles on both the upcoming Contempt Motion Hearing to be heard on August 11th by PEI Supreme Court Judge Gregory Cann, as well as on my Brad Mix FOIPP request and review, the subsequent Order by the Privacy Commissioner made public on June 9th, and “Motion 86″and the decision by the Legislative Assembly to establish a Special Committee to dig deeper into the Privacy Commissioner’s Brad Mix Order.
What follows is an attempt at a “synopsis” for readers who may be unfamiliar with the backstory.
[A]August 11th Contempt Motion
In a nutshell, in 2019, the PEI Government was delaying the release of egaming documents to Paul Maines with a number of FOIPP requests. The Department of EGTC had exhausted all means to continue withholding the records legally. This was a breach of section 9.2 of the FOIPP Act, and Mr. Maines filed several reviews with the Privacy Commissioner as a result of this illegal activity.
The Department of EGTC – Erin McGrath-Gaudet – then asked Maines if he would sign “consent orders” drawn up by the Privacy Commissioner, which he agreed to do. Those Consent Orders had dates by which the Department was legally obliged to provide documents to Mr. Maines.
The Commissioner, Erin McGrath-Gaudet and Maines all signed each Order, then Maines immediately registered them with the Supreme Court, making them Court Orders. The Government broke all those Court Orders by failing to deliver the documents to Maines by the specified dates. That’s why they’re now going to Court, and that’s why Ms. McGrath-Gaudet will have to explain why she and her Department made those decisions and took those actions.
I have provided lots of detail about how the Paul Maines Contempt Motions came about and what they entail, especially in a January 15, 2020 article – King Government’s Violation of Court Order Results in “Contempt” Order Court Filing. so I won’t plow that ground again. I’ll provide just one statement from Ms. McGrath-Gaudet’s May 29, 2019 letter to the Privacy Commissioner where she stated:Ms. McGrath-Gaudet knew when she wrote those words – or she should have known – that it had long-since been determined by her Department [March, 2015] that there were no records for that time period.That’s why “no additional records” were found.
[B] Privacy Commissioner’s June 9th Order and Motion 86
I used to think that I’d see pigs fly long before I’d see a PEI Government Deputy Minister or Minister be compelled to appear before a Legislative Standing Committee to answer for unethical decisions and illegal actions that either the Auditor General or Privacy Commissioner discovered they were responsible for either authorizing or allowing to happen.
My thinking has now changed, thanks to two things: (1) the change in the Legislative Committee structure – with equal representation from all Parties – where Government can no longer do what Government has done for as long as I can remember – (1) vote down motions from opposition parties calling for witnesses to appear before the committee; and (2) Motion 86 passing in the Legislative Assembly that will establish a Special Legislative Committee with a mandate to, in part, find out who deliberately deleted 2 years of important records, and then covered that up.
How did this unprecedented situation come about?
As you may be aware, my e-gaming investigation involved a FOIPP request for Brad Mix documents which I had submitted to the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture on October, 2018. The Commissioner joined my review with 4 Brad Mix FOIPPs from Paul Maines several months later, and a year later, Ms. Rose issued her scathing Order on June 9, 2020.
There was good media coverage. then a “same old – same old” response from Government, with Hon. Matthew McKay, the Minister of EGTC, announcing a review of the illegal activities, deception and cover-up that the Privacy Commissioner had indentified he and his Deputy Minister, Erin McGrath-Gaudetwere responsible for in her Order.
It was actually a PC MLA – Sidney MacEwan – who first raised the matter of the OIPC Brad Mix Order in the Legislative Assembly with a question to EGTC Minister Hon. Matthew MacKay:
MacKay responded that his department would be contracting an external investigator to look into the findings of the Privacy Commissioner’s report:
“We’ll be asking the external investigators to review two things: an extensive review on the missing records referred to in the commissioner’s report, as well as a review of our current practices and infrastructure related to electronic records and security for those records,” MacKay said, adding, “We want to make sure that whoever comes in to do the review has no association with government at all”
That last comment is interesting – here we see Minister MacKay bending over backwards to assure Islanders there will not be so much as a smell of any “conflict of interest” with the person hired BYthe Minister and Deputy Minister to undertake the review, who will oversee and control the process and outcome of that investigation and decide what or what not to make public, who were named in the Order as responsible for the illegal activity,deceptive communications with FOIPP applicants, and cover-up the critically-important information about records that were deliberately deleted. Talk about your blind spots!
Government did not remove Ms. McGrath-Gaudet from her position following the disturbing and very serious findings in the Commissioner’s Order, pending the outcome of the investigation. In fact, the “cover-up” and deception in which she was clearly involved was never a topic of discussion by either the media or MLAs in the House, only the destruction of Brad Mix recods. Rather, a decision was made by the King Government to put Ms. McGrath-Gaudet and Minister MacKay in charge of the investigation.
It was at that point that Hon. Peter Bevan-Baker introduced Motion 86, specifically citing the “same old, same old” flawed approach announced by Government as woefully inadequate and unacceptable, further declaring that Islanders not only had a right to more transparency and accountability from Government on such an important matter – but were demanding it.
To highlight the very significant overlap between (1) what will transpire with the cross-examination of Ms. McGrath-Gaudet in Court on August 11th, and (2) the mandate and objectives with which the Special Standing Committee is tasked – as spelled out in Motion 86 – I have highlighted elements of particular importance in the wording of the Motion:
WHEREAS a June 9, 2020, order of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (Order No FI-20-007) raised serious questions about the possibility [sic – the Commissioner’s finding was that government records were deliberately deleted] of government records being improperly deleted;
AND WHEREAS access to government records is fundamental to open and transparent government;
AND WHEREAS government has committed to an external review of this issue; AND WHEREAS an external review will not provide the openness and transparency that the public expects and deserves;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that a Special Committee of the Legislative Assembly on Government Records Retention be created: with a six person membership, consisting of two members from government members, two members from the Official Opposition and two members from the Third
AND THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the committee study the missing recordsreferred in the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s order and the current practices related to electronic records and security;
AND THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this committee report back to the Legislative Assembly with recommendations within six months.
2. Contempt Motion: A God-send for Special Committee MLAs
If the hearing scheduled for March 27 & 28th, 2020 had went ahead as scheduled, Ms. McGrath-Gaudet would no doubt have been cross-examined by Paul Maines’ Bay-street lawyer, John Phillips, however, that cross-examination would only have dealt with her involvement in the particular FOIPPs for which the terms of the Court-enforced Consent Orders were breached.
The Deputy Minister of EGTC would NOT have been cross-examined on the Order from the Privacy Commissioner at a Contempt Motion Hearing in March. But Ms. McGrath-Gaudet will have to answer questions on that Order on August 11th, thanks to three serendipitous events:
Covid-19 delayed the March 27/28 Hearing;
The Privacy Commissioner issued her Brad Mix Order on June 9th; and
Paul Maines and his lawyer were able to convince the judge of the relevance of having the Privacy Commissioner’s Order entered into the record for the August 11th Contempt Motion.
The mystery around “deleted emails in the PEI Government” seems to be catching a fair bit of off-Island interest within the Canadian and Global IT community. Following the issuance of the Privacy Commissioner’s Order, I came across an article titled “A deleted email mystery in Prince Edward Island” on two different Tech sites [IT World Canada and Aviance Tech News]. Here’s a few paragraphs from that article:
“[Information and Privacy Commissioner Karen] Rose did note that PEI’s Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture (EGTC) didn’t fulfill its duty to report that emails were missing to two persons who made a request under the provincial access to information law.
“I would have expected the gap in the named employee’s emails to be one of the first facts to be communicated to the applicants,” Rose wrote. “Instead, the EGTC provided the few records they had to the applicants and remained silent about the possibility that there could have been more, but they had not been retained.
“I am at a loss to explain the motivation of the EGTC [Erin McGrath-Gaudet and Minister MacKay] in withholding such key information from the applicants.” All she could do was refund the applicants’ $5 application fees.”
All the Privacy Commissioner did was “order” EGTC to refund my $5 application fee, not “compel” them, which she can’t do. And FYI, I have not yet received that $5 refund, which is seriously impacting my current cash-flow situation and my ability to function as an independent investigator with a business plan that has yet to generate any revenue. Hopefully the 500-sheet pack of printer paper that I’ve had my eye on for the past few weeks that’s on sale at Walmart for $3.99 (plus tax) will hopefully still be on sale when (if ever) I get that cheque.
Considerable background material on these issues can be found in previous articles on my website for those of you who are keen to learn more and/or may be planning to watch the upcoming Zoom Court Hearing.
I’ll post another short article with the details about how to sign up to watch the Hearing on Zoom as soon as I get them. It’s a simple matter of sending an email asking for access, then signing a waiver promising you won’t record or reproduce the hearing material, then you’ll be emailed a Zoom link with sign-in instructions.
If you’re not able to watch the hearing on August 11th, at least keep your camera handy and plan to keep your eye on the sky….you never know, you might just be lucky enough to snap a pic of pig flying that’ll be sure to make CBC Compass’s photo of the day guaranteed. I’m now thinking it could possibly happen…stranger things are about to transpire in PEI…like a Deputy Minister having to answer for misdeeds under oath at the hand of a skilled lawyer in the PEI Supreme Court, with Islanders able to watch for free from home.
I doubt that Islanders will be given a “heads up” about this upcoming August 9th Hearing on Zoom from the media – none was provided for the Zoom Appeal – so consider sharing this article so as to give as many Islanders as possible the choice about whether they might want to participate by watching. Thanks.
One would think that with the recent scathing indictment against the King Government for multiple violations of the FOIPP Act by former Privacy Commissioner Karen Rose, APSO workers and Deputy Ministers would be eager to change their ways to comply with the law that imposes a duty on them to assist FOIPP applicants and to deal with them, openly, honestly and completely.
It’s not happening.
I just sent the following letter to the new Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ms. Denise Doiron, asking for a review of my recent FOI request to Premier King’s office requesting information on the status of records belonging to Robert Ghiz.
It’s another “dog’s breakfast” of a situation that should be of concern to all Islanders. There is information about the status of Ghiz’s records coming from government contradicting information coming from the justice system; there is also contradictory information provided to me from the same APSO worker, Ms. Kathyrn Dickson, concerning the status of Ghiz’s records. Now there’s a complete refusal to provide me with the information that I have a right to and need to complete my FOI request properly.
My letter to Ms. Dorion tells the story. I’ll let you know whether she agrees to undertake a review.
July 25, 2020
Re: Request for a Review of PO 2020-189
Dear Ms. Doiron,
First of all, congratulations on your appointment as PEI’s Information and Privacy Commissioner – all the best in your new position!
I am seeking an OIPC review of a recent FOI request (PO 2020-189). I believe the Premier’s Office violated section 8.1 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPP) Act by refusing to provide me with information concerning the current status of the public records of former Premier Robert Ghiz.
The significance of the public body’s refusal to assist me in this matter is that without this information I am unable to determine the appropriate search criteria to properly focus and narrow my FOI request for Robert Ghiz records.
I am at a loss to understand why the PEI Government is refusing to clarify this important matter of the status of Robert Ghiz’s records for me, so I am hoping you can help me to obtain that information in a review. The contents of this letter provide the rationale for my request for a review. I’m structuring information in four sections:
Background: The importance of knowing the status of Ghiz’s records;
Judge Campbell’s declaration on the status of Ghiz’s electronic records;
A chronology of email communications on FOI PO-2020-189;
Concluding observations considering OIPC’s June 9, 202 Order #FI-20-007,
I have been investigating egaming and matters pertaining to the CMT civil litigation for more than two years. I have published over 1,000 pages in dozens of articles posted on my website: Ethical and Social Commentary on Life in PEI.
Despite extensive research and a significant effort, I have been unable to obtain the answer to one simple question from Government: “Were Robert Ghiz’s records deleted?”
Despite being a defendant in the CMT law suit, Robert Ghiz filed no documents with the PEI Supreme Court. Two previous FOI requests seeking Ghiz records that should have produced many records produced no records.
CMT filed a document in the PEI Supreme Court from a private investigator, Bruce MacDonald [a Principle in RB Mac Investigation] CMT contracted in 2014. MacDonald had submitted a number of FOI requests to the PEI government in the course of his investigation at that time, many of which generated responses of “no records found.” MacDonald did not challenge those findings or initiate any reviews with the Commissioner’s Office, although it’s clear from his report that he believed that records should have been produced with his FOIs but were not produced.
Mr. MacDonald had submitted a FOI request for Brad Mix records. He received a “no records found” response to that one as well. When I learned of Brad Mix’s involvement in CMT/FMT’s business relationship with the PEI Government in the course of my own investigation, I decided to file the same request that Mr. MacDonald had filed, expecting a similar response, but with an intention to seek an OIPC review to find out why records that should exist within government no longer exist.
I initiated a review with your predecessor, Ms. Karen Rose, in January, 2019 which led to her July 9th, 2020 Order. I was applicant #1 in that Order – Paul Maines, CMT’s President, was applicant #2. That Order has served as the catalyst for a Special Standing Committee of the PEI Legislative Assembly being established as a result of Motion 86 passing in the Legislative Assembly. That committee will seek to discover who deliberately destroyed sensitive government records. and provide a permanent oversight committee for record management and retention issues.
As you are likely aware, the Auditor General’s Special Assignment into E-gaming found that at least three individuals (Rory Beck; Melissa MacEachern; and Chris LeClair) each had all their government records – in all formats, both electronic and paper – permanently destroyed without first having them copied and archived, as is required by the Archives and Records Act.
In a July 10, 2019letter to the Privacy Commissioner from the Deputy Minister of the Department of EGTC, Erin McGrath-Gaudet, it was learned for the first time that 2 years of records for Brad Mix, a Senior Recruitment Officer with Innovation PEI, were also deliberately destroyed, and government knew that from at least as early as March, 2015.
I was aware that the PEI Government had disclosed that Beck, MacEachern and LeClair had all their records destroyed in both affidavit of documents filed with the Court. However, there was no disclosure of Brad Mix’s 2 year’s of missing records in either the initial or Supplementary affidavit of documents, despite the fact that it was known by the PEI Government long before the filing of those two affidavits of documents. This obviously represents a serious breach of the PEI Rules of Civil Procedure. My hunches about Brad Mix were correct…I decided it was time to investigate Ghiz’s records as well.
With no Ghiz documents produced in Court, and new information concerning the deletion of his electronic files and emails from Government servers (ITSS Employee Removal Request Form), I started wondering whether a similar investigation as happened with Brad Mix might find a similar situation of missing records and a cover-up of that as with Mix’s records. I decided to submit a FOI request for Ghiz documents. I received the following response to my request in late January, 2019:
I purposefully submitted this request as an unreasonably-broad request so I could then have a discussion with the APSO Coordinator about “narrowing” the search with more specific search criteria.
My assumption was there were no electronic records to search – although I submitted “keywords” to test that assumption. An ITSS Employee Removal Request Form had been authorized by Premier MacLauchlan less than a month after he was elected Premier instructing ITSS to not only disable the email and network file accounts for Ghiz, but to also “delete” those accounts and all the contents.If there were only paper records organized in folders left to search and no electronic records, then the “keywords” that I had submitted with my online request would be insufficient for the APSO search. I expected (if my hunch was correct) that I would soon be asked by an APSO worker to change the search criteria from electronic “keywords” to paper “subject headings” for the file folder tabs.
I fully expected to hear that there were only paper records, but I wanted confirmation that they had indeed been backed up, and if so, how those files had been organized in folders. I wanted more information about the status of Ghiz’s records before deciding what would be the best way to ask for documents so that the search criteria would produce the records I believed they should.
A short time later I received an email with a request that I “narrow my search” and change my “keywords” to “subject headings”:
After receiving this email, I called Ms. Dickson and provided her with four “subject headings” for the FOIPP search. After the call, I realized that I hadn’t specified that now that “subject headings” were being searched with just three headings, I wanted all the 18 boxes that she told me exist searched for records with those subject headings. I sent a follow-up email with this request:
Concerned that I had heard nothing back to confirm that the scope of my request would be changed from “one week” to the entire scope of Ghiz’s tenure as Premier [e.g. all 18 boxes], I sent another email to Ms. Dickson four days later:
I received this response the same day:
Ms. Dickson was then in touch with me by phone to assure me that she passed on the amendment to the FOIPP request scope to the public body.
On April 8, 2019, I received a final decision letter from the Premier’s Office on PO 2019-16. It was disappointing to see that the public body did not revise the scope of my request but searched just ONE WEEK of records:
Despite not revising my initial request as per the new search scope I provided and followed up on to ensure it would not be overlooked, the final response letter referred to my request as a “revised” request. Not surprisingly, having limited the search to just five business days, no records were found:
Not only was the search unilaterally restricted to one week, despite my revised search scope, it apparently didn’t even involve an actual search of the hard copy records, but only checked “a list documenting the former Premier’s records” to see – I assume – whether any of my search terms were on the list.
The electronic search” claimed to have been undertaken (according to Paul Ledwell) shouldn’t have taken 20 minutes. In fact, it shouldn’t have taken any time at all: Ms. Dickson told me that Ghiz’s electronic documents and emails – his e-gaming files included – had apparently already been ALL deleted back in May 2015.
I suspect that Mr. Ledwell didn’t realize that I had already been told by Ms. Dickson that no electronic records existed and available to search. With Brad Mix’s records, the line was that an “account” was searched despite the public body knowing there were no records in that account to search; with Robert Ghiz the line from the Premier’s Office (Paul Ledwell) was that the account was searched despite the account having apparently been deleted!
I wanted to determine whether those electronic records were “backed up” and stored for the Provincial Archives in accordance with the Archives and Records Act with this FOI request. Unfortunately, after this entire effort, I was no closer to knowing that, with what effectively turned out to be a non-response to my request.
I did not submit a new FOIPP with clear terms that couldn’t be misinterpreted or ignored at the time, nor did I request a review of that FOIPP request with the Information Commissioner. I may be overly suspicious, but I figured the only possible reason to take the incredibly regressive and nonsensical step of transferring electronic records to paper records to store in records when those records are of current interest was to make it easier to hide information, so I figured another FOI request would be a waste of time.
I asked myself: “What’s the chance that a subject heading on a Ghiz file folder or list of files would say anything about the egaming scandal or CMT, especially given that the government was officially denying any involvement with CMT?” My answer: “Zero.”
I then received new information that rekindled my interest in seeking Ghiz records which led me to believe I might finally get an answer to the question whether Robert Ghiz’s government documents existed, and if so, in what formats.
2. Judge Campbell on the Status of Ghiz’s Electronic Records
In his September 25, 2019 Ruling granting the Defendants their Motions to Dismiss the CMT law suit, Judge Gordon Campbell addressed an allegation made by CMT’s lawyer, John MacDonald, that Robert Ghiz’s electronic files and emails had been deleted.
MacDonald was relying on the same Employee Removal Request Form [as included above] as evidence. I am unaware of any evidence on record supporting the following declaration from Justice Campbell:
Paragraph 626: Also in Maines’ 2019 affidavit he alleged that the emails and records of Ghiz were deleted on May 29, 2015, which he maintains is evidence of “bad faith” litigation and further confirming evidence of “misfeasance in public office”. In fact, Ghiz’s emails were never deleted. The email account of Ghiz was copied and preserved the day after the initial statement of claim in this matter was filed.
After reading this, the first thing I asked myself is why I was told by Ms. Dickson some months earlier that all of Ghiz’s electronic files were gone – which is what the ITSS form confirms were the instructions given to ITSS. I decided to submit another FOI for Ghiz records to see if I could finally get some answers.
3. Chronology of Communications with APSO re: FOI PO-2020-189
I filed an online FOI Request which was received by APSO on June 24, 2020. I received an email from APSO worker, Ms. Kathryn Dickson with an attached June 28, 2020 letter acknowledging receipt of my request:
This acknowledgement letter contained the full and exact wording that I had originally submitted online, spelling out very clearly that I was seeking assistance and information before I would be finalizing my FOI request.
All the stuff I highlighted was completely ignored by Ms Dickson.
In a response from Ms. Dickson two days later, I was told that a search was already underway based on the broad search I had included at the outset, something I was immediately regretting doing, but did only to provide a sense of the general nature and scope of the records that I would subsequently be seeking to NARROW once I had obtained the information I needed to construct a proper search request:
As you can see, my very explicit request for clarification regarding the status of Robert Ghiz’s records in light of Judge Campbell’s declaration that electronic records existed – and Ms. Dickson’s previous declaration to me that no electronic records existed – was completely ignored.
The public body decided to proceed on the basis of the broad criteria I had submitted in my online request, notwithstanding my clear indication that it was my intention to modify and focus my request to obtain more specific and targeted documents that would only be possible with electronic searches, and for that I needed information regarding the status of Robert Ghiz’s records. Frustrated with what was clearly avoidance, stonewalling and just plain unprofessional rudeness, I immediately responded to Ms. Dickson’s June 30th email:
I was uncertain what kind of response I’d get to that email, but the wait to find out was over on July 6th:
Being told that the “public body has reviewed your request and intends…to have the email account of the former Premier electronically searched” was not the answer I was looking for, nor was it the answer to my question whether electronic records for Robert Ghiz existed and were available to search.
For the public body to say that they intended to search the email account of Robert Ghiz was little comfort, when (1) I have an official form in my possession saying that account was DELETED on May 28, 2015, and (2) I was told by Ms. Dickson there were no electronic records to search. This promise to search a deleted email account only raises additional questions.
If there were electronic records to search – as Judge Campbell has indicated – I expected they would be on a separate flash drive or server. Reference to Ghiz’s “email account” in this response raised another fundamental question: “Was Ghiz’s email account deleted as indicated on the ITSS form? And if so, how is it that the public body intends to search an email account that doesn’t exist?”
Conversely, if Ghiz’s email account does exist, how does the Public Body explain the signed ITSS form from May, 2015 indicating that Ghiz’s email account was deleted?
As Commissioner Rose confirmed in her recent Order, the PEI Government deliberately led me (applicant #1) and Paul Maines (applicant #2) to believe that there were records for the time period for all 5 of the Brad Mix FOI requests when the public body knew there were none. The public body even went so far as to document in correspondence with both applicants and the Commissioner multiple “searches” they claimed to have diligently conducted despite knowing full-well that there were no records within the time scope of the 5 FOI requests to search.
I could cite other examples of how I have been deliberately misled on other FOI requests that I’ve submitted during the course of the past 2-year investigation but hopefully what I have already provided will suffice to show grounds for my suspicions. I believe I’m entitled to an answer to a simple question so I can properly prepare a FOI request to subsequently maximize the likelihood of being able to zero-in on the particular records I am seeking and I’m seeking your assistance to obtain that information.
Deputy Minister David Keedwell was the DM of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture under the previous Liberal Government when I submitted my FOI request for Brad Mix records in October, 2018. The fact there were no records to search is not something the public body was willing to disclose to me, so I was kept in the dark and led to believe there were records to search.
This is what Commissioner Rose had to say about the public body “commencing” a FOI on such deceptive grounds, something that destroys all trust between (1) the public, and (2) the servants who are supposed to be serving the public:
On page 13-14 of her Order, Ms. Rose stated the following:
 I have found that the EGTC conducted adequate searches. However, the search for records is only part of a public body’s duty under section 8 of the FOIPP Act. Section 8 includes a duty to respond to an applicant openly, accurately, and completely. The Applicants have expressed concerns relating to this duty of the EGTC, most prominently about the EGTC’s failure to advise the Applicants, at any point during the access to information process, that emails they requested were no longer accessible by the EGTC. [My emphasis]
 I find that the EGTC did not fulfill their duty to be open, accurate and complete when responding to the Applicants, by failing to explain why very few responsive records were found. I further find that the EGTC deliberately withheld this important information from the Applicants. which is a violation of their section 8duty. I would have expected the gap in the named employee’s emails to be one of the first facts to be communicated to the Applicants, following the EGTC’s realization that their search could not be properly completed. Instead, the EGTC provided the few records they had to the Applicants, and remained silent about the possibility that there could have been more, but they had not been retained.
Similarly, the status of Robert Ghiz’s records – especially given the previous information provided to me by Ms. Dickson that is contradicted by the declaration by Judge Campbell – should be the “first facts” the Premier’s Office communicates with me, especially since I am expressly and repeatedly ASKING for that information. Yet, the public body has chosen to totally ignore my request, and have decided to proceed with a request with parameters WHICH ARE NOT MINE. The ultimatum they have implicitly presented to me is to (1) either give them the “go ahead” with what they say they intend to do, or (2) withdraw the request.
Ms. Dickson asked me if I want to revise my request…I said “yes”….then she refused to provide me with the information I need to narrow by search – INFORMATION THE PUBLIC BODY HAS AND I DON’T HAVE, which definitely puts me at a disadvantage. Luckily, I trust the law and legal precedents are in my favour on this matter.
In Order FI-11-002, Re: Department of Agriculture, 2011 CanLII 91841 (PE IPC), at
paragraph 105, the duty of a public body to communicate to assist applicants to NARROW requests was specifically addressed:
 The underpinnings of public bodies’ duty to engage in discussions with applicants and to assist in narrowing requests flow naturally from the circumstances of each access request. A
public body is the party that has the background knowledge and
familiarity, not only with the records in its possession, but also
with the FOIPP Act and its Regulations. An applicant is at a
disadvantage as a newcomer to this process, and it is up to the public body to guide the applicant. I find that this is an integral part of a public body’s duty to assist applicants.
I am unclear what the parameters would be for a review of this matter; however, I would like honest, unambiguous answers to the following questions if possible:
Are Robert Ghiz’s electronic files and emails available to search?
If Robert Ghiz’s electronic files and emails are available to search now, why was I informed by the same APSO worker approximately 1 1/2 years ago with another Ghiz FOI request that there were no electronic records available to search, only paper records?
In the first FOI request for Ghiz records, Paul Ledwell stated in a letter that the search for records involved a review of “…a list documenting the former Premier’s records…” Who compiled this list and how was it compiled? What information is used to identify documents that may be responsive to a request if the contents aren’t searched and only information on a “compiled” list is relied upon? Is this acceptable for FOIPP requests?
How is it possible that Robert Ghiz’s email account still exists, and the public body plans to search his emails with this FOI, given that the ITSS form indicates his email account was deleted? The “automatic” backup allowing the restoration of those files, emails and accounts would have to have happened within 365 days, then they would have been automatically erased from the back-up tapes. Were they restored during that period of time? I was told in January 2019 by Ms. Dickson there were NO electronic files or emails for Robert Ghiz to search.
I have been engaged in professional research for many years, and I’ve never experienced such an obstinate attitude bent on “resisting” not “assisting” FOI applicants. In this current request for a review what I received in response to a simple question was not an honest answer…my request for assistance was rudely ignored with the public body showing no willingness to provide me with assistance to identify and locate government records in an open, honest and complete way. Indeed, they won’t even provide me with the status of Ghiz’s records despite the fact that they volunteered that information with my first Ghiz FOI as GROUNDS for my having to modify my initial request!
There’s so many scandals on the go with the King Government these days that it would be easy to miss the significance of what transpired in the dying minutes of the afternoon session of the legislature assembly on the very last day of the House sitting, Tuesday, July 14, 2020.
I posted a part of that 5 1/2 minute exchange between Michele Beaton and Minister Compton on Facebook last night, but thanks to my excellent $120 a month “ultra high-speed” internet plan with Bell, I was unfortunately unable to capture a longer clip. The clip I posted was about 1 1/2 minutes and that’s the furthest I could get in about 20 tries before my little spinning circle friend would happen along with his frozen video screen buddy …urrgh BELL!!
I finally gave up and uploaded my longest clip on Facebook with plans to try again once the rest of the Western Hemisphere went to sleep. It was a brilliant plan, if I don’t mind saying so….my download speed soared to a whopping 4 megabytes per secondallowing me to stay ahead (barely) of the low-grade video stream (my apologies on behalf of Bell for the poor video quality) that was finally enough to keep that evil blue circle from showing up.
There is important information buried in that exchange. It gives rise to a number of suspicions, and many more questions, all of which together warrants an investigation. Minister Thompson should obviously not oversee such an investigation, as is the case with the two investigations currently (or soon to be) underway in Minister MacKay’s department both under his control (the PEI Provincial Park wi-fi tender deal; Brad Mix destroyed records third-party investigation).
1 Keep This in Mind About this $4.7 Million Deal
1. In all previous communications on the $4.7 million deal that happened in the Legislative Assembly between Michael Beaton and Bloyce Thompson, Minister Thompson consistently spoke about how the Potato Board had “stepped up” to solve a series of problems connected to oversupply of processing potatoes.
Back then Minister Thompson stressed that without the $4.7 million, those problems would not have been solved. Never was there any evidence or even any basis/source for that dire forecast. The only logical inference or conclusion is that if what Minister Thompson claimed at the time was true, then Robert Irving must have indicated to somebody at some point that Cavendish Farms would not process those contracted potatoes without that $4.7 million coming from the provincial government.
2. On May 28, 2020, Michele Beaton asked her first questions to Minister Thompson on the $4.7 million. In response to a question whether Irving was asked to pay back the money, or a portion thereof, if it wasn’t needed. Of course Minister Thompson said that if any portion wasn’t needed it wouldn’t be invoiced and dispersed by the Potato Board, but then went on to suggest that the allocation was entirely justified because, as he put it in the following 13 second clip, it was “quite evident that they (Robert Irving) needed those funds…” Quite evident? No evidence was provided at all by the Minister, and as it turns out, no evidence existed because they didn’t need any of those funds, which is actually not that surprising when you think about it, since we’re talking about a billionaire here:
3. Minister Thompson also consistently talked about the agreement with the Potato Board as both a “done deal” and a “great deal.” When asked about measures to ensure accountability for the taxpayer funds being disbursed to Irving by the Potato Board, Minister Thompson gave assurance that the Potato Board was administering the program and processing the funds on an “as needed” basis (note the present “active” present participle tense he used:
4. The entire backstory provided by Minister Thompson to justify the Potato Board administering the disbursement of $4.7 million to Robert Irving was the potato apocalypse that he claimed would have ensued without that money. For the Minister, that $4.7 million was the only available solution to a many-tentacled disaster prevented with a plan conceived, executed and administered by the Potato Board:
Mr. Thompson: You [Michele Beaton] and I look at this differently. I look at the 180 potato farmers [sic] that were able to put a crop in the ground. I look at the investment to prevent an environmental problem, a plant health problem. It ensured the producers got paid and it ensured that the potatoes got processed. Good quality potatoes got processed. That’s the way I look at it… [May 29, 2020]
Minister Thompson elsewhere stated that that $4.7 million also kept 500 Cavendish Farms plant workers from being laid off, saying that by spending $4.7 million, $20 million was saved….all nonsense.
We now know none of what Minister Thompson said was true – the money was never needed. There were no funds to administer. Not a penny was accepted by Robert Irving. None, and that’s a word that deserves repeating here since there was quite a list of them, NONE of the dire predictions made by Minister Thompson came to pass.
MLA Michele Beaton said in the video clip that she was “led to believe” – and so was everyone else – that there was an agreement in place with the Potato Board; hence, my accusation of deliberate deceit and cover-up.
Minister Thompson gave every indication that an agreement had been signed with the Potato Board, and that funds had been disbursed to the Potato Board so they could administer the subsequent disbursement to Robert Irving for Potato storage and trucking costs, which he talked about as underway.
A few other things to keep in mind:
Minister Thompson was asked to table the agreement with the Potato Board and said he would do so immediately. He said nothing at the time about there being no agreement in place to table, but left the clear impression that there was an agreement in place at that time that he was going to table.
I have been periodically checking to see if Minister Thompson tabled that agreement since that time. I was therefore not at all surprised to hear Ms. Beaton disclose that an agreement had not been tabled by Friday, June 14.
To the question, “Is there an agreement?” it is clear from the responses (both body language and verbal) of both Minister Compton and her senior accountant from Treasury Board that they were not personally aware of any agreement, Minister Thompson then states there is an agreement at the Potato Board, adding that it was never signed and returned, so, no agreement actually.
When Minister Thompson indicated that discussions were happening with the Potato Board exploring the possibility that the $4.7 million would be “repurposed” for seed potato growers, Ms. Beaton then asked about due diligence, steps taken to document that new project, an agreement, etc. and Minister Compton interjected to say that with this COVID-19 pool of money, everything has to be approved by Treasury Board.
Minister of Finance, Hon. Darlene Compton went on to explain that any “re-purposing” of that $4.7 million would need to be approved by Treasury Board.
This raises another important question. If everything has to be approved by Treasury Board, thenpresumably the initial $4.7 million would have had to have been approved as well. On what basis (documents) was that approval granted? Surely it couldn’t be simply that farmers were scared, and Robert Irving was scared!
What’s unclear is whether the “Agreement” that Minister Thompson said he would table (but never did) had to be approved by Treasury Board, or only the authority or permission that such a contract could be drawn up and sent by the Department.
Minister Compton’s assistant had inquired about this money just a few days previous and wasn’t willing to say on the record that there was an agreement, but only that he had confirmed that “discussions” had happened. He actually referred to the “agreement” as one between the Potato Board and Cavendish Farms, but then added the Department to the mix.
Here is the entire exchange:
2. My FOIPP Request for Potato Board Documents
Minister Thompson several times chortled in disbelief in response to questions from MLA Beaton at the idea that anyone would think he or his government would possibly have anything to hide regarding the $4.7 million gift to Robert Irving that was never opened. I guess we’ll see how sincere that statement was in a couple of weeks when I finally get a response to my FOIPP request on this matter.
I’m especially looking forward to seeing a version of the request proposal that the Potato Board submitted to Government justifying a need for $4.7 million for Robert Irving, which both Minister Thompson and Minister Compton referenced as the basis for the “ask” and the approval. It was also the basis upon which Treasury Board apparently gave the go-ahead to the Department to negotiate and sign an Agreement.
In a previous article titled, “Nice Try, Now Let’s Start Over I provided information about how the APSO coordinator had altered my June 2, 2020 FOIPP request for government records on the $4.7 Million Potato Board Agreement. I had asked for both records “to and from” the Department and the Potato Board, and what they said they were going to search was only “to” the Potato Board. My original (and then the “fixed”) FOIPP request is for the following:
On July 10, 2020, I received a letter from the APSO worker indicating that the Department of Agriculture and Land would be taking a 30 day extension, with a new deadline date for a final response letter and copies of responsive records set for August 1st, 2020:
What I’m especially looking forward to getting are the submissions from the Potato Board to the Government – however, I expect someone is likely busy as I write going through them with a giant permanent black ink Sharpie.
The PEI Government’s attempt to shuffle a $4.7 million gift unto Robert Irving with the Potato Board acting as the carrier pigeon might never have become a public issue at all. That’s how the King Government and Minister Thompson obviously wanted it to happen.
This story started out as a clandestine attempt to sell an obscure line item in a announcement by Minister Thompson related to COVID-19 farmer relief. That may have remained secret but for a pissed-off processing potato farmer who foolishly thought some of that money might have been targeted for him and his losses, then found out it was all for Mr. Irving, then made a phone call. Then I wrote an article.
After I wrote that all indications were that the money was all going to Robert Irving, the District Director of the NFU apparently confirmed that, then wrote a Guest Opinion that stirred up a hornet’s nest of response, both from Robert Irving himself, and from the Potato Board. Neither were at all favourable to the NFU. They made unfounded accusations and insinuations that by raising questions about the $4.7 million dollars going to Irving they were sticking their nose into something they apparently weren’t welcome to even know about let alone comment on “after the fact”.
Ironically, the kumbaya refrain in both Irving’s and the Potato Board’s Guest Opinion articles that followed in the Guardian was all about working together for the betterment of all – despite excluding the NFU from the decision-making process entirely – despite the NFU being one of the only two provincial farm organizations.
I suspected Robert Irving would want nothing to do with that money once it became a public matter of significant concern. That suspicion has apparently proved to have been warranted.
There are lots of unanswered questions remaining about this entire affair, especially with respect to the decision-making and negotiation process, the document trail, starting with why Robert Irving needed the Potato Board -and then Minister Thompson – to convince everyone there was a potato apocalypse coming unless taxpayers ponied up a $4.7 gift for Robert Irving. Why Mr. Irving couldn’t speak up and answer a few basic questions about what he would or wouldn’t have done if that money hadn’t of come onto the table, or why it ever did. or how it did, would be appreciated.
There’s a disturbing pattern emerging within the PC King Government of late. Within the past couple of weeks alone, significant public attention has been drawn to two quite disturbing incidentswithin Hon. Matthew MacKay’s Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture (EGTC).
The first event is the recent Brad Mix Order from the former Information and Privacy Commissioner, Karen Rose. Ms. Rose issued a scathing report against the Department of EGTC. That report then led to: (1) An announcement of an independent third-party investigation to be overseen by the Head of EGTC, and (2) the passage of Motion 86 establishing a Special Legislative Standing Committee to look into the findings of the Privacy Commissioner’s Report in a bid to answer the questions she couldn’t – including: “Who deleted the emails?”
The second eventis an even-more recent revelation: that the PEI Provincial Park Wi-fi contract that Hon. Matthew MacKay signed this past Tuesday morning with a NB company owned by Bell was apparently “rigged”. Four Island Internet providers who also submitted bids were passed over by the bureaucrat making the recommendation to the Minister, an employee who just happened to be a former Bell Canada employee and worked on the previous Bell deal under the Liberals. MacKay signed that contract with that Bell-controlled NB company based on that recommendation. That decision is now under review by his Deputy Minister.
1. So What’s the Pattern Emerging Within the King Government?
Both of the above-cited incidents happening within the Department of EGTC have three key characteristics in common which together comprise what looks like a reactive, minimalist “pattern” response to….well, in plain English, “getting caught”:
STEP #1: HEAD OF EGTC KEEPS INCIDENT “SECRET”
The “inside” corruption/immorality/illegality happening within the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture (EGTC) is not voluntarily made known to the public by the DepartmentHead(Minister and/or Deputy Minister) but kept secret;
STEP #2: EGTC HEAD’S “ILLEGAL & UNETHICAL ACTS” ARE MADE PUBLIC
The insider corruption/immorality/illegal activity within EGTC is finally made public as a result of it being EXPOSED.
With Incident #1, the fact that the Department had covered up knowledge that 2 years of Brad Mix’s egaming records had been illegally destroyed was first made known in a July 10, 2019 letter to the Privacy Commissioner. I disclosed that information in a blog article and it was also reported in the Guardian. That was nearly a year ago but no further mention of this incident was made by Government and NO action was taken. It was only when the June 22, 2019 Privacy Commissioner’s Order was made public that the Government announced an action.
With Incident #2, this first happened when Peter Bevan-Baker asked a question during Question Period. Notice that Minister MacKay nervously answers a question about the internet wi-fi tendering contract despite the fact that Hon. Bevan-Baker’s question was not asking about that particular tendering process – but Minister MacKay obviously knew that question was coming:
STEP 3: THE EGTC HEAD ANNOUNCES INVESTIGATION EGTC WILL OVERSEE
With Incident #1, Minister MacKay immediately announced an independent 3rd-Party review that he’d oversee.
With Incident #2, Minister MacKay immediately announced his own Deputy Minister would conduct a review.
No one has yet raised any concerns about the inappropriateness of the Deputy Minister of EGTC, Erin McGrath-Gaudet, taking the lead on this review. It was her signature on the letters that were full of lies regarding the Brad Mix incident, and it was her responses that the Privacy Commissioner referred to when she said she couldn’t get answers despite numerous correspondence from the Deputy Minister.
The Deputy Minister was just found out covering up a scandal and misleading the public for months and we’re going to trust her to get to the bottom of the Bell deal that she – as Deputy Minister – just allowed to happen? A deal she most likely was involved with?
How is it that no one apparently sees anything wrong with this picture? Again, the Privacy Commissioner just nailed Minister McKay and Deputy Minister McGrath-Gaudet for breaking the law and covering up serious incidents [destruction of Brad Mix’s records] and now this bungled Bell bid is going to be left in their hands to investigate, no questions asked? Does this Government have any sense of fair process at all? Have the MLAs even read the Privacy Commissioner’s Report?
2. Read the OIPC Order: EGTC Should Not Be Investigating Itself!
There are two things about the above-noted pattern that are both obvious and disturbing, yet both are being completely ignored as if insignificant: (1) that it is the government officials identified as the head of the public body by the Privacy Commissioner who share the same powers and duties [as the PEI Interpretation Act makes clear]:
…and (2) that it is Minister MacKay and Deputy Minister McGrath-Gaudet who are at the centre of both of the incidents needing to be investigated – they need to be interviewed and called upon to answer for their actions and/or lack thereof, not put in charge of both investigations! These are the same two individuals identified by the Privacy Commissioner as having broken the law by covering up knowledge of deleted records and employing a deliberate strategy of deception with PEI residents…why doesn’t that matter in PEI?
The Privacy Commissioner’s disturbing findings concerning the illegal breach of the FOIPP ACT were entirely directed at the Head of the EGTC – meaning both the Minister and Deputy Minister. She said (several times) that she was at a loss to understand why the Minister and Deputy Minister broke the law and deceived me and Paul Maines. She couldn’t get why they would work so hard to keep us ignorant about the destroyed egaming records throughout the course of the Brad Mix FOIPP requests and Privacy Commissioner review. But she was certain of one thing – they deliberately deceived me in an egregious violation of the FOIPP Act and their duty as public servants:
“ I find that the headof the EGTC [e.g., MacKay and McGrath-Gaudet] did not respond to the Applicants openly, accurately and completely,violating section 8 of the FOIPP Act, when they failed to advise the Applicants that responsive records to their access requests had been destroyed, and were no longer accessible.”
“ I find that the EGTC did not fulfill their duty to be open, accurate and complete when responding to the Applicants, by failing to explain why very few responsive records were found. I further find that the EGTC deliberately withheld this important information from the Applicants, which is a violation of their section 8 duty. I would have expected the gap in the named employee’s emails to be one of the first facts to be communicated to the Applicants, following the EGTC’s realization that their search could not be properly completed. Instead, the EGTC provided the few records they had to the Applicants, and remained silentabout the possibility that there could have been more, but they had not been retained.”
 I am at a loss to explain the motivation of the EGTC in withholding such key information from the Applicants. I have overseen many access reviews since November, 2002, and have observed that public bodies are forthright in their dealings with applicants, even when the information the public body must provide is embarrassing, or does not place the public body or a given employee in the best light. In such circumstances, public bodies prioritize their duty to respond openly, accurately and completely. Why the EGTC chose to keep the fact of missing emails from the Applicants remains a mystery, even after multiple submissions to the Commissioner by the EGTC in these reviews.“
No one is saying that Minister MacKay or Deputy Minister McGrath-Gaudet destroyed Government records. But the Privacy Commissioner did say that they broke the FOIPP Act by lying to me and Maines. Nor did they disclose to the Privacy Commissioner why they did what they did, leaving her baffled as to motive. I doubt Maines has many doubts about motive…I know I don’t.
This is an important point: Only the Head of EGTC knows why the Head of EGTC [MacKay and McGrath-Gaudet]chose to keep the fact of missing emails from me and Maines. They violated section 8.1 of the FOIPP Act to effect a cover-up and have not – to this day – disclosed why they did that, nor have they been ASKED!
As the Commissioner confirmed in her report, the EGTC Head would not disclose the motivation for their actions despite multiple attempts by the Commissioner to elicit that information. Yet, it appears no one has any concerns about these same two individuals heading up both the 3rd-party investigation into the deliberate destruction of records in Minister MacKay’s department and other violations identified in the OIPC report; as well as a review of the botched Bell Wi-fi Bid fiasco. That’s concerning.
Only in PEI are politicians and senior bureaucrats who are caught breaking laws and acting unethically afforded the blind trust and power to initiate and oversee investigations into themselves. Not a bit of wonder there’s never any consequences for wrongdoing for “individuals” – just an never-ending litany of recommendations and promises to “fix” the system. Not a bit of wonder why corruption in the PEI Government continues – getting to investigate yourself is pretty much an “incentive” to carry on as usual.
I don’t expect anyone will be losing their jobs or, for that matter, suffering any negative consequences when the results of these two investigations are finally made public. We’ll likely get more recommendations on how the system can be improved so similar things can’t happen in the future. I doubt they’ll discover that elusive systemic change so desperately needed that convinces unethical individuals within government not to engage in self-serving and illegal behaviour against the public good.
“I got a call Tuesday evening after supper and legislature here. Somebody on the other end of the phone gave me a little information that was quite concerning to me; MacKay said in an interview. MacKay said he called his deputy minister that evening, who began investigating how the request for proposals had occurred.”
I guess we’re just supposed to trust that she’ll disclose what needs to be disclosed – let’s just hope she wasn’t personally involved in the mess – although I suspect she was – because that will be hard for her to be honest about in her report. Not too smart: creating another conflict-of-interest situation to investigate a conflict-of-interest incident!
Premier King expects the same level of trust from us for Minister MacKay’s 3rd Party investigation. But why would be that stupid? Minister MacKay is undertaking to get to the bottom of why he and his deputy broke the law and participated in a long-standing Government cover-up of Brad Mix’s involvement in CMT and FMT, which is most certainly the biggest reason why CMT’s case was dismissed by Judge Campbell – because that cover-up extended into our judicial system with non-disclosure of that same information. Here’s what the Premier said about “trust” when explaining why he was voting against Motion 86:
“All of my caucus who have spoken and we’ve talked about it many times within caucus, we want to do everything we can to help Islanders get to the bottom of this issue.Though the events around this very troubling issue happened a number of years ago, questions remain and that is why the Minister of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture will bring an independent investigator, some fresh eyes from the outside to probe deeply and we will share that report fully and publicly with this Legislature and with all Prince Edward Islanders when it is presented to the government.”
Perhaps I watched too many alien abduction movies as a kid, but the prospect of the named offender [Minister MacKay and Deputy Minister McGrath-Gaudet] arranging to have some unknown entity from the outside “probe deeply” gives me no confidence or comfort at all. None.
After nearly a year and a half investigation, former Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ms. Karen Rose, released her Brad Mix Order on June 22, 2020. That report identified multiple occasions where the King Government broke the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPP) Act and systematically and continuously misled the two applicants who had submitted those 5 Brad Mix FOIPPs that were under review and produced that Order – me and Paul Maines.
Most Islanders – I suspect most MLAs as well – are probably not aware that the Privacy Commissioner’s Order was not about events that took place years ago. That’s what Premier King stated when he spoke to why he was going to vote against Motion 86 on Tuesday evening, June 30, 2020 in the Legislature, saying that although the events happened years ago, “unanswered questions” remained. That was false and a total deflection from the facts.
The Privacy Commissioner’sscathing comments were directed squarely at Hon. Matthew MacKayand Deputy Minister Erin McGrath Gaudet for how they responded to both me and Paul Maines throughout the course of the Brad Mix FOIPP requests and Privacy Commissioner review:
“ I find that the head of the EGTC [Hon. Matthew MacKay & DM Erin MacGrath-Gaudet] did not respond to the Applicants openly, accurately and completely,violating section 8 of the FOIPP Act,when they failed to advise the Applicants that responsive records to their access requests had been destroyed, and were no longer accessible.”
The Privacy Commissioner Report then served as the catalyst for the introduction of Motion 86 – a “tipping point” of sorts – which has set an historic process in place… a watershed moment for Islanders and provincial politics, the implications of which few yet fully grasp, especially those privileged members of the trans-partisan back room insider club – the stallions – who are about to get “de-stable-ized”.
When the Privacy Commissioner’s report was first made public, the King Government came out of the gate fast – like all previous governments had before them when scandals raised their head in public – announcing a “third-party” investigation. That investigation would both be set up and overseen by the Head of the Public Body who the Privacy Commissioner had just found to have broken the FOIPP Act and deliberately misled me and Maines by covering up and keeping secret knowledge that 2 years of Brad Mix’s egaming records were deliberately destroyed. That’s just not right.
It was PC MLA Sidney MacEwan who teed up that Government announcement in the first Question Period after the Privacy Commissioner’s Order was made public. I was waiting eagerly for someone from the Greens to speak to the Privacy Commissioner’s Report and ask some tough questions, but nothing.
Then MacEwan popped up to ask Minister MacKay what he was going to do about the concerning findings in the Privacy Commissioner’s Order. Here’s what CBC said about the announcement:
“The government of P.E.I. says it will be hiring an external party to review how another batch of government emails went missing and to review government’s
Actually, the Privacy Commissioner’s conclusion wasn’t that emails “went missing”, but that they had been deliberately and illegally destroyed.
Minister MacKay’s Department kept knowledge of that document destruction from both me and Maines, until it was finally uncovered by the Privacy Commissioner in the course of her investigation, disclosed in a July 10, 2019 letter to the Commissioner from Deputy Minister McGrath-Gaudet.
Why didn’t Minister MacKay announce an investigation a year ago when this was first admitted to the Commissioner and then made public by me, after I received a copy of that letter from Commissioner Rose? Absolutely nothing was said publicly until something had to be said. Absolutely nothing was done or announced until something had to be done and announced.
What was done was the bare minimum, worse really – a quick move to take full control of the situation with an empty promise to “get to the bottom” of what….the actions identified by the Privacy Commissioner? Not at all! Rather, problems with the “record management system,” so these things won’t happen again.
The same tired, old song from the same old “mismanaged” record player! What the Minister announced in the publicly announced scope of the third-party investigation totally ignored what the Information Commissioner had identified as the most grievous offences: premeditated acts by individuals to “destroy” records deliberately, and “mislead” FOIPP applicants with lies.
Not only would Minister McKay be selecting and hiring that investigator, he would have complete and exclusive control of both how the process unfolded (including the scope of the investigation) as well as what happened with the findings or final report – all under the blanket protection of Cabinet Confidence.
Why would Islanders trust there would be anything close to full and complete disclosure from the PC Government after all the lies, deception and cover-up on this file since being elected?
Premier King’s government knew that the defense advanced by the previous Liberal Government was all based on lies and a failure to disclose materially-relevant documents – or he should have known – but stayed the course by filing those same lies in response to CMT’s Appeal.
There is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY those same PC Cabinet Ministers would accept such a second-rate investigation controlled by Cabinet with no powers to compel responses from anyone if they were the Opposition! They would INSIST ON a Special Standing Committee with a specified report-back deadline for a report and recommendations to the Legislative Assembly, exactly as the Green’s put forward, and the PC Government shamelessly voted to defeat.
1. FULL ACCESS: The Motivation Behind The Green’s Motion 86
Peter Bevan-Baker hadn’t initially said anything in Question Period about the Privacy Commissioner’s report. As noted above, it was Hon. Sidney MacEwan who raised questions and concerns about the Privacy Commissioner’s report, to which Minister MacKay responded with the announcement of the third-party investigation.
Hon. Bevan-Baker was no doubt troubled as I was to see the Government move quickly to take control of the reins of the situation, and obviously decided that “same ole – same ole” just wasn’t good enough, and introduced Motion 86. Here’s what he said about why the Motion was put forward:
2. Better Get off the Tracks Backroom Stallions!
I did an entire 25-part series titled: “All the King’s Horses: Then and Now,” where I tried to draw attention to how the legal case which the lawyers and King Government were advancing in the response to CMT’s Appeal represented a complete betrayal of what the PC MLAs knew to be true and advanced as such when they were the Opposition.
Below is a part of explanation I provided for the graphic clarifying the key distinction between all the King’s “horses” and all the King’s “men“.
“The four unhappy and pretty worried-looking men in the picture are NOW four prominent Cabinet Ministers in the King government. THEN they were PC Party Opposition MLAs – and three of them held interim and/or permanent roles as PC Party leaders (Aylward, Myers, and Fox). These four individuals were the principal spokespersons on the e-gaming issues for the PC Party.
The two main lawyers working on e-gaming – Billy Dow (who helped to create the whole e-gaming mess) and Jonathan Coady (the “fixer” called in from Stewart McKelvey to make the mess disappear) – are, of course, the horses. Why? Because people (politicians) ride horses (lawyers) in this analogy to giddy-up to where they want to get (in power) not the other way around.
When the peasants (Islanders) revolt (have an election) and Humpty goes Dumpty, all the King’s men are suddenly left standing around powerless and confused, able to do nothing but gaze upon their shattered dreams of a life in Cabinet for years to come, trying to understand how all their good intentions could have gone off the rails so badly so soon after having just achieved their long-sought dream of becoming government.
But guess what? When the peasants remove the King and his men (and women) from the castle, and new people take up residence, they’ll saddle up the very same horses as the previous tenants because they don’t live in the palace where people come and go, they live in the stable. The moral of the story is that whenever politicians promise a stable government, we need to ask what kind of “stable” they’re talking about.”
The three upcoming PEI Supreme Court Contempt Motions – and the Special Committee to be established from Motion 86 – will all shine more light on the shadowy FOIPP process and back room shenanigans happening under the King Government. This will hopefully finally bring PEI out of the dark ages and make Freedom of Information more than a nuisance for government, but a effective system that serves both transparency and Islanders.
3. Are the PC MLAs in the Dark About the King Gov’t Wearing This?
I’m increasingly convinced that most opposition and PC MLAs have – until very recently at least – been completely unaware of the illegal activity and cover-up strategy meticulously and painstakingly employed by the Premier and various backroom players since the PC Government was first elected.
I’m a little perplexed as to why Minister MacKay didn’t take the information I presented in an January 27, 2020 article titled “Do They Not Realize the Danger They’re In…” a lot more seriously. I saw the workings of backroom forces within his department that I suspected he had no idea about, and gave him a detailed head’s up about the illegal activity and cover-up going on. That article was not the first time a head’s up was provided by any means.
This is what I wrote then about how I thought what was going on was originating with the shadow government in the back rooms:
“I honestly don’t believe either Minister MacKay or the Deputy Minister are behind (or even fully aware of) all the irregularities and shenanigans with this file. I suspect that they have both been led to believe all along that it’s not really a big deal, and that the lawyers working on the file have everything in hand. They do not.
I put this post out today hoping that this information might help to ensure that whatever ends up being filed in the PEI Supreme Court as the King Government’s Defense on this issue – that will be sworn and signed to by Minister MacKay’s Deputy Minister, Ms. Gaudet – will be truthful and just, and fully honour the passion and commitment Minister MacKay so courageously displayed as an Opposition MLA regarding the obligation government has to release e-gaming documents to the public.”
I wonder if the PC MLAs – not to mention Green and Liberal opposition MLAs – ever read Government’s CMT’s Appeal Response? It contradicts everything they know to be true about egaming.
I wonder if the PC MLAs realize that new documents obtained in FOIPPs by Paul Maines and me now reveal that sworn testimony from several Government Defendants – including Brad Mix who is still employed with Hon. MacKay – were false statements designed to hide materially-relevant facts from disclosure in the CMT lawsuit?
The more I ponder the current situation, the more I’m now convinced that MLAs – especially Cabinet Ministers – likely have little idea about what is really going on behind the scenes, especially all the illegal document withholding and cover-up acts by their own Government over the past year and a half in the most blatant denial of access I’ve personally ever witnessed by a government.
MLAs – especially Cabinet Ministers – were given heavy mandates when elected, which didn’t include meddling in the egaming lawsuit, or speaking publicly about the egaming scandal. They have all likely been persuaded by the oft-stated lie – as Premier King restated about the subject matter of Motion 86, “although these events happened years ago, unanswered questions remain. “ Absolutely not true and all MLAs better realize that soon.
I suspect it is only now starting to sink in with most MLAs that the Privacy Commissioner wasn’t talking about the previous Liberals, but singled out Minister MacKay and his Deputy Minister Erin McGrath-Gaudet as the Government officials ultimately responsible for the illegal and egregiously deceptive handling of the five Brad Mix FOIPPs.
But herein lies the problem. Since taking over power, the King Government and its MLA’s have been completely silent on e-gaming and deleted emails. Worse … they defended the very actions they fought as the Official Opposition filing documents in the PEI Courts defending Ghiz, Sheridan, LeClair et al.
This is not what Islanders voted for nor were promised. We are travelling into uncharted territory now, and it will be fascinating to see whether the members chosen by the three Parties to sit on the Special Committee will do what has never been possible with any previous Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly: bring an investigation to its logical conclusion by relentlessly pursuing the truth.
Any steps from King’s Cabinet taken to delay and/or somehow thwart the work of the committee will reveal just how powerful the Back Room really is.
4. This Time It Might Just be Different
Back in the PC Leadership race I put forward a bunch of “anti-corruption” policies, and #2 on that list [#2 – Balanced Representation on Legislative Standing Committees] aimed to make representation on Standing Committees balanced so Government couldn’t just vote down Motions from Opposition members to bring certain witnesses before the Committee, which had been the long-standing practice.
To his credit, King supported this policy during the debates when I announced it, and proceeded to change the way standing committees work when he was elected Premier. That change takes the power from Government to block witnesses or defeat other Motions whenever it chooses with a majority of members on the committees.
If that had not happened it would not now be possible to summon the stallions from the stables to hear their “yeahs” and “neighs” to some tough questions they’ve never been asked before…the answers to which I suspect will be mostly “neighs”.
As I keep stating, Motion 86 is historic. I doubt that Hon. Bevan-Baker yet grasps that this recent Order is but the tip of the iceberg in what is coming by way of the exposing of the King Government’s Freedom of Information scandal that is unraveling fast. It will be heard in the Supreme Court on August 11 & 12, with Maines being represented by a high-powered lawyer from Toronto. It will likely send massive shock waves through both government and the back room. A bit of background about one of those three Motions alleging the PEI Government is in contempt of court-enforced Orders may help to give some sense of the gravity of the situation.
5. What Does it Mean to Be in Contempt of a Court Order?
To be in contempt of a Court Order means pretty much what you’d expect: it means to be in breach of an Order issued by the Court either compelling you to do or forbidding you to do something. With Paul Maines’ upcoming three Motions that will be heard together via Zoom on August 10 and 11, 2020, the PEI Government – the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture (EGTC) to be precise – breached three Court Orders to release documents to Paul Maines on dates specified in those Orders.
To be in contempt of a Court Order the Government must have done a number of things and taken a few steps:
First it broke its own FOIPP Act by refusing to release documents;
Then the Government asked the Applicant (Maines) to consent to an Order so the Public Body could get back in good stead with the law,
Then the Government asked the Privacy Commissioner to prepare an Order with an agreed-upon deadline for provision of records to Maines, and officiate it’s signing, signing the order herself, as well giving clear instructions on what she was ordering, and
Then they would have to have to break that Order.
This has never happened before in PEI so lets take a look at the steps Maines took (or perhaps I should say “endured”) in his effort to obtain these key Government records from the PC Government over the last year, and ponder how the King Government (Erin McGrath-Gaudet) will explain these actions when she takes the witness stand in Court.
Refusing Access To Records
The FOIPP Act allows the Government Department to take a 30 day extension in addition to the initial 30 day period, and additional extensions can be requested from the Information and Privacy Commissioner. If there are “third parties” mentioned in the records, additional time is taken to obtain 3rd party permission to release private information.
Once the Public Body has exhausted all extensions available under the FOIPP Act, the Department must then produce the responsive records. If the Government simply refuses to produce them, the public body or Department is deemed to be in violation of Section 9.2, referred to as a “deemed refusal” because the Government simply refuses to release records yet has no legitimate legal grounds to withhold them.
Failure to Respond: Section 9(2) of the FOIPP Act
The failure of the head to respond to a request within the 30 day period or any extended period is to be treated as a decision to refuse access to the record.
The King Government did this on 5 occasions with Maines. I have had a bunch of deemed refusals as well, including the now infamous Brad Mix review that led to the recent Order that, in turn, led to Motion 86 and the soon-to-be established Special Committee.
Once the King Government asked Maines to enter into a Consent Order to delay disclosures they also entered into a new world. A Consent Order can be filed with the Supreme Court, and Maines did just that on the very same day the Order was signed – by him, by Deputy Minister Erin McGrath-Gaudet and by the Privacy Commissioner.
When the Deputy Minister failed to comply with the Consent Order, Maines filed a Motion in the PEI Supreme Court. This has never happened in PEI before.
This move paralyzes the people I believe were operating behind the scenes with these FOIPPs to cover-up information. They likely never imagined it would end up in the Supreme Court, but as the Information Commissioner told a Guardian reporter, it’s now out of her hands:
Information and Privacy Commissioner Karen Rose confirmed this was the first time her office, which opened in 2002, has ever signed a consent order related to a FOIPP request. “All of our orders may be filed with the court. It’s just that, to my knowledge, nobody ever has,” Rose said. Rose added that the matter is beyond the jurisdiction of her office and is “out of our hands.”
It’s likely tempting (and all-too-easy) to hide sensitive documents from release with a false claim that it is “solicitor-client” privileged, knowing that the Privacy Commissioner isn’t able to see the documents to verify if they are actually privileged.
It’s surprisingly difficult to meet the legal “test” establishing client-solicitor privilege. Were those documents withheld on that basis legitimately client-solicitor privileged? We’ll find out in August.
The Information Commissioner can’t look at the documents, but a Supreme Court Order Judge can, and I suspect that with that scenario never happening in PEI before, those making those decisions to withhold documents on the basis of Section 25(1) – Solicitor-Client Privilege – likely never dreamed a judge would be looking at them to see if they actually meet the muster.
Also, on August 11 and 12th, Deputy Minister Erin McGrath-Gaudet will be cross-examined about how she had first-hand knowledge about the privileged nature of those documents despite them being from years previous, information enough to swear an affidavit that they were in fact client-solicitor privileged.
The three August 11 and 12 Contempt Motions against the King Government will shine another bright light on further interference and manipulation of additional egaming FOIPPs by the King Government.
MLA’s may not yet have must sense of these behind-the-scenes antics; however, they should review the facts and MANY instances of illegal activities and cover-up by the King government in various FOIPP-related articles I’ve already published as preparation for these upcoming Motions – it’s going to be interesting.
Why would a horse – granted, an incredibly powerful horse for sure – gallop full-steam into a train going full-steam toward the horse? Who knows? Maybe the horse has blinders on or is arrogant and so set in its ways it can’t realize it doesn’t stand a chance against the train. Maybe it’d rather die than abandon the track that’s sustained him for years, without which no other life seems possible or worthwhile? Regardless, it’s not going to end well for the stallions.
All MLAs would be wise to unhitch from any horse they may have inadvertently become attached to and get onboard the “truly” transparency train, that crazy loco-Motion 86.
I fully expect many more contemptuous acts by the King government operatives working on FOIPP requests will be revealed by the PEI Supreme Court Judge in mid-August when these three Contempt Motion are heard.
There are also a number – about a dozen or so – more “Orders” to be issued in coming weeks/months that will also most certainly confirm further, multiple illegal activities by the King Government stretching back months right up to the present day.
I also expect a whole lot more will be revealed once members of the Standing Committee put a few of those stallions in front of the real Loco-Motion 86. I will be happy to provide background documentation to better formulate the right questions!
In my last article, I inadvertently uploaded the wrong video clip of Peter Bevan-Baker. It was a good one too, but I want to end with his succinct summary of the “loco” introduced by the PC Government to his Motion 86.
To anyone watching, the hypocrisy of the PC Government on Motion 86 was on full display, and Hon. Bevan-Baker captured that nicely.
“Every veil secretly desires to be lifted, except the veil of Hypocrisy.” — Richard Garnett
Hypocrisy isn’t just “telling a lie”. Hypocrisy is when everything you tell is a lie. Big difference.
The only way for a politician to survive being publicly exposed as a hypocrite is to either: (1) fess up completely and immediately, be forgiven, and possibly be rewarded for his or her honesty next time at the polls; or (2) somehow ensure that “being publicly exposed” doesn’t translate into very many Islanders actually finding out and understanding what they did, at least not before finding a way to trick voters into giving them another political mandate.
Premier King and the PC MLAs had a chance to come clean during Debate on Motion 86 on Tuesday evening (June 30, 2020) but decided to go another route. Someone was convinced that the Premier’s stellar story-telling skills (probably bolstered with confident reassurances from lawyer members of the Insider Club, who also likely wrote his speech) ended up convincing him that it would be a slam dunk – that he’d easily come out the debate winner, not show the weakness of going back on previous statements (irrational as they may have been), and more likely be able to control and/or delay the investigative process in an existing Legislative Standing Committee. Not a smart plan.
Before getting into how that strategy crashed and burned, permit me the indulgence of a family story that always brings a smile to my face. It comes from my brother.
When one of my brother’s daughters was about 3 yrs old, she got herself alone and into his pool cue chalk down in the basement rec-room, completely covering both her hands and face with blue. My brother got out his VHS camera (this happened a while ago) and recorded her cute little smurf face uttering the sweetest, emphatic and very sincere protestations that she did not touch his pool cue chalk!. Funny as hell when you’re a 3-year old – not so funny when you’re the Premier of Prince Edward Island.
That’s pretty much what happened Tuesday evening in the Legislative Assembly. There were broad swaths of egaming Tory blue “cover-up” chalk dust smeared all over the Premier’s face.
I was sincerely hoping that the Government would finally come clean about how it has been systematically and completely covering up the egaming scandal, and hiding the truth from Islanders. That didn’t happen. The proof of their complicity with the corruption and cover-up is now so overwhelming it’s baffling to me how anyone in the PC Government could believe such a strategy of pretense and denial could ever be successful now. But here we are.
Premier King had one final chance to do the right thing Tuesday evening in the Legislative Assembly and he failed to do it. He attempted to keep the facts and truth hidden, presenting a string of falsehoods and contradictions in a poorly strung-together moralizing and quasi-condescending irrational bluster.
Everything – and I do mean everything – the Premier said by way of an “argument” or legitimate reason to vote down Motion 86 was based on a lie – which makes it hypocrisy!
Anyone listening to Premier King’s masterfully-delivered speech on Motion 86 – unaware of the facts explaining the true context within which Premier’s words must be understood – would likely have been persuaded by what the Premier said.
The way he praised Peter, then feigned legitimate disbelief, sadness and confusion over how his always collaborating legislative bubble buddy could pull such a cheap political stunt – presenting poor Peter (with kindness of course) as a veritable “wolf-in-Sheep’s clothing,” descending into the use of a dirty partisan political trick, something Premier King indicated he had vanquished from the House and made a relic of a bygone era. It was a “Get behind me Satan” kind of moment in his speech. But way too loud.
When Premier King presented Bevan-Baker’s response to Government’s filibustering by Steven Myers during debate on Motion 86 as a cheap political stunt, as something totally out of character for an otherwise fine and upstanding member of the Legislative Assembly, well it just felt desperate and uncomfortable. He said he was shocked and perplexed. Really? That Motion wasn’t shocking to Islanders at all…it was welcomed with excitement and hope.
The “louder than usual” level in the Premier’s voice – oscillating at times with that “wake-like” quiet tone combining sadness with regret (with just a hint of shame and guilt transfer) – betrayed a palpable insecurity:
I trusted Dennis King to do what had to be done before he became Premier King and did my best to help him get elected. I then provided both him and Hon. Matthew MacKay with multiple “head’s up” about what was about to rain down on their heads if they didn’t take action. Those warnings were ignored in favour of further and total cover-up, and many further breaches of the law.
The emperor (King in this instance) may not be wearing any real clothes after all, but the hypocrisy now exposed at least replaces the illusion of truth with the exposureof hypocrisy. That exposure provides a coat of shame for betraying the promise to govern with integrity, openness, honesty and transparency.
If you go back to the video of last Thursday afternoon’s (June 26, 2020) session, when Motion 86 was first introduced and debated, then watch the Motion 86 debate and vote that happened during the June 30 evening session, at a time when Peter Bevan-Baker could ensure he’d get maximum media and public attention for his stunt (I’m being sarcastic here) you’ll see there’s absolutely nothing sincere in what the Premier is saying.
As far as legitimate arguments to vote down Motion 86? There aren’t any. That is, if you really want to get to the bottom of things, as the Premier and fellow Cabinet Ministers say over and over they want to do, but then betray the defining mark of hypocrisy and act as if they don’t believe what they say.
There was really only one argument or reason put forward by the Premier, and as you’ll see from the video clip response from Green MLA Lynn Lund, it was beyond ridiculous…it was, well…..TOTALLY HYPOCRITICAL and I’m sure a joke to every opposition MLA listening to his nonsense.
But before Premier King presented his big argument, the reason why he was – on principle – voting against the Motion, he first felt compelled to express his extreme disappointment and surprise with the Leader of the Opposition’s nasty partisan stunt.
1. The Premier’s Accusation that “Motion 86” Was a Political Stunt
Premier King began his speech using a time-tested technique: praise a person to the highest heaven for their integrity and good intentions, then express sadness and confusion over how such an outstanding person could have slipped back into the “dark side” of petty partisan politics:
I was going to put up a clip from Peter Bevan-Baker pointing out that it was Hon. Steven Myers who “called the question” and shut down debate – not the Greens, but take my word for it – or go watch and see for yourself. Yet the Premier lectures Peter as if the Greens shut down debate! Bizarro.
The Green’s luckily had the floor when Myers shut down debate – after he used up the lion’s share of the time himself -so after some clarification of the rules by the Speaker, the Greens were able to bring the Motion back for further debate.
For Premier King to have delivered such a passionate speech dressing down the Opposition for something his own Cabinet Minister did was, well, totally hypocritical.
2. “The Legislature Shouldn’t Dictate to Standing Committees”
Premier King’s passionate plea that the Greens stop trying to usurp the power of the independent Standing Committees – something he indicated they were trying to do by putting forward Motion 86 – was both ridiculous and again, completely hypocritical.
Ironically, earlier the same day the Legislative Assembly received a report back from the Standing Committee after the entire Legislative Assembly “dictated” that they meet to review an important Bill regarding whether the Legislative Assembly should support the Government’s seeking significantly-expanded powers during emergencies.
Premier King seemed oblivious to all of that, and the blatant and obvious “gap” between reality and the “principled” argument he was advancing as the basis for voting against Motion 86. Indeed, his own recent behaviour in the House suggesting and supporting matters for Standing Committees (with imposed timelines to report back to the Legislative Assembly) completely contradicted everything he said so passionately; again, complete hypocrisy. You’ll see that more clearly after hearing Green MLA’s articulate response to the Premier’s bizarre argument about not dictating to Standing Committees, which follows the video clip from the Premier:
The Premier’s pulpit-pounding speech was completely disingenuous – pure hypocrisy!
3. LET’S BE CLEAR: This is NOT about the Liberals Anymore!
Part of Premier King’s completely hypocritical speech was the predictable statements he made that he and all his PC Colleagues sincerely wanted to get to the bottom of things. But listen carefully to what he says about those “things”. In his mind, those things were all from years ago, from the previous two Liberal eras. Absolutely False:
The Privacy Commissioner’s report addressed decisions and actions taken by the King Government: actions that were illegal and bent on keeping secret knowledge the Government had that Brad Mix’s records had been deliberately destroyed. The Commissioner also confirmed that staff in Hon. Matthew MacKay’s department systematically deceived me and Paul Maines – and for a while, the Privacy Commissioner herself.
Despite what the Premier says about “things” happening years ago, the very concerning events documented in the Commissioner’s Order that brought Motion 86 to the floor of the legislative Assembly all happened under the King Government’s tenure as Government. Again, everything the Premier said about needing to get answers to questions concerning events that happened years before he became Premier was a lie.
I’ve already presented a lot of documentation and evidence in previous articles of PC flip-flops and hypocrisy, especially with the 25 episodes highlighting the hypocrisy with each different PC MLA on various egaming issue ranging from the breach of the MOU to the deletion of Government records by Neil Stewart (still employed in the King Government by the way) and Robert Ghiz and many more. There’s no need to repeat all those conclusions exposing different aspects of the hypocrisy again in this article.
I’ll end by sharing an email I received from the Premier’s office exactly 3 hours before his speech on Motion 86 assuring us all that we can trust him and his government to be completely open and transparent on this file. That 4pm, June 30, 2020 email confirms another ILLEGAL breach of the FOIPP Act. It also signifies that the Premier is more or less thumbing his nose at the recent ruling by the Privacy Commissioner telling his Government to stop doing that to FOIPP applicants!
Like the Privacy Commissioner’s admonition of Government for refusing to provide me with critical information “up front” and freely to assist me getting copies of government records to which I am entitled as an Islander, Government is once again denying me this critical “upfront”information with a recent FOIPP request. Only this time it’s not Hon. Matthew’s Department of EGTC, it’s the Premier’s Office.
My final section of this article gives an update on my seemingly endless pursuit of an answer to one simple question: “Did someone delete Robert Ghiz’s records and is that being covered up like what happened with Brad Mix?” I’m ending this way so you’ll be able to put yourself in my shoes listening to Premier King wax wise and eloquent on forthrightness and open government when you’ve been given the Royal King runaround since Election Day. The hypocrisy with these claims and assurances comes with a gag-inducing potency for me.
4. Premier King’s Refusal to Answer one Simple Question!
I have been trying to answer a question for nearly two years: “Did someone delete Robert Ghiz’s records?” He provided none in the law suit, notwithstanding the fact that he is a Defendant – and a former Premier of Prince Edward Island. My search for an answer to that question started way back, when MacLachlan was still Premier.
I had discovered he had wasted no time at all after becoming Premier in deleting all of Ghiz’s electronic files and emails (within a month of being elected) so as to increase the efficiency, accuracy and speed of FOIPP searches I suspect (sarcasm).
This form confirmed that a premeditated and deliberate choice was made by Premier MacLauchlan to “delete” all Ghiz’s network files and emails. When that option is selected on the form, it’s against the law to do so without first copying and storing all the government records in the accounts – as was the case with Ghiz’s deletion of all his Chief-of-Staff’s (Chris LeClair’s) emails and network files. Were they retained for Robert Ghiz?
I put in a FOIPP request to answer that question on February 15, 2019 and was subsequently informed that I’d have to modify my search because the “keywords” I had chosen as the search criteria weren’t possible. Only paper records existed and I would need to submit “subjects” for file folder subject headings. There were apparently 18 banker boxes of paper records. My request for records should have produced copious amounts of records. The final response came back: “No records found.”
Paul Maines submitted a more recent FOIPP request for Ghiz documents, which I also wrote an article titled: “”GHIZ’S PEI GOVERNMENT RECORDS CONFIRMED MISSING: (New Review Launched with Information Commissioner).” That matter is still being reviewed by the Information and Privacy Commissioner, but in a nutshell, he cast a very broad net asking for any Ghiz records in any format either from or to or that made mention of his Chief of Staff Chris LeClair – for the six months leading up to LeClair’s departure form Government in October, 2011. The result: “No records found”. Absolutely not possible.
Here is just one quote from the article I published on February 14, 2020 about Paul Maines’ FOIPP for Ghiz records:
What we now know for sure is that for the 6 month period leading up to his abrupt exit from the PEI Government:
LeClair had engaged in “insider trading” with an egaming investment, which he first denied in Court filings, then later admitted;
LeClair was a “Contact person” on the Innovation PEI “Virgin Gaming/FMT” Project team at Innovation PEI, the same project which LeClair had invested in; and
LeClair was not only a member of the Virgin Gaming/FMT project team but also the conduit of communication between the team members and Premier Ghiz on the FMT/Simplex initiative.
I published a more recent article (May 28, 2020) titled, “Things that make you go Hmmm….About Robert Ghiz’s Documents,” with additional information about this perplexing situation where the Government had told me in my request for Robert Ghiz’s records back in early 2019 that there were no electronic records but Judge Campbell stated in his CMT Dismissal Ruling that Ghiz’s electronic records had been kept intact. From that article:
“I went back and read the paragraph that Ms. Dickson had referenced in her first letter. Sure enough, the information contained in somewhat less than clear terms led to one conclusion: only paper files in boxes were going to be searched for the Ghiz documents I had asked for:
Where Ms. Dickson says “…performing a search of all emails” I later learned that only meant a search of “paper copies” of all emails. I wanted to confirm that there were no electronic files to search so I asked straight up and I got a straight-up answer: they were gone.”
When the Privacy Commissioner’s ruling on my Brad Mix request came out – joined with four of Paul Maines’ requests – there were many strong statements against Government on various issues; however, one statement in particular spoke volumes to me, confirming that the Commissioner regarded Government’s refusal to deal honestly with me from the outset of the FOIPP request regarding the status of records to search was a particularly egregious violation of section 8.1 of the Act:
Bolstered by this strong ruling that the failure to disclose information about the status of the records available to be search is a violation of section 8.1 of the FOIPP Act, I decided to submit another request for Ghiz’s records, only this time I was going to make sure there could be no misunderstanding that I first wanted information about the status of Ghiz’s records, especially given the contradictory information coming from Government and Judge Campbell.
Perhaps I overdid it a tad. But I wanted to make sure there was NO possibility anything could be misinterpreted concerning both my (1) request for an answer about the status of Ghiz’s records, and (2) the reasons I needed that information regarding the proper formulation of my request.
Kathyrn Dickson, the APSO worker who had handled my previous Ghiz Access Request and volunteered information about the status of Ghiz’s records so I would “Modify” the search criteria for my request based on the claim there were no electronic records were available to search.
Given Judge Campbell’s declaration I learned about subsequently, I now needed to know if that previous claim from Ms. Dickson was true in order to determine whether keywords or subject titles should be used in the wording of my search:I received a letter from Ms. Dickson, on June 26, 2020. It didn’t mention or so much as acknowledge that I had asked a question, but simply informed me that processing of the records had begun!I responded immediately, reiterating my need for information as to whether there were or were not electronic records for Robert Ghiz to search so I could clarify proper search criteria:
I received an email response from Ms. Dickson at exactly 4 pm on June 30, 2020,indicating that the search was proceeding – again, totally ignoring my request to put the FOIPP request on hold until I received the assistance to which I was entitled under the FOIPP Act. I got that email exactly 3 hours BEFORE PREMIER KING’S SPEECH where he said, “Though the events around this very troubling issue happened a number of years ago, Mr. Speaker, unanswered questions remain.”
To present a refusal to deal honestly with a FOIPP applicant by refusing to answer one simple question just 3 hours before attempting to sell the idea that the events in question happened “a number of years ago” is not only hypocritical, it’s devious.
This is what the law says is the way Government is supposed to treat FOIPP applicants:
That hasn’t yet been confirmed by the Information Commissioner of course, but if I don’t eventually get an answer from the Premier’s office to this question I’ll be filing a review with the Commissioner, and I’m certain he’ll rule once again that the Premier’s Office broke the law….again! Will there be any consequences. You bet you, I’ll get my $5 buck FOIPP application fee back and the Premier will be told once again to stop breaking the law.
After receiving that email from Ms. Dickson I responded as follows:
I’ll let you know if I receive an answer, or whether they decide to just carry on processing what I asked be put on hold until I receive information about the status of Robert Ghiz’s records.
Now that the veil of hypocrisy is rapidly being lifted from the King Government, and the Liberals have come to realize that the great threat to open democracy and accountability at the present time is not coming from the egaming ghosts of Liberal scandals past; no, they now lie squarely in the lap of the PC Government.
Now that the Green Party has witnessed firsthand the bizarre scrambling of Government Ministers and the Premier – like surprised critters scurrying in search of an escape hole to slip through and finding none – Green MLAs appear to be now legitimately interested in using all the powers of a Special Standing Committee to launch the kind of investigation that can succeed, something never before witnessed in PEI. The powers to compel witnesses will now have teeth, with Government unable to block that from happening.
The PC Government can now hope for one and only one thing: that the majority of Islanders who are currently still unaware of how the Government’s hypocritical position on these fundamental issues of open government, accountability and transparency will somehow remain blind to the fact that this Government has now been exposed as a bunch of hypocrites.
The writing is so on the wall with the Government as a result of this massive betrayal of the electorate in deference to a largely secretive but powerful insider club. After having to tolerate nearly a year of complete silence from the PC Government, they then quietly advanced as a Response to CMT’s Appeal a legal strategy identical to the previous Government’s, which they knew was entirely based on lies All to thwart justice in a judicial process to defeat CMT’s Appeal. They did that – and are continuing to do that – by blocking release of FOIPP documents, resulting in multiple breaches of the law, the last instance of which happened three hoursbefore we were schooled by the Premier on his absolute dedication to being open with Islanders. Right. Got it.
I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if an election was called in the Fall as a last ditch effort to capitalize on whatever support for the PC Government might remain in the general population. Their only remaining strategy is to keep as many people as possible from finding out the truth for as long as possible. But news will now start to rapidly trickle out among Islanders, and more and more people will soon come to realize just what happened with Motion 86.
A snap Fall election will be too late at any rate. With three PEI Supreme Court Contempt Ordersnow scheduled for August 10 & 11, 2020 [You’ll be able to get a code to watch on Zoom] along with a number of additional OIPC Orders soon to be released by the Information and Privacy Commissioner – Orders I’m confident will confirm more illegal FOIPP acts by the King Government – I’m also quite confident that there won’t be a voting Islander still unaware of the alarming breadth, depth and width of the King Government hypocrisy about its participation in corruption by the Fall.
The King Government had one last chance to come clean and admit complicity in the egaming and document destruction and/or withholding cover-up since becoming Government. That chance was Tuesday evening. They blew it.
It is now too late for redemption and as the continued facade of telling the truth when you’re lying, ducking and weaving to avoid questions, playing partisan games to delay or frustrate progress without being too obvious, continues in the absence of the humility and confession now warranted, this Government will look ever more impotent and ridiculous. It will not come out of the next election with the reins of Government.
Peter Bevan-Baker said he was genuinely confused about the hypocrisy that, as he put it, spun him in circles while at the same time it was tying up the Government in pretzels. Peter Bevan-Baker characterized the bizarre nature of how the Government behaved in response to Motion 86 so nicely I’m going to give him the last word:
No one wants to think Hon. Matthew MacKay is anything but a stand-up guy who wants nothing but the best for his constituents and all Islanders.
Just listen to what PC MLA Sidney MacEwan had to say about how he believes Hon. Matthew MacKay is the perfect person to oversee a third-party investigation to get to the bottom of things:
No one expressed any concerns or raised any questions about the appropriateness of Minister MacKay heading up an investigation for Government, which is a little strange, especially given the fact that the investigation will be focused on Minister MacKay’s Department, and on Brad Mix, who is still the Senior Manager of the Recruitment Division of Innovation PEI under Minister MacKay.
No one asked any questions about any of that at all. That’s the only reason I’m writing this article – to lay out facts that give rise to legitimate concerns and questions, the answers to which affect how the investigation should be structured and proceed on a go-forward basis.
I fully understand how it’s not polite to publicly raise suspicions about someone, and how other MLAs would be reluctant to raise these concerns and questions. There’s a legitimate fear they’ll be seen as unfounded insinuations that the Minister may have been involved with the confirmed illegal activities and cover-up. There’s no evidence of that kind of involvement at this point, so why poke a hole in that bees nest?
Although illegal acts were confirmed to have happened within his department, Ms. Rose’s report fell short in discovering “who” destroyed those 2 years of Mix’s egaming records. That puts everyone within the Department, especially senior bureaucrats and the Minister, in the very same boat, and an investigation will need to involve interviews and focused inquiries with any one of these individuals, including the Minister. Minister MacKay should therefore not be overseeing the process that determines how he fits into the investigation and will himself be investigated. This has nothing to do with Matthew the person…only Matthew the Minister of EGTC.
What’s really important here is that we are able to determine what the most appropriate approach to discover the pertinent facts needed in order to explain what needs to be explained; the approach that has the best chance of being successful. Simple as that.
This has absolutely nothing to do with anything personal, including gossipy-type speculations about the moral character of Minister MacKay. This consideration about how an external investigation should happen is solely about determining a proper process.
Like lawyers with conflicts of interests who remove themselves from or decline cases, the Government should – in my opinion – be voluntarily stepping aside to show full accountability and transparency.
PC Cabinet Ministers were incredibly quick to grab the reigns of this process – with no consultation or discussions whatsoever. Now Government has decided that the Executive branch of government will again investigate the executive branch of government…which is just a little much, after what Islanders have been put through with that flawed approach over the past decade or so!
This eagerness demonstrated by Government to control the investigation is suspicious to me, especially due to the clear instance of bias and conflict of interest, e.g., overseeing an investigation of EGTC. With Minister MacKay insisting on proceeding and staying in control of the investigation last Thursday when he spoke to the issue….well that doesn’t in instill a lot of confidence and trust with me…it raises suspicions.
An investigation truly set on getting to the bottom of this matter in a relatively short amount of time (6 months) should be about determining the most appropriate course to follow after a careful consideration of the facts.
We need to be especially careful that we don’t allow our natural Island propensity to instinctively bestow our patented Anne of Green Gables brand of summertime politeness on troublesome or embarrassing situations to push plain old commonsense reasoning completely to the side, which appears to have happened so far.
We need to consider how the facts clearly preclude a conclusion that – despite what MLA MacEwan says about Hon. Matthew MacKay being the absolute best person to take charge of the external investigation into destroyed emails – as it unfortunately turns out for Minister MacKay, he is actually the absolute worse person to take charge of the external investigation into destroyed emails.
There really are only two logical possibilities to consider, given a letter from Minister MacKay’s Deputy to the Information and Privacy Commissioner which I’ll get to in a minute. Either…
(1) Minister MacKay knew what was going on within his department when they deliberately deceived FOIPP applicants (me and Paul Maines) on FIVE separate FOIPP requests for Brad Mix records, and was therefore complicit in that cover-up of destroyed records; or…
(2) Minister MacKay didn’t know what was going on within his department and was therefore not in control of either this file or the people who were in charge of it within his department.
Either way, that’s part of what had to be found out in an investigation, and the Minister shouldn’t be deciding who asks the questions, or what kind of questions are asked (e.g, scope of the investigation).
Either way, Minister MacKay should not be in control of this investigation under the dome of silence afforded in Executive Council through Cabinet Confidence. This belongs with the Legislative Branch of government.
1. Information and Privacy Commissioner’s Order Against EGTC
The scathing findings in the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) Order – that have now given rise to Motion 86 in the Legislative Assembly – was entirely to do with Minister MacKay’s Department.
I had first initiated that OIPC review back in January, 2019, then several months later Ms. Rose joined 4 other FOIPP requests to mine from Paul Maines also seeking Brad Mix records from the same two-year time period .
The Privacy Commissioners Order confirmed that it was Minister MacKay’s Department (referred to without names as the “public body” in the OIPC Order) who broke the FOIPP Act in multiple instances, in multiple ways in all of 5 FOIPPs that were lumped together into one review. This simply can not be glossed over and ignored!
We need to revisit what the Privacy Commissioner said in her June 9, 2020 Order concerning the deliberate destruction (and cover-up of the destruction) of Brad Mix emails for the entire 2-year e-gaming tenure.
Commissioner Rose couldn’t prove who destroyed the records within EGTC. Government’s response has been to pick up where she left off, with an announcement of an external investigation to be overseen by the Minister responsible for the Department to be investigated. That’s not right.
Before the Tories break a bunch of ankles falling off their high horses extolling all they once did to get to the bottom of the egaming scandal, document destruction, and cover-ups (past tense you’ll notice) let them first come clean about how they have been, and continue to be, actively engaged in pursuing the same completely false and perjured narrative advanced under the previous government in Court since becoming Government.
Let them first confess with sincere compunction that they have been doing absolutely everything within their power to stay the course with the cover-up, admit as little as possible and only as much as is forced, and do whatever to frustrate both Maines and my continued efforts to access government records to this very day.
Consider just a few paragraphs from Ms. Rose’s Order:
 I find that the EGTC did not fulfill their duty to be open, accurate and complete when responding to the Applicants, by failing to explain why very few responsive records were found. I further find that the EGTC deliberately withheld this important information from the Applicants, which is a violation of their section 8 duty.I would have expected the gap in the named employee’s emails to be one of the first facts to be communicated to the Applicants,following the EGTC’s realization that their search could not be properly completed. Instead, the EGTC provided the few records they had to the Applicants, and remained silent about the possibility that there could have been more, but they had not been retained.
 I am at a loss to explain the motivation of the EGTCin withholding such key information from the Applicants. I have overseen many access reviews since November, 2002, and have observed that public bodies are forthright in their dealings with applicants, even when the information the public body must provide is embarrassing, or does not place the public body or a given employee in the best light. In such circumstances, public bodies prioritize their duty to respond openly, accurately and completely. Why the EGTC chose to keep the fact of missing emails from the Applicants remains a mystery, even after multiple submissions to the Commissioner by the EGTC in these reviews.
Many of those “multiple submissions” were signed by Deputy Minister McGrath-Gaudet.
The PEI Government also failed to disclose that same information it was lying about in FOIPP reviews to the Court in the CMT law suit, in what can only be seen as an egregious violation of the Rules of Court.
When the PC Government was elected, information that was known to EGTC about Mix’s destroyed emails was still being kept secret, and a false narrative was being presented in correspondence from Deputy Minister Erin McGrath-Gaudet and the Privacy Commissioner. That wasn’t something inherited from MacLauchlan… those documents were signed by Deputy Minister Erin McGrath-Gaudet.
Consider the following sections from a May 27, 2019 letter from Erin McGrath-Gaudet to the Privacy Commissioner, later filed in Court by CMT. There’s a lot more to this letter…I put six “captures” of parts that highlight how Ms. McGrath-Gaudet presented things as if there were records to search, despite the department knowing since 2015 that there were no records at all to search for this entire time period:
2. Three Upcoming FOIPP “Contempt Motions” Against EGTC
The three upcoming Contempt Motions against the Department of EGTC make it especially inappropriate that the Minister of EGTC take the lead with the announced external investigation. If ever there was evidence of “bad faith” within EGTC, it’s with this business of the deemed refusals and breach of Orders from the Privacy Commissioner. Notice that it says the “applicant agreed” indicating that it was EGTC who asked for that Order – after Ms. Rose confirmed they were in breach of the FOIPP Act – so that the Department could get back in compliance with the law.
Consider the following from that Order that very clearly indicates a legal “signed” obligation to have met the January 7, 2020 deadline for disclosure to Maines:
In a Guardian article titled, “E-gaming plaintiff back in court to press PEI government to release internal e-mails,” Maines stated his belief that the provincial government [Minister MacKay’s Department] was deliberately withholding documents in contravention of the Freedom of Information laws. That was denied by government as hogwash at the time, but now we know that too was a lie. Maines was proven correct by the OIPC Order:
“Just connect the dots. It’s never happened before,” Maines told The Guardian.
“They won’t produce them. I don’t know how else you can look at it.”
In the court filings, Maines says a FOIPP request was filed on May 14, 2019. He was initially informed he would receive the information by July 22 but then received several notices of delay.
Finally, in October, McGrath-Gaudet signed a consent order indicating the records would be produced by January 7, 2020. But then came another letter indicating a delay until February.
“The motion isn’t for me to argue [that the province is] in contempt, it’s an enforcement motion. The courts have to enforce the order,” Maines said.
Information and Privacy Commissioner Karen Rose confirmed this was the first time her office, which opened in 2002, has ever signed a consent order related to a FOIPP request.
“All of our orders may be filed with the court. It’s just that, to my knowledge, nobody ever has,” Rose said. “Rose added that the matter is beyond the jurisdiction of her office and is “out of our hands.”
Erin McGrath-Gaudet will be explaining herself to the Court under cross-examination by a Toronto lawyer, so it is unlikely that she will have time to assist in an investigation of herself from within her own department – another reason the investigation shouldn’t be with EGTC.
Given that it is the Minister and Deputy Minister who will have to explain themselves since they were in charge of the Department committing these offensive and still needing to answer for how it happened, if we are even to scratch the surface as we embark on a journey to the bottom of things, it would be totally inappropriate to allow the Minister and Department of EGTC to be in control of dictating: (1) the scope of the investigation, (2) who does the investigation, (3 how long the investigation takes, and (4) what ends up finding its way into a final report for the legislative assembly and public.
C’mon fellow Islanders! We’ve been down that road enough times by now to know it’s a dead end.
3. The Minister was Given a “Head’s Up” – Yet Failed to Act
It certainly wasn’t like I didn’t sound the alarm and provide information that would have – and could have – and should have – prevented further breaches of the FOIPP Act; should have brought the immediate release of documents that were being withheld illegally; and should have brought consequence for those proven to have lied to Islanders and covered up the truth – yet none of that happened. Those public servants remain at their desks. I tried.
If a Kodiak bear couldn’t get the Minister’s attention, I’m at a loss to know what would. They are not friendly at all.
Mention of that Kodiak was in a front page Guardian article for God’s sake!
“A post from Jan. 27, 2020, bore the headline “do they know the danger they’re in?” The headline appeared above a photo-shopped image of what appears to be a kodiak bear stalking both Economic Development Minister Matthew MacKay and his deputy minister, Erin McGrath-Gaudet.The post alleged staff of MacKay’s department have improperly delayed or withheld documentsthat are subject to a Freedom of Information request.” [Guardian, January 31, 2020].
There was still time at that time for Minister MacKay and his Deputy to have taken action to address at least some of the matters made public at that time. Nothing whatsoever was done as the cover-up and FOIPP breaches continued. One has to question why nothing was done (1) to fix what there was still time to fix, or (2) to prevent what subsequently followed with further illegal FOIPP activity.
This is from a January 17, 2020 article by Stu Neatby at the Guardian after the first Motion was heard – but then deferred to a future date that at the time was TBD:
“This will become their game plan for documents they don’t want to release. So it’s very important there are consequences, because not everybody can fight this fight. Not everybody can challenge, file motions, hire lawyers.”
A brief hearing Thursday was adjourned after Maines, representing himself, told the court he has filed a second, similar motion and plans to file two more in the coming weeks.
The judge said he would hear arguments related to all four motions at the same time, but no date for a future hearing was set. Maines is seeking documents he believes will shed light on issues related to his company’s lawsuit against the P.E.I. government.”
Dates were scheduled – then cancelled due to Covid-19 – but have recently been rescheduled for Zoom hearing on August 11th and 12th, 2020 . The PEI Government [Matthew MacKay’s Department] has yet to file Defenses for the second and third Motions filed by Maines. At the first hearing, Maines indicated there might be four Motions; as it turned out, three Contempt Motions will be heard.
The idea that the Minister of EGTC, Hon. Matthew MacKay, should be in control of an investigation when it was his department that consciously and systematically broke the law to hide, cover-up and intentionally withhold government records from Paul Maines and me shouldn’t even need to be debated.
We can’t remain blind to the facts staring us in the face. If we do, we forfeit commonsense reasoning. It’s not like something happened, it’s over, and now we need to figure out what happened…the cover-up, denials and delays are continuing with the EGTC to this day.
Minister MacKay had a good idea recognizing the possible advantages of hiring a fully competent investigator with the skills to uncover what untrained MLAs may miss in an investigation. That could be an important component of a full-on effort to really “get to the bottom of things” in the next six months.
Such an external investigation by an “expert investigator” should not, however, be under the control of Executive Council, completely protected by the official secrecy that Cabinet Confidence affords, indeed, “demands” when Cabinet Ministers take their swearing-in oath.
An “all-party” Special Committee as called for in Green Party Opposition “Motion 86” is where the scope of that external review should be decided; where the person for the investigation is selected; and where timelines are established to ensure a “report back” in time for the findings to be considered by the Special Committee in advance of submission of a final report and recommendations for the Fall sitting of the Legislature.
To allow Executive Council to control the investigation – with the EGTC Minister’s Department under investigation, well… it doesn’t really need to be said that to do such a thing would transform the process into….what’s the word? Oh yeah…a total mockery.
I posted this same article earlier this morning (Saturday, June 27) – minus this preamble and a few paragraphs in the summary which I’ve identified with a green font.
When I posted earlier, I almost immediately received a message from a PC MLA suggesting that I had misunderstood what had actually happened in the House Thursday afternoon (June 25, 2020) with Motion 86.
I immediately took down the post. I wanted to double-check the facts as I understood them and planned to keep the post down until such time as I could verify whether what I had written was factually correct or not.
There was a lengthy back and forth conversation with text messages between me and that PC MLA, with both of us trying to figure out exactly what had happened. Here are just two comments from that MLA:
“The greens wanted to just call the vote right then. So the actual vote on the amended motion will come if they bring it back. But here is the thing… it is a useless motion as a letter was sent to the committee to ask for this.”
“As you can see there were multiple recesses to clarify rules on misvotes… hence the frustration that resulted.”
I decided to watch the entire debate again to discover exactly what happened, what was decided, and the current status of Motion 86. Also, what was meant by “misvote“.
What Happened and Where we Are Now
If ever there was confusion and chaos in the Legislative Assembly, it was Thursday afternoon. Watch this clip and see if you feel like you know what’s going on when it’s finished…it’s taken me a few hours to finally sort it all out.
Here’s a point-by-point breakdown of what actually happened -the video clips are all about 1/2 minute long:
1. Peter brought forward the Motion, spoke to it, then debate was opened.
2. Steven Myers spoke to the Motion first, and said he supported it’s intent, but would like to see it housed in the existing Education and Economic Standing Committee.
3. Sidney MacEwen spoke to the Motion second, and said he supported it’s intent, but would like to see it housed in the existing Education and Economic Standing Committee, or possibly the Public Accounts Committee.
3. Brad Trivers spoke to the Motion third, and said he supported it’s intent, but would like to see it housed in an existing committee rather than a special Committee, and suggested a Motion wasn’t necessary for any member of the Committee to put it on the agenda of existing Committees:
4. Jamie Fox spoke to the Motion fourth, and said he supported it’s intent, but would like to see it housed in the existing Education and Economic Standing Committee or Public Accounts.
5. Green MLA Trish Altass then spoke to the Motion and proposed an amendment that would accommodate the concerns expressed by the Ministers who had just spoken to the Motion indicating that they would support what Peter’s Motion called for, but not with a new standing Committee, but either in the Education and Economic Standing Committee or Public Accounts Commitee. The amendment Altass proposed would have put the initiative with the Education and Economic Standing Committee:
6. A vote was finally held on the Amendment and all Government Members voted AGAINST THE AMENDMENT THEY ESSENTIALLY ALL JUST ASKED FOR!
The original Motion is now slated to come back to the floor of the Legislative Assembly for further debate and/or amendments, then a vote.
Will the PC Government vote against the original Motion? How can they do that and save face after voting against what they were asking for? Especially since the Greens were so quick to accommodate their concerns fully in an amendment to their Motion?
Everything that follows – except the final few paragraphs in green font – is exactly as it appeared when it was first posted this morning.
When Steven Myers shamelessly stood up in the legislative assembly on Thursday afternoon (June 25, 2020) to filibuster debate on Motion 86 – a motion put forward by the Green Party to establish a Special Committee to “get to the bottom of” record destruction, retention and mismanagement issues identified in the recent June 9, 2020 Information and Privacy Commissioner’s Order that I had initiated in January, 2019 – I immediately knew that I was witnessing an historic event unfolding.
There’s something of a “sifting” taking place in our hallowed House Halls separating the wheat from the chaff – a looming vote on Motion 86 now facing each MLA is the threshing floor.
On the one hand the PC Government are correct to say that this matter could be put on the agenda of an existing Standing Committee; however, that misses the point entirely. That option is clearly not giving the issue the priority and focus it deserves, which smacks of suspicion as to why the Government is opting not to do that, especially given previous, strong demands for exactly that…it feels very much like a “minimalist” approach which, quite frankly, they had no other option but to endorse, given the Privacy Commissioner’s support and Peter Bevan-Baker’s Motion. The difference here is one of degree: taking an enthusiastic lead with the investigation, or reluctantly agreeing to do it, e.g., “We going, and we’re going hard!” or “I guess we’ll go… if we really have to.”
The upcoming vote on Motion 86 will signal both the stance and fundamental ethical position adopted which will be one of two options: (1) to either truly “get to the bottom of things” – making that the one objective of a well-thought out process and plan; – or (2) to confirm what many suspect, that everything Government is now saying about their desire to finally settle this entire mess is forced and empty political spin.
Hon. Peter Bevan-Baker put forward that very concrete Committee objective with what I believe is really the only plan that can actually achieve that objective – a special standing committee with a deadline to report back to the Legislative Assembly with recommendations by the Fall sitting. A vote on that Motion is looming. And the outcome lies entirely in Liberal laps – unless, of course, the PC Government decides to effect another bizarre “about-face” and votes in favour of the Motion. Here is the wording of that Motion:
The significance of this Motion can not be overstated. That significance has perhaps not yet become entirely clear…but it will very soon. I can assure you there’s a lot more going on with Motion 86 than first meets the eye.
The PC Response Has “Insider Club” Fingerprints All Over It
Hon. Steven Myers and other PC Cabinet Ministers attempted to explain why they would not be supporting Motion 86 when debate opened. What they said clearly did not originate from within the PC Party or Government, it came straight from chief strategists within the Insider Club who have been secretly running this province for decades.
These powerful opportunists can now see the writing on the wall for the devious usurpation of power and politics they have been able to effect with relative ease and no real resistance for years. They’re accustomed to expect that easy street will continue, as it always has before, given that they tend to view their privileges as rights.
When you live too long in your own insider club bubble, delusion and paranoia are never far from the door. The PEI Insider Club operates in almost complete obscurity, free from any official record, public attention, or scrutiny from government and law enforcement agencies. They are viewed as outstanding pillars of the community.
That’s now changing as the lights keep coming on. But no matter how bright the light, there will be no confessions or conversions coming from these folks – they have absolutely no intention of going – as they say – “quietly into the night”.
They live in the dark. Keeping things from the light is their vocation in life. Don’t doubt for a second that they’re busily scheming away just like always while you’re reading about them busily scheming away just like always.
They’re becoming increasingly boxed in though, and they’re now desperately trying to figure out how they can protect their privileged positions that have afforded them so much preferential access to both insider government information, formative input into the development of laws and policies that favour their ambitions, and quick and ready access to both capital and political decision-making power, e.g., government.
This most recent threat to the Insider Club [Motion 86] will shine a huge spotlight on that largely secret society, the individuals of which we greet on the street with a tip of the head and a smile as upstanding members of the community, which of course they are in almost every respect, except for the deplorable government corruption in which they’re secretly embroiled.
Such a Special Standing Committee to probe issues around government document destruction will have the power to subpoena witnesses and, as Bevan-Baker stated, “go wherever the investigation takes it,”with an exclusive and dedicated agenda and tight timeline, capable of potentially exposing countless individuals connected to that Insider Club.
You can appreciate why those individuals would prefer Motion 86 somehow crash and burn. Perhaps the craziness and confusion with Government on Thursday can be explained by those powerful but invisible dark forces which – like dark matter – can’t be seen, but is known to exist due to the incredibly powerful “pull” on the real-world politicians we observe, betraying that there is an invisible force at play. That force is measurable… confirming its existence, but not its source: only a Special Committee is likely to uncover that.
The PC Government Cabinet Ministers who spoke to the Motion before the amendment was voted down, formerly demanded exactly such a focused, dedicated investigation, unimpeded by any interference from Government doing things like blocking committee motions, limiting scopes, etc.
They all assured us that they want to “get to the bottom of things” of course – but don’t believe that for a second. If that was true they would not have attempted to put it on the agenda of another committee already overladen with work.
So far, the PC Government has said absolutely nothing about getting to the bottom of anything related to the egaming cover-up, CMT lawsuit failures to disclose, or the egregious illegal acts associated with withholding documents and keeping secret knowledge of destroyed records. All this since getting elected. Nothing was said until they were forced to respond with a Privacy Commission’s very severe Order – again – “shedding light” on what this government kept secret (as well as the last, and the one before that). This most recent scandalous list is not from the previous Liberal Government…they did none of that…these are the current PC government’s doings.
No one in the PC Government has said anything about egaming, withholding or destroying records, misleading FOIPP applicants; Supreme Court Contempt Motions against the government for illegally withholding government records, etc. Anything said has been squeezed out with considerable force…nothing whatsoever has been volunteered. Every action this government has taken has fostered further deception and cover-up. Hon. MacKay may sincerely want to get to the bottom of things; and I the third-party investigation he is going ahead with can work nicely to support the all-party legislative committee work.
But let’s not forget that it was Hon. MacKay’s department that received that scathing review from the Privacy Commissioner, including the confirmation of illegal activities. Normally the person/department found guilty of wrongdoings isn’t the person/department called upon to take the lead on “getting to the bottom” of why they did that.
And there’s so much more wrong with how this government is behaving, not acting to honour promises, etc. one could list bee importation; holding ponds; Brendal farms land sale to Irving; approval of agricultural land for development; etc. Something else coming up soon, that I’m sure Premier King and Hon. Matthew MacKay are not looking forward to arriving, are three PEI Supreme Court Contempt Motions.
Dates are now scheduled in August for three Contempt Motions against the King Government filed in Court by Paul Maines. We will again be able to watch those two-days of Hearings on Zoom. A lawyer from Toronto is now representing Maines on these unprecedented Supreme Court Contempt Orders, and Deputy Minister Erin McGrath-Gaudet will be cross-examined by that Bay-street lawyer which should be interesting to watch. I’ll be writing an article about this with more background and details in a few weeks, as we get closer to that date.
The infamous Insider Club in PEI has few options left to maintain their strangle-hold on democracy and government. Their greatest weakness now is that they need to rely on the PC Government to effect their strategies for them, which – given the strong positions adopted by the PCs in opposition – is backfiring like an old truck with out-of-sync timing chain, only further exposing the PCs own duplicity as Cabinet Ministers.
Check out the body language: their arguments are presented sheepishly and unconvincingly as they attempt to justify indefensible actions they previously would have exposed themselves as loathsome, with fists pounding on desks and expressions of disbelief that the Government would even suggest such a thing.
It’s getting far more difficult for the Government to get away with subtle technical maneuverings, or “walk-back” policy and process decisions, procedural delays etc. that have, so far, kept them at least to some extent in control of the file. Their true colours are now showing in fluorescent tones: the emperor (“King” in this instance) is no longer wearing clothes. Islanders are not only waking up to that fact…they are also now realizing that we have pubic decency laws in PEI to deal with public nudity.
Motion 86 provides the tools needed to deal with this lewd behaviour. Why is a Special Committee needed? Because if the emperor (“King” in this instance) was either (1) able (2) willing or (3) sufficiently conscious of – or bothered by – his lack of attire to admit that he’s walking around in the buff…well, he’d have put some clothes on by now and spared us all the embarrassment.
For the King Government to vote against a Special Committee to investigate document destruction and record management within Government represents to me a final, desperate attempt to interfere in a focused investigation by an ELECTED all-party Standing Committee capable of taking on the back room and putting an end to them…by compelling witnesses.
If Motion 86 passes, I would be able to present over 1,000 pages of detailed research, analysis and findings revealing multiple illegal activities by various players, with evidence sufficiently strong to justify formal criminal investigations. That work has already been done – however, no one within Government or any law enforcement agencies has yet seen fit to take those findings seriously.
The one concern I do have about how the Green Motion is framed is that it more or less echoes what the Government put forward for their announced “third party” external investigation. Not surprisingly perhaps, that “scope” left out one critically-important component of the Privacy Commissioner’s findings: the deliberate manner in which both the MacLauchlan and King Governments deliberately maintained a strategy of cover-up and deception with me and the President of Capital Markets Technology, Paul Maines.
I suspect that the outcome of the Motion to Dismiss in Judge Campbell’s ruling would have been far different if information about Brad Mix’s destroyed records had not been kept from me and Maines – let’s not forget that the PEI Government is managing the FOIPP process and requests and is also the Defendant in the CMT law suit.
Both David Keedwell – who is still a Deputy Minister in the King Government – and Erin McGrath-Gaudet (Deputy Minister of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture under Hon. Matthew MacKay) were actively involved in communicating false information about Brad Mix’s records, hiding the fact that they knew those records had been destroyed. That’s not a “system” problem – that’s a “people” problem, so a Special Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly will need to structure parameters that deal with both the systemic and illegal/criminal/unethical components of this entire mess.
Back to the main point of this article. I wasn’t joking when I said that I believe Peter Bevan-Baker has likely made the most astute political decision of his career by advancing Motion 86. It represents a watershed moment for our democracy.
The True Significance of the Liberal Vote
It appears all government MLAs will vote against this Motion and all Green MLAs will vote for the Motion: whether it passes or not will ultimately depend on how the six Liberal MLAs vote. Will they support the Motion, or attempt to support the subtle but unmistakable “minimalist” approach of putting it on an existing committee that will not likely achieve the same results?
If you go back through Hansard transcripts, you’ll see hundreds of occasions where opposition MLAs make motions calling for a certain witness to come before the standing committee, both with PC and Liberal governments. For example, during the Polar Foods Scandal in the early 2000’s, the PC Government under Binns blocked a Motion from Robert Ghiz (then leader of the Official Opposition) seeking to bring NEIL STEWART before the Standing Committee to explain his involvement in Polar Foods. Binns protected him and he never appeared.
A few years later at the height of the PNP scandal – and just after then Auditor General of PEI, Colin Younker, made public his Special Report looking into the PNP scandal, Robert Ghiz blocked a Motion from the PC members of the Public Accounts Committee to bring NEIL STEWART before the Committee to explain himself. Ghiz protected Stewart and he never appeared at Committee.
That’s how it works when there’s an Insider Club with it’s hand up Government’s ass working government like a puppet to keep their train on the track. Despite multiple scandals, illegal acts, and I’m alleging crimes (“Mischief to Data”) by Neil Stewart – Premier King has nonetheless positioned Neil Stewart in the most powerful position in the province when it comes to money and economic development: Senior Director Responsible for Charlottetown Area Economic Development, under Hon. Matthew MacKay, someone who once called for the Liberals to remove him from Government.
Peter Bevan-Baker putting forth Motion 86 represents an unprecedented event in PEI politics – although it unfortunately didn’t make the CBC Compass political panel discussion Friday evening. It represents the very first time that the new “fairness” structure in standing committees [with equal representation from all three parties] will be seriously put to the test.
Does this new voting structure for standing committees represent a “no-fail” system preventing calls for certain witnesses to appear before the Committee from being blocked? Not necessarily. I suspect we’ll be able to answer that question when we see how the Liberals vote on Motion 86.
If the Liberals are willing to vote down Motion 86 next week – or whenever the Motion comes back for debate and a vote – then that declaration that they are more interested in keeping the Insider Club in power behind the scenes will have been made. Their lot will have been cast.
A vote against Motion 86 by the Liberals will so damage their political aspirations with the electorate so as to make it impossible for them to suffer any further damage by voting with the PCs at other standing committees looking into this matter to block certain witnesses: the three parties may all have 2 members on the committees; however, 4 votes beats 2 votes every time.
How each Liberal MLA votes on Motion 86 will reveal whether they are supporting the Government’s efforts to “bury” the most damaging aspects of what will be revealed in a dedicated committee, but not an existing committee; or (2) whether they are putting no further consideration into remaining silent to protect past Liberal scandals and demonstrate a sincere desire to – like the Greens – really get to the bottom of things.
It was telling that not one Liberal rose to speak to the Motion. Yet, it seems that some Liberals joined the Greens when they walked out on Steven Myers’ childish “old school” filibuster – something I think most of us thought we’d seen the end of in our legislature. And then there’s the tie vote that happened on the “amendment” to the Motion – also revealing some division on the issue within the Liberals.
When debate on Motion 86 comes back on the floor of the Legislative Assembly, I’m sure you’ll hear the same arguments from the Government as they have already put forward: that everything a special committee can do can already be done with existing committees.
There’s a message in that position that is itself very telling: the PCs no longer want to put the exclusive focus on this issue that it deserves – a focus they demanded as the Official Opposition. They know that putting it on the agenda of another Committee which is already dealing with a full slate of issues will not accomplish the same thing. Think about why they would possibly be walking back on the focus they previously demanded…you can be sure further tactics will be employed to drag things on without resolution if a special committee is not struck with a clear report-back deadline as Bevan-Baker is proposing.
In my last article, “Motion “86” – Green Party Decides it’s Time to Get Smart,” I had two paragraphs about the Liberals that I want to repeat:
t would be a prudent political move for the Liberals to now disassociate themselves completely from whatever previously happened with the Liberals and egaming, record destruction, cover-up, etc. None of the current Liberal members were involved back then in any of that, so it should be easy for them to throw their full support behind Motion 86 when it comes back to the floor.
To remain silent and then vote in support of the PC Government to defeat this Motion will pretty much signal the end of the Liberal Party’s chances of regaining any respect from Islanders. It will tell us all they are not to be trusted and have nothing to offer as a government…they will become largely irrelevant, securing their status as a third party for years to come.
No matter how the Liberals spin a vote against Motion 86, it will translate into the same phrase for all Islanders: “Same Old, Same Old.”
This is your moment to shine Liberals. Get your act together and just don’t timidly vote in favour either, stand up and speak to the Motion with passion about sharing the same desire to use this powerful opportunity to sweep out the rats nest and make our democratic house fit to live in again.
If this gets put to another existing committee, Peter Bevan-Baker’s call to have recommendations for the legislative sitting in the Fall will never happen – it will be a can kicked so far down the road, that they’ll have to spend weeks just to find where it landed to get it back on track.
The PC Government exhibited what can only be described as the most blatantly hypocritical about-face I’ve ever witnessed in real time, in one session: Four key Cabinet Ministers stood and emphatically stated their unequivocal support for both the intent of the Motion, their desire to truly “get to the bottom of things”, saying they would support such an investigation/inquiry happening immediately with an existing Standing Committee.
That’s when Green MLA Trish Altass proposed an amendment to accomplish what the PC Government said they would support. A vote came to the floor, and none of those four Cabinet Minister supported the Motion amendment that would have sent the matter to the Education Committee as the PC Ministers all suggest said they would support. How do they now explain voting down what they said they wanted and the Greens accommodated, I’m sure as a compromise and second-best solution.
The dilemma now facing the PC Government is that when the matter comes back to the House for further debate – now that they’ve ruled out putting the matter in an existing committee – they’ve boxed themselves in to supporting the original motion or arguing that no standing committee should look at this at this time. Surely they wouldn’t attempt to amend the original Motion to put it in an existing committee saying they changed their mind! No, it should be an interesting session when it does come back.
I’m not putting much stalk in what that PC Minister told me this morning about the Education and Economic Standing Committee having already received a letter asking that it “convene” this matter for consideration, saying that the Green’s support that. Yes, the Greens did seem to offer that compromise to satisfy the Government, but after voting that down and a vote coming back on the original Motion, it seemed strange to me that the Greens would have capitulated entirely on the Motion – essentially they were exactly back where they started. Such a request would have to come from a committee member and go to the Chair. I can’t imagine the chair initiating such a process with an active Motion on the floor of the House now awaiting a vote, especially given that the current chair of the committee is Green MLA, Karla Bernard.
I can’t help thinking that despite the chaos and confusion surrounding Motion 86, I can’t see how the Liberals or the PCs can now justify voting against it, so I’m a little more than curious to see what happens next.
I’m interested to know how many readers that made it this far in the article think the Liberals will vote to support passage of Motion 86. You can check back to see how votes are trending:
Back in the 1960’s – specifically between 1965 and 1970 – I remember rushing in from the school bus every day after school hoping that I didn’t miss the beginning of “Get Smart,” a show every kid watched and talked about in school the next day. There was a recent movie remake of that tv show starring Steve Carroll.
Maxwell Smart was a bumbling secret agent working for a spy agency called “Control” fighting evil agents in a criminal organization called “Chaos”. Through a series of serendipitous and humorous accidental events, Smart would always end up winning the day and foiling the schemes of Chaos agents.
Control agents worked in pairs and were each assigned numbers. Maxwell Smart was Control Agent “86”.
I thought of Agent 86 as Motion 86 was read in the House yesterday…hoping that just like Get Smart -and despite all the bizarre twists and turns that have happened over the years on this issue – Motion 86 would finally overcome the chaos and reestablish control. I guess we’ll see.
Here is a video clip of Motion 86 being read, followed by Peter Bevan-Baker speaking to the Motion before debate began.
The rest of the afternoon session was spent in debate on the Motion. It was fascinating to watch.
A number of Conservative Cabinet Ministers – Myers, MacEwan, Trivers, and MacKay bent over backwards to declare how much they had previously done to “get to the bottom” of the egaming and document destruction scandal while the Official Opposition. They all assured us they still want to get to the bottom of things.Then they all argued vehemently that a special standing committee was not necessary, suggesting they would not be supporting the Motion.
Shameful, shameful, shameful!
Worse. When the House adjourned, Myers went on social media to chastise the Greens for walking out during his ridiculous filibuster, as if they were acting unparliamentary by not listening to him talk about who he used to know and argue with in the house…jabber totally unrelated to Motion 86:
No Steven….a lot of Islander’s faith in Peter was significantly strengthened yesterday! I share Bevan-Baker’s disappointment with you and your government’s shameless, slippery behaviour in the House yesterday:
I also came across the following exchange between Cory Deagle and Health MacDonald..gotta admit, Cory’s response was pretty clever and he’s certainly not timid for a newbie MLA!
What would cause so much tension?
If ever there was a time and a need for a special committee looking into the way government information and records is withheld, destroyed and otherwise manipulated to thwart both democracy and justice it is now.
For Myers to stand and filibuster to avoid having to vote on this Motion was truly scandalous. It reeked of the smell of a dank backroom.
It was a desperate play by an increasingly impotent government solely designed to avoid having to vote on the Motion. Why would Myers do that? Because the PC Government is desperate to not relinquish exclusive management of the investigation process that they can control if it’s undertaken by a “third-party” external investigator: the PC members were willing to vote against the Motion if forced to do so, but knew the optics of that news story on Compass last night would not have favorable for the government.
The PCs may have succeeded in delaying a Vote on Motion 86 yesterday, however a day of reckoning will be coming soon. Motion 86 will likely come back to the House next week for further debate and a vote. What will happen then is anyone’s guess.
It would be a prudent political move for the Liberals to now disassociate themselves completely from whatever previously happened with the Liberals and egaming, record destruction, cover-up, etc. None of the current Liberal members were involved back then in any of that, so it should be easy for them to throw their full support behind Motion 86 when it comes back to the floor.
To remain silent and then vote in support of the PC Government to defeat this Motion will pretty much signal the end of the Liberal Party’s chances of regaining any respect from Islanders. It will tell us all they are not to be trusted and have nothing to offer as a government…they will become largely irrelevant, securing their status as a third party for years to come.
Peter Bevan-Baker and the Green Party have set themselves apart from both the Liberals and PCs by taking a stand on this issue at this time. It may have been the smartest decision of Bevan-Baker’s career.
On Tuesday (June 23, 2020), Green MLA Michele Beaton asked Minister of Agriculture and Land, Hon. Bloyce Thompson three further questions on Executive Council’s June 9, 2020 decision granting approval to HopeTown Development Company Inc. to purchase 504 acres of land in Eastern PEI.
Stu Neatby interviewed Minister Thompson later that day, and confirmed in a Guardian news story that a HopeTown housing development plan related to the Buddhist monasteries was in the works (P.E.I. Greens question Kings County land sale).
“In an interview, Thompson confirmed that the HopeTown Development Company planned to use the land for a residential development related to Buddhist monasteries in the region.”
That raised some eyebrows, especially given the fact that Executive Council had imposed a condition on the approval that stipulated that the land was not to be developed but kept in agricultural use.
Part I of this article provides some additional “clarification of the confusion” in an attempt to zero in on what the provincial government should be explaining to all of us if they want to clear up this mess. I also suggest five questions that go directly to the heart of this issue and demand answers.
Part 11 presents video clips of the three separate questions and responses for MLA Beaton with just a paragraph or two of commentary with each exchange.
Reviewing the documentary facts in Part I provides the EC and IRAC records establishing an “official” documentary context within which to evaluate the merits of Minister Thompson’s responses to Beaton’s three questions in Part II.
1. Why are IRAC and Executive Council Saying Different Things?
To find out exactly what was said and decided by who in this matter – as far as that can presently be determined from the available information and documentation – I went back to take a more careful look at the Executive Council Orders from June 9, 2020, as well as the applications in IRAC’s land Application Databank.
I found two significant “discrepancies” between the Executive Council Orders and IRAC Application Records which raise additional questions.
To recap: Executive Council made decisions on three new applications all submitted to IRAC in early 2020; two on January 9th, one on February 20th. Each application was for the same 10 parcels of land in Eastern PEI totaling 504 acres.
The two applications that were submitted on January 9th were (1) HopeTown Development Company Ltd. and (2) Yaw Hui Chen, a Taiwanese resident. A third application was submitted on February 20th from Xiaofeng Li from Niagara, Ontario.
Here is one of EC Orders approving that 504 acres for HopeTown:Here is the second Order with the balance of acreage making up the total of 504 acres:
The “current owner” presented in this Order is quite different from what appears on the Application submitted to IRAC. On the Lands Application Databank record, it is presented as an application from one individual, “Chang Zhang”.
In the above Orders approving HopeTown’s January 9th application, it indicates that the land is being acquired from five individuals, two of whom are the “Applicants” for these same parcels in applications submitted January 9th (Yaw Hui Chen) and February 20th (Xiaofeng Li of Niagara).
It would appear that these five people jointly-own this land through incorporation, so why was the “current land owner” presented to IRAC as only “Chang Zhang” – an individual – rather than as an application from a corporation?
Even more perplexing is why the “current owner” of those 10 parcels listed in both Yaw Hui Chen’s and Xiaofeng Li’s applications is listed in IRACs Lands Application Database as also just Chang Zhang; however, in both EC Orders denying each of those applications, the person identified as the owner is a person by the name of Bin Sun.
If you go back to the Lands Application Databank and do a search for “Bin Sun” you’ll find that there never was an application submitted to IRAC in which Bin Sun was either the applicant or current owner of PEI Land.
2. Were these “Retroactive Applications” that were Denied?
The attempt to sell what happened with these land deal decisions on June 9th at Executive Council as a “retroactive” application makes no sense to me. That word is nowhere defined or used in the Lands Protection Act.
The record shows that three entirely “new” applications were submitted to IRAC in early 2020; that IRAC made recommendations to Executive Council on those new applications on March 22nd; and that Executive Council denied two of those applications (Chen from Taiwan; Lifrom Ontario) and approved the other(HopeTown) on June 9th.
Is it possible that those two applications that were denied were something other than the two applications submitted to IRAC? That those applications with a different person identified as the parcel owner werer something different from what was dragged forward from the previous Liberal decisions Minister Thompson continuously suggests is the basis for calling what happened on June 9th a “retroactive” application?
Could it be that the reference to “Bin Sun” as the current owner is itself evidence that indicates that Cabinet were dealing with something other than those two applications to IRAC by Yaw Hui Chen and Xiaofeng Li? Short answer: no.
To determine if the denial corresponds with the same applications forwarded to EC by IRAC one has only to cross-reference the file numbers of EC Orders with IRAC applications which are both recorded in one record in IRAC’s Land Application Data Bank.
Turns out that both applications – for which IRAC made and sent recommendations to Executive Council on March 22nd – do correspond with the two Orders documenting denials. So why do they have different “current owners”?
Here’s just one IRAC database record to illustrate that IRAC’s applications all listing only Chang Zhang as the current owner correspond to the Orders proving that Executive Council did in fact make those “denial ” decisions on June 9, 2020 indicating that the current owner was someone other than the person on the applications? Why?
Notice that the EC Order Number and EC Decision Date correspond exactly with what is in the June 9, 2020 Orders in Council.
At this point, there are five key questions that I believe the Government must provide answers to if any light is to be shed on what is becoming an increasingly confusing as well as concerning affair:
Why is the current owner with the two applications that were denied – Chen and LI– identified as Chang Zhang in IRAC applications, but as “Bin Sun” by Executive Council?
Why is the current owner with the one application that was approved – HopeTown – listed as “Chang Zhang” on IRAC applicatoins, but Chang Zhang and four other individuals by Executive Council? Was this in fact an incorporated entity? If so, why was it not identified in the IRAC application as a corporation?
Who are the current shareholders of HopeTown Development Company Inc.?
Why was HopeTown Development Company Inc.’s application approved despite the fact that Xiaofeng Liis a Director of HopeTown? Especially given the fact that Xiaofeng Li’s own February 20th application to purchase these same 10 parcels was denied on the same day on the basis that Mr. Liwas not a resident of PEI?
Was the condition that Executive Council attached to the approval (that the 504 acres of land NOT BE DEVELOPED)simply a pretense? Or will Government ensure Islanders that at no time will this government authorize these 504 acres of land to be taken out of agriculture and developed as Islanders want Government to do and the spirit of the Lands Protection Act says should be done?
The most interesting thing about Minister Thompson’s response to MLA Beaton’s first question is how he says the land was first purchased in 2017, which I’m interpreting as him intending to say that it is when that land was first sold to Asian buyers connected to Buddhist monks. There are “previous sales” for all new applications.
Previous sales of parcels should not factor into new applications submitted to IRAC which are then forwarded to Executive Council for final decisions.
Minister Thompson has been attempting to explain these three new applications submitted to his government as somehow representing one “retroactive” decision to undo something that was done by the previous Liberal government; but again, once the Minister totally loses us in that unintelligible fog – there is simply nothing in the documentation that supports that particular explanation.
Minister Thompson states that after the initial 2017 purchase by an individual in there was then a “merging” of parcels between that person and at least one other person he identifies as Bin Sun, which resulted in “incorporation”, but Minister Thompson doesn’t name that corporation. Why not?
Is there a connection between the Minister alluding to a corporation back in 2017 but not naming that corporate entity, and the fact that Executive Council identifies that there were five owners of the land parcels HopeTown was approved to purchase, despite the fact that the HopeTown application to IRAC identified only one individual as the current owner?
If those 5 people represent officers, directors and/or shareholders in a ‘corporation,’ it would appear a deliberate decision was made to obscure that fact in the application process since EC’s Order approving HopeTown’s application makes no mention of a corporation…just five Asian individuals, three living in PEI, one living in Ontario, and one living in Taiwan.
Minister Thompson says the first application came on January 9, 2020, but there were two of those three applications submitted to IRAC on January 9th, 2020, and one of those two applications was the HopeTown application that was approved on June 9th, 2020.
Minister Thompson suggests that more and more information was required, so the January application was deferred, but just exactly how does any of that line of reasoning explain why a subsequent application was submitted on February 20th for the same 10 parcels? How are we to make sense out of that submission from Li living in Ontario on February 20th?
Beaton’s final question brought an interesting response from Minister Thompson, especially what he says about rejecting non-residents in compliance with the Lands Protection Act, exclaiming with some bluster that only Island residents are involved in the deal thanks to what he and his government did….yet buddy living in Niagara, Ontario is a Director of HopeTown Development Company Ltd. So is Li an Islander living in Ontario? Not likely. So why was his being a Director of Hopetown not seen to be a problem? More questions.
The idea that corporations are easier to “track” than individuals is probably the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard and absolutely couldn’t be further from the truth – just look at this situation, or the Brendal Farms Irving land deal that is taking a third- party investigator months to sort out!
For Minister Thompson to be singing the praises of corporate clarity and oversight by his government when we don’t even know who owns this HopeTown corporation the King government just gave approval is a stretch to say the least.
The PC Government approved an application from a corporation with three resident Asian Directors and one Asian Director from Ontario, an individual who tried to purchase these same 10 parcels by himself and was denied by Executive Council.
The three Orders issued by Executive Council on June 9, 2020 all pertain to these new applications…there is no reference whatsoever to undoing something leftover from the Liberal era. There is no documentary evidence that I can find to suggest there was anything “retroactive” about any of these three applications: they appear to have followed the same process as all individuals and/or corporations submitting applications to IRAC to purchase and/or lease land.
Who is behind all of this? We simply don’t know: the names of the owners (shareholders) have not been disclosed to the public through the extra-provincial incorporation through the federal government.
This matter represents another very serious land issue. Many Islanders are hoping MLA Michele Beaton continues to ask questions until answers that make sense are forthcoming.
Those four directors of HopeTown explicitly sought (as indicated on the application form submitted to IRAC) to develop agricultural land and Executive Council granted HopeTown that approval. However, that approval came with an important “condition”: that the land must remainin agriculture.
Will this government ensure Islanders that EC’s decision to impose that condition in an Approval Order unequivocally means that Government will not subsequently remove this condition and allow development?
That’s what Islanders are waiting to hear from Government.
It has long been known that crop pests and pathogens become increasingly tolerant to farm pesticides over time, and increasingly toxic poisons are required to maintain control over those pests and diseases. Conventional farmers have been losing the battle against these evolving pests and pathogens, and increasingly toxic amounts and concentrations of poisons are being used with each new crop year as a dying system struggles to keep the industrial monocultural model with all its mechanized methods of food production on life support.
As farm chemical concoctions and pesticide regimes become more toxic and prolific within industrial agriculture – which will be examined in more detail in Part II – governments have tended to become far less “open and transparent” about the volumes of those pesticides being used annually, as well as the increasing toxicity levels of those pesticides.
This is unfortunately the current situation here in PEI and it represents another serious example of a willful refusal to release critically-important information about the state of our environment to the public.
There has been NO ANNUAL PESTICIDE SALES DATA released by Government since 2013-14. That’s 6 years that the government has kept Islanders completely in the dark about the poisons being put in PEI at a time when those poisons are most likely becoming ever more potent and prolific.
I’ve been trying to get updated data for the past two years. When I started that quest, there were just 4 of the most recent years of data that had not yet been made public by the provincial government. Now there’s 6 years, so I decided it was time to share the story of how the PEI Government is stonewalling the release of that data and why certain bureaucrats within Government might be working to keep that information from public scrutiny.
Not knowing how much and what exactly is being put into our soil, water and air is especially concerning given the fact that some of the poisons being used widely in PEI have been deemed “harmful to human health” and have been banned from use in many other jurisdictions. That’s concerning, and will be examined further in Part II.
This is what those PEI Annual Pesticide SalesData reports look like – this is the last one that was made public (2013=14):
That chart is accompanied by one other document, a Retail Sales Data Report, with information about domestic use of pesticides, as well as cumulative non-domestic pesticide sales by category for the year:
Part 1 of this short series takes a closer look at something we probably all assume to be true: that food produced using industrial monocultural farming techniques is not as healthy as organic food produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Nonetheless, I suspect that very few of us realize just how significant the difference in health quality is for food produced using these two approaches. It is not just about what may be in the food that is unhealthy, such as chemical and pesticide residue; it’s much more about what’s not in the food: the nutrients, trace minerals, etc. that are the constituent elements of healthy human growth.
An increasing number of food scientists are identifying connections between the rapidly worsening health of the general population steadily deteriorating over the past few decades and the continuously diminishing nutrient value of the food we eat daily. The problem is not simply related to “junk” food diets vs. so-called “healthy” diets – the more hidden problem is the questionable health of much of what we assume is healthy food.
Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, presented a special report to the general assembly dated 27 February – 24 March 2017. Though the United Nations has no power to impact pesticide regulations directly, it’s a major step to growing worldwide awareness of the issue, especially among influential world leaders.
“A 2013 report commissioned by the European Food Safety Authority reviewed 600 research studies on pesticides and found the strongest associations with certain cancers, asthma, childhood leukemia and Parkinson’s disease, but couldn’t draw any firm conclusions.”
I suspect that the implicit and essential links between (1) government policy decisions which determine the kind of food production system we should have in PEI, and (2) the health of the food we eat, and the implications that the nutritional and health quality of food has on the health and well-being of our entire population, economy, and health care system areNOT being adequately considered by anyone designing and implementing agricultural policy in the PEI Department of Agriculture and Land.
A true “cost-benefit” analysis would likely reveal an urgent need to shift production methods away from conventional industrial farming heavily dependent on pesticides, and that’s about as likely to happen as Hon. Minister Myers voluntarily making the report on establishing a farmland bank in PEI I was paid $50,000 to research and write public, for pretty much the same reason.
When it Comes to Food, Appearances Can be Deceiving
The industrial system of food production doesn’t adequately appreciate and respect the complex biodiversity requirements of healthy soil. It relies on chemical inputs that can be measured and controlled, and sees the soil primarily as “ground” rather than living soil (humus): as an outdoor factory floor providing a medium to stabilize plants as they grow to uptake carefully positioned pellets of synthetic fertilizers as nutrients for rapid growth, mapped out in grid layouts designed to accommodate large farm equipment.
The complex ecosystems of insects, birds, animals, earthworms, microorganisms and macro-organisms are mostly regarded as negative factors or even “threats” to be removed – often with massive doses of three types of farm pesticides: fungicides, designed to kill or prevent fungus infections such as potato blight; herbicides, designed to kill plants other than the crop plant, genetically-engineered to be tolerant to those toxins; and insecticides, created to kill insects considered pests to the particular crops being grown, but which often indiscriminately kill many other species of insects, many of which are beneficial to plant growth and a healthy soil ecosystem.
This form of agriculture is “imprinted” in our minds as the way to grow food. It’s what we grew up with and it’s all we know. Yes, you can grow food using this method…the plants are huge and green and beautifully luscious; however, the nutritious value of the food grown can render vegetables that are more appealing in in appearance, completely different in terms of the nutrients and elements on the inside that we ingest into our bodies – the elements, minerals, vitamins, etc. that determine whether the food is actually beneficial for healthy growth and human development.
“Because of soil depletion, crops grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today”
With the focus on “appearance” rather than nutritional value, the “traits” that industrial agriculture have encouraged in plant breeding programs over the past few decades have not been traits to increase the nutritious value of the fruits, and vegetables, but have focused on traits that support the needs of the corporate industrial model, corporate food processing, and the global food trade:
“A landmark study on the topic by Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. They studied U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century. Davis and his colleagues chalk up this declining nutritional content to the preponderance of agricultural practices designed to improve traits (size, growth rate, pest resistance) other than nutrition.”
In the research article that looked at many other studies (a “meta-analysis”) titled “Nutrient Levels in Organic v. Conventional Food,” a more precise breakdown of the significant nutritious value of organic food was discussed in terms of various components of what makes for nutritious healthy food:
“Organic agriculture does not avoid nitrogen application. It does, however, utilize nitrogen from sources that contribute different forms of nitrates to the plants. While conventional agriculture uses synthetic nitrogen that is rapidly available to plant tissues, organic agriculture uses nitrogen from soil, legume fixation, compost, fish emulsion and other more complex nitrogen systems. The impact on plant production of vitamin C is pertinent to both plant and human health.”
“Numerous studies have found higher levels of antioxidants in organic produce than in conventional. Organic tomatoes contained 79% and 97% higher levels of quercetin and kaempferol, respectively, in a long-term study conducted at the University of California – Davis (Mitchell AE et al., 2007).”
The conclusion drawn from this review of studies comparing the nutritional value of conventional and organic food was as follows:
Given this recent meta-analysis by Dr. Benbrook et al., there is credible evidence to direct patients to eat organic, plant-based foods because of greater nutrient density per calorie. Ounce per ounce, it seems as though organic foods can provide greater quantities of some nutrients. While this may be upsetting to the conventional food industry, or even simply be brushed off as cursory, further research is underway to look for more evidence of this exciting discovery.
What we refer to as “conventional farming” isn’t really that “conventional” in a big picture historical analysis of food production methods: industrial agriculture is actually a relatively new approach to food production that came into vogue only in the mid-20th century, with the proliferation of chemical additives (both synthetic fertilizers and pesticides), industrial automation, and increased reliance on farm mechanization and bigger and bigger machines to accommodate equally increasing “economies of scale” growth and concentration in the industry. That too has been happening in spades in PEI as we continue to see a quite rapid elimination of thousands of small farms over the space of just a couple of decades.
For millennia, humans grew food without the use of any such chemical poisons. As Jane Goodale once commented: “How did we ever convince ourselves it was a good idea to grow our food with poison?”
That brainchild idea came from economists, not food scientists …they were only later hired by the corporate food giants to justify and publicly defend the industrial food production model and methods the best way they could.
Although relatively recent, this mode of farming is what we have come to know as “farming” and food production in PEI. We emulate this approach to growing food, even in our gardening, without even realizing there is absolutely no need to use poisons at all to grow healthy food, as long as soil health and adequate Soil Organic Matter (SOM) is maintained.
I have never used a grain of synthetic chemical fertilizer or any pesticides. Healthy soil produces healthy plants. I’ve never had a problem with any disease or pest – except Colorado Potato beetles with organic potatoes, which have to be “picked” off the plants daily.
Why do so many Island gardeners whack so many poisons and chemical fertilizers on their gardens? Because they believe it’s necessary, because they see farmers using them in their monocultural operations. We don’t “think” critically about what we’re doing, but just trust that farmers must know what they’re doing because they grow huge, successful crops.
We have to rethink imitating such behaviours and practices – if we don’t understand the reasons why farmers are doing what they are doing, we may imitate bad practices for no good reason.
A good example is how people tend to plant their gardens in “hilled” rows – like potato rows. This is a really stupid idea – flat beds are far superior for equalizing and retaining moisture distribution between all the plants – rain rolls down the sides of hilled-rows into the center and often runs right out of the garden, sometimes causing erosion in heavy rains, and far less available water actually soaks into the ground and stays around for plants. Plus it’s a huge unnecessary waste of garden space. I plant in flat beds about 4 feet wide, which reduces the number of “between row/bed” walkways by at least half.
Yet most Islanders dutifully plant in hilled rows, not realizing that farmers don’t do this for any advantage to the plants or plant growth – it’s not actually the best for plants and water retention – but only as a concession to accommodate tractor wheels! If you don’t garden with a tractor, stop making room for tractor wheels.
We are “Earth” people – Our Spiritual Connection with Land
I started my undergraduate degree in the Faculty of Arts at UPEI majoring in Religious Studies in 1976. After two years I was somewhat disillusioned with the hallowed halls of higher learning, and embarked on a different journey for a couple of years. I had met an amazing man while at the Trappist Monastery in Rogersville, N.B. – a medical doctor who had a successful private practice in the the U.S., nearly died, promised to work for God if he didn’t, didn’t, then went to Africa to work in the Missions.
While working as a missionary doctor in Africa, Brother Anthony experienced a call to a more solitary life of prayer and eventually found himself living as a Carmelite hermit “attached” to the Trappist Monastery in Rogersville, N.B. He provided free medical services to the community of monks, living in one of the three “hermitages” about 1/4 mile from the actual monastery, in a small cabin in the woods.
Brother Anthony M. Opisso, M.D., & Kevin J Arsenault (1980)
Long story short – I ended up becoming very good friends with Brother Anthony, and in consultation with the Abbot, it was decided that I would live as a hermit similar to Br. Anthony for a two-year experience. My “work” was with Brother Anthony for half the scheduled work day (approx. 3 hrs.) and approximately the same 3 hrs for the Trappists, doing the early morning milking (3:30am) of approximately 60 Holstein cows.
Most of what I know about doing research – and gaining insight from information – I learned from Brother Anthony. His area of expertise was Scripture. He taught himself Latin, Greek, Hebrew and spoke Spanish, French and English fluently. I typed and edited one of his book manuscripts during that two-year experience titled, “The Book of Understanding.” Another book he published was titled “The Revelation of the Son of Man,” and had a chapter on the nature of man as understood within the Judaeo-Christian tradition.
We’ve all heard the Biblical story of how God fashioned man from the dust of the earth…there is much insight to be gained about the true nature of humans in this story. As Anthony explains:
Adam – the first man – is a Hebrew word “taken out of” another Hebrew word – which is“Adamah“ meaning “living soil” – in the same way that Adam the person was “taken out of” the actual living part of the soil, the activator for the genesis of that new life being water.
We can see this same connection between “living soil” and a grounded understanding of human nature manifested in other languages as well.
In Latin, the word “humus” is the word for that same “living part of the soil” existing near the top of the ground…topsoil.
Etymological dictionaries explain that the origin of the word “human” is the word for “living soil”. Literally “…earthling, earthlybeing,” as opposed to the gods.” Knowing that we are “earthlings” and not gods makes us “humble,” another word with its etymological roots in the same word meaning “living dirt”: “humble…from Latin humilismeaning ‘lowly, humble,’ literally ‘on the ground‘.“
Modern Industrial agriculture has lost about the same amount of “humilius” as our soil has lost “humus“.
The intrinsic truths about who and what we are have been largely forgotten, as food is viewed as a commodity for sale in an economy, not the source of our physical life. We’ve forgotten that we’re all essentially just mysterious piles of glorified humus. We’d be wise to recognize our vested interest in protecting the “humus” and living organic matter in the soil that gives us life before we destroy it completely – when we protect and enhance the health of soil, we’re really protecting and enhancing our own health.
In the New Testament Greek original manuscripts there is a careful distinction made in the use of several words that are unfortunately often all translated into the very same English word “good” in English translations of the New Testament, which obscures insight into the original meaning of the texts: one Greek word is “Agathos” and the other is “Hōraioi“.
Agathosmeans something is “really” good – outside and inside: “of good constitution or nature; useful, salutary; good, pleasant, agreeable, joyful, happy; excellent, distinguished, upright, honourable.
Hōraioimeans something is “really beautiful” – on the outside (appearance): “beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, admirable, beautiful to look at, shapely, magnificent.
In Chapter 23, verse 27, Jesus chastises the pharisees for being “beautiful” (Hōraioi) in appearance, convincing people they were also “good” (agathos) on the inside, when they were actually full of death:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”
Industrial agriculture is the world’s modern form of Pharisaism.…”pretty” on the outside; not so good on the inside. Yet pretty is preferred thanks to confusion between “pretty” and “good” (and of course, tons of influential corporate advertising).
The amount of poison and empty nutrition hiding inside attractive looking produce we purchase is largely secret – it is information that is currently being protected and kept privileged.
Without healthy soil, it is impossible to grow healthy food.
Without healthy food, it’s impossible to be a healthy human being.
The current economic system guiding agricultural policy and practice in PEI aims to achieve ever-increasing yields and reduce input costs to maximize profits. The factors which are given priority and always taken into account in planning are those variables that either increase or decrease costs and/or profits.
What’s valued as “success” in the industrial model of food production is to consistently increase yield-per-acre ratios to maximize the volume of product having all the desired traits that corporate purchasers want for processing or export retail fresh market sales around the globe.
Traits that relate to appearance, tolerance to handling and shipping, specific traits best suited to industry’s needs to process and/or export bulk product [e.g., genetically-engineered foods that offer longer shelf life but lower nutritional value (think big hard cores in tomatoes that make them durable but tasteless)] – not traits enhancing the nutritional value of the food.
The cumulative impact of generations of people consuming increasingly unhealthy food creates an unhealthy population. When food is devoid of what the body needs for healthy development, what else would we expect?
Coupled with less nutritious raw food products is an increasing amount of toxic residues from pesticides, many of which are not simply topical, but “systemic” and enter the plants.
In the case of most soybeans and corn grown in PEI, it’s genetically engineered with a bacteria that transforms the plant into it’s own “pesticide-making” machine – every cell is actually producing poison. These seeds are not registered as “foods” with our Federal Government, but “pesticides”.
Most genetically modified (GM or genetically engineered) corn ends up as ingredients in processed food or as animal feed. Over 80% of the grain corn grown in Canada is GM with the BT gene. Almost all the canola grown in Canada is genetically engineered – approximately 95%, used extensively in food processing. At least 60% of the soybeans grown in Canada are genetically modified (GM or genetically engineered). Most of the GM soy grown in Canada ends up as ingredients in processed food or animal feed.
Part II of this short series will look at the rapid increase in “toxicity” with farm pesticides currently being used by farmers in PEI, both with the types of poisons being used as pesticide “applications” [at the time of seed sowing and throughout the growing season] as well as the increased use of extremely toxic “pesticide seed coatings,” which is information that the PEI Government is not making public and is likely not even collecting.
It was good news to hear that the King government will be bringing in an “external” investigator to look into the situation related to Brad Mix’s destroyed egaming records.
It was – however – TERRIBLE news to hear Minister MacKay talk about that investigation in the very same “let’s depersonalize the issue a much as possible” way as Premier MacLauchlan did after the discovery of destroyed records by the Auditor General back in 2016 forced him to announce a Government response.
Minister MacKay told CBC reporter Kerry Campbell last night that the focus will not be on finding the person and/or persons who “deliberately destroyed” important, sensitive and legally-relevant government documents, or on “repercussions” (although he didn’t rule that out as a possibility), but would be aimed at “fixing the record management system” to make sure that “this kind of thing never happens again.”
Watching Hon. Matthew MacKay mouth those Insider Club talking points from the steps of the Coles Bldg was extremely discouraging for me. It told me he is completely unaware that there’s nothing left to fix!
The records management system has already been nearly “perfected” during the previous major effort made by Premier MacLauchlan to “deflect” attention away from (a) individuals breaking laws, acting unethically, and possibly committing crimes to (b) “record management” system problems.
Things like: electronic file and email archives have all been centralized; staff can no longer (since 2015) “delete” electronic records or keep private archives. Every conceivable “check and balance” has already been put into place, yet Minister MacKay wants to do it all again! Nonsense.
This tried-and-true strategy of deflecting attention away from “people” to”systems” will not work this time around for the King Government. On a go-forward basis. Islanders expect justice, not more obfuscation.
Promises to “get to the bottom” of any issue with an investigation delivered under duress in the midst of this minefield of deception should be taken with a grain of salt.
Extreme vigilance is the order of the day if we are to ensure the Government does what needs to be done expeditiously and honestly to bring a just resolution to this matter.
1. Deliberate Destruction: The Basis for a Criminal Investigation
The Information Commissioner confirmed that someone [she doesn’t know who…that’s why we need a further investigation] “deliberately destroyed” 2 years of Brad Mix’s egaming records. The word “deliberate” goes to “intent”. For a criminal charge to stick, “intent” has to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
When MLA Sidney MacEwan brought this up in Question Period, he obviously had a criminal investigation in mind because he said: “UNFORTUNATELY, the Information Commissioner was unable to determine who…..” thereby signalling that the purpose of an investigation would be to discover who is responsible for the deliberate destruction of these records so that government could then, presumably, take appropriate legal action and/or remove those individuals from Government.
That’s really the only issue needing an investigation. Yet it wasn’t mentioned by Minister MacKay in his Compass interview.
And what should the consequences for “deliberately destroying” government records be?
Let’s see what Matthew MacKay had to say about that before the body snatchers got him.
2. “Consequences” for “Deliberate Destruction” of Records
This clip is from an evening session during debate on an amendment to the Archives and Records Act that added a $10,000 penalty for deliberate document destruction.
It’s now clear that the focus of the investigation will not be on finding the person who destroyed those 2 years of government records. The objective for the investigation has once again become a technical hunt for record management system “problems” that need fixing or improvements, so these kinds of things don’t happen again. Sad. Here is the Compass interview from last night, June 16, 2020.
NOTHING…and I really mean this…. nothing short of bringing in qualified professionals from out-of-province (perhaps the Ontario Provincial Police who have experience investigating government document destruction as a criminal offence “Mischief to Data”) will now satisfy the demand for transparency and justice falling into the lap of the King government.
Islanders have an extremely high expectation that Government will finally stop playing word games and demonstrate a detailed, clear and proper process that will adequately address this situation.
MacKay’s performance on Compass last night was oddly reminiscent of the response Premier MacLauchlan gave in the Legislative Assembly when he was first called upon to honour a commitment to “get to the bottom” of the egaming scandal.
The key word in the exchange that took place on the opening day of the Session (November 15, 2016) was of course the term “consequences”. The PC Opposition leader was talking about the actions that certain individuals has taken that were illegal and possibly criminal. The constant theme cited – especially by Steven Myers – was that any Islander caught doing far-less serious offences would be thrown in jail. The PC’s wanted consequences for public servants committing illegal and unethical acts.
On the opening day of the Legislative Assembly in the Fall, 2016 sitting – immediately after the AG’s egaming report was made public – the interim-leader of the Official Opposition at the time, Hon. Jamie Fox, asked Premier MacLauchlan to tell the house what the “consequences” would be for bureaucrats who acted illegally and unethically. Here is the exchange:
Leader of the Opposition: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Premier doesn’t think that anybody did anything wrong. You were quick to say that this isn’t how you do business, Mr. Premier. Sticking your head in the sand is no better. Mr. Premier, how do you expect Islanders to not be cynical when they see no consequencesfor these reckless actions by senior government officials that were elected or appointed? Speaker: The hon. Premier. Premier MacLauchlan: Mr. Speaker, there is a consequence, and it is the direct result of the work of the Auditor General and of the commitment that I made when I said this is not the way we do business. That is, we have taken up the advice on all 15 of the recommendations. We have
committed that we are going to give good government, that we’re going to do –
MacLauchlan’s response meant there would be NO consequences for any individuals. As he stated: “they [senior bureaucrats] did nothing wrong,” adding that it wasn’t his style to throw public servants under the bus. His focus was set entirely and exclusively on “fixing” the record management system, as if the “system” was broken – which it wasn’t; that was all a ruse to protect those individuals who had committed the illegal acts and/or crimes.
As the PC MLAs pointed out at the time – the laws, policies and procedures were already in place, they just WEREN’T followed.
This refusal to hold delinquent senior public servants in government accountable is now the strongest basis for the widespread cynicism toward politicians that exists among Islanders. Government senior bureaucrats and politicians should not enjoy immunity from the legal and judicial system which every other Islander (at all times, under all circumstances) is subject to under our laws, courts and judicial system.
3. The System has Already been “Fixed”
I was shocked to hear Minister MacKay talking about “fixing the record management system” so this “never happens again”. Those talking points were exactly the same one’s used by Premier MacLauchlan. They represent an attempt to deflect attention away from the “:bureaucrats” who committed offences, to the “system”; to considerations concerning the technical information infrastructure, computer systems, record management policies, procedures, etc. ALL OF WHICH HAVE ALREADY BEEN FIXED TO NEAR PERFECTION under MacLauchlan!
There is ZERO need to “investigate” the record management system in the PEI government. The entire record management system is sound and comprehensive – when it is followed.
What we need by way of an investigation is a CRIMINAL investigation. Minister MacKay should stop suggesting that the source of this problem is anything other than unethical and unscrupulous public servants doing things that are unethical and/or illegal and unacceptable for government bureaucrats to be doing.
Let’s be clear about one thing here: the “system” didn’t break any laws or commit any crimes. PEOPLE did!
Any attempt to once again “depersonalize” the illegal and ethical behaviour of senior bureaucrats, who are still working within the PEI Government, will not end well for the King government.
This isn’t just about important government records that were deliberately destroyed. There are other issues of importance that have not been addressed.
We have yet to hear any response from Government concerning what the Privacy Commissioner’s Brad Mix Order said about the deliberate violation of the FOIPP Act by Government in deceiving me and Paul Maines (and for a while, the Information Commissioner as well) over a period of many months on a critically-important matter.
Is Deputy Minister David Keedwell going to be allowed to keep his job for deceiving me, Paul Maines and the Information Commissioner about these important records?
The Privacy Commissioner came down hard on Keedwell and others (although she didn’t “name” them) for committing illegal actions [willfully violating Section 8.1 of the FOIPP Act], in an egregious violation of the duty to deal openly and honestly with applicants to assist them in getting records. That deception completely breaks any trust between those particular “public servants” and the “public,” and can not be allowed to stand. There needs to be consequences immediately, and there doesn’t need to be a review or process or a consultation to issue pink slips.
Yet, so far, the future employment status of Keedwell and Mix has received no attention or mention by anyone but me.
I’m hoping MLAs will start to ask questions about both Brad Mix – who perjured himself in the CMT proceedings in sworn testimony, yet is still working in Government under Minister McKay – and David Keedwell, who orchestrated the “cover-up” of this scandalous and unethical treatment of Island residents seeking documents to which they are entitled under the law.
Are these people “untouchable” Matthew MacKay? Are they telling you what to do and say? Or are you the person in control within your Department? Fire their sorry asses and be done with it!
Premier King and Minister MacKay: PLEASE listen to and follow the advice given by your fellow Cabinet Minister Hon. Steven Myers in the following clip…there is no possible way I could have made a more eloquent and sincere plea for an open, honest, ethical and appropriate response.
Minister MacKay: If you mention fixing the record system again publicly I think I’ll pull all my hair out!
After a 1 1/2 year investigation, PEI’s Information Commissioner, Karen Rose, has just issued her Order on Brad Mix’s missing government records. However, it won’t be posted on OIPC’s website until Tuesday, June 16, 2020.
I requested this review in January, 2019 for a FOIPP Request I had submitted October, 2018 for Brad Mix records. If you’ve read my previous articles on this matter, you’ll recall that it was then-Deputy Minister of EGTC, David Keedwell [still a Deputy Minister] who was handling that FOIPP and deceived me about there being records to search when he knew there were none.
A few months later, Ms. Rose joined my review with four other reviews initiated by Paul Maines, President of CMT, since they all pertained to Brad Mix’s records in the same 2-year time period.
I believe the Commissioner’s Order will be a game-changer for PEI. It confirms that important documents were “destroyed” in violation of the Archives and Records Act, and that deceptive methods were employed to keep information about those destroyed documents from both Maines and me.
There has been no government response to Brad Mix’s 2 years of missing egaming emails, something first discovered and made public last July, 2019. Brad Mix remains the most Senior person responsible for recruiting companies to PEI in Innovation PEI.
Many questions remain – there is now a “dead body on the beach” – we just don’t who’s responsible for that dead body. But we now have official confirmation in PEI’s Information and Privacy Commissioner’s Order that those missing records were DESTROYED!
I expect the King Government’s silence on this issue of Brad Mix’s destroyed records will likely come to an end this week.
Will Hon. Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition, bring this critically-important matter to the floor of the legislative assembly first thing Tuesday afternoon when Question Period begins….perhaps also in a member statement about “transparency and corruption in government” delivered just before Question Period begins?
Will the interim Leader of the third party Liberal Opposition, Sonny Gallant, speak up about this egregious behaviour?
Will Premier King voluntarily comment on Ms. Rose’s report, as is the tradition for PEI Premier’s with such serious OIPC Reviews and Orders involving government? Or will he be forced to explain himself in the Legislative Assembly under questioning from opposition members, or perhaps from reporters outside the rails? It should be an interesting week!
NOTE: EGTC refers to the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture with Minister Matthew MacKay and Deputy Minister Erin McGrath-Gaudet identified as the “head” of the public body – references to the “public body’s” position or responses to the Information Commissioner on this case came from Deputy Minister Erin McGrath-Gaudet.
I’m applicant 1. Paul Maines is applicant 2.
Here’s four of my favorite quotes from the 31 page Order:
Four of my favourite paragraphs in the 31-page Order
And under the final section V. “Summary of Findings“:
This post is essentially three short videos. They speak for themselves so I’ll just tee them up a bit and leave you with a question to ask yourself after each clip.
There’s two short clips in the “then” section followed by one NOW clip from Thursday, June 5, 2020.
This clip is from Steven Myer’s 2014 year-end interview with Bruce Rainnie. Myers was the Interim PC Party Leader and Leader of the Official Opposition when he shared his opinion of Robert Ghiz’s legacy.
Ghiz had abruptly announced that he was stepping down as Premier just a short time before Myers had that Compass interview and after delivering a Throne Speech and before putting forward the budget, just days after receiving an advanced copy of CMT’s Private Investigator (Bruce MacDonald) report – very bizarre timing….it wasn’t long after that he was named as a Defendant in the law suit.
Watch the clip and ask yourself: “Would Myers ever rise in the House and declare that “Robert Ghiz acted at all times with the best of intentions towards Islanders?”
In early 2017, the Auditor General told the members of the Public Accounts Committee – in response to a question from Steven Myers – that Robert Ghiz had ordered the destruction of all his Chief of Staffs records, paper records, laptop files, and desktop computer files.
This clip is from the day the PC Justice Critic, Jamie Fox, tabled my report “Did Robert Ghiz and Neil Stewart Commit a Crime?” in the Legislative Assembly. That report documented how the evidence proved that deliberate circumvention of regular protocols and procedures that Premier Ghiz had followed properly with all other staff leaving the Premier’s Office were NOT FOLLOWED with Chris LeClair.
Myers – like the entire PC Caucus – was absolutely convinced that Robert Ghiz had committed the criminal offence of “Committing Mischief to Data” and he cheered Jamie Fox on as Fox inflicted two days of punishment on the MacLauchlan Government during Question Period for failing to take action on Ghiz’s deletion of Chris LeClair’s records.
Fox was calling for a full criminal investigation with help from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) which had just successfully prosecuted the Premier of Ontario’s Chief of Staff for willfully destroying government records in the Premier’s Office.
That Ontario Gas Plant scandal had amazing similarities with Ghiz’s deletion of records in the Premier’s Office before leaving Government, and the PC Caucus wanted a similar outcome: conviction for committing a crime and a jail sentence.
The definition of Intention is defined in R. v Mohan as “the decision to bring about a prohibited consequence”.
Destroying all of Chris LeClair government records – in all formats and on all devices, including on government servers – without first ensuring that they were backed up in accordance with the Archives and Records Act reveals a deliberate plan to seek out and destroy records to hide government dealings and frustrate the requirements for informed and accountable democracy.
The very same provincial Archives and Records Act that was the legislation breached in the Ontario Livingston case is the Act that was breached by Ghiz.
Remember: The thing that makes destroying government records a criminal act is “intention”.
Could you hear that desk-banging in the background? Well the loudest thumps were from Myers.
So what’s the chances that Hon. Steven Myers stood up in the Legislative Assembly the other day [Thursday, June 5, 2020] and decided to put the following statement about Robert Ghiz on the official Hansard Record:
“I don’t ever, ever question whether or not I think he [Robert Ghiz] had the best intentions for Islanders.”
If Robert Ghiz broke the law when he destroyed LeClair’s records – like Myers previously believed – then, by definition, that act was definitely not one done with the best intentions of Islanders in mind… it was a criminal act (Mischief to Data in the Criminal Code of Canada) worthy of a conviction and jail sentence as was doled out to David Livingston in Ontario.
In a previous article while trying to understand the collective “mass” flip-flop with the entire former PC caucus on the egaming scandal, I suggested that we may be dealing with something akin to the “invasion of body snatchers” as a joke.
As I continue to come up empty-handed in my search for an explanation for what Myers said in the PEI legislative Assembly last Thursday, the body snatcher theory is now on the table for real.
“Once you eliminate the impossible [i.e., that the “real” Steven Myers would believe what he said in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, June 5, 2020 about Ghiz always having good intentions towards Islanders], whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
I received the following acknowledgement from an APSO Coordinator on the FOIPP request I submitted the other day seeking government records on the $4.7 million to Robert Irving.
Those initial acknowledgement letters for FOIPP requests are important to scrutinize: subtle changes in the wording with the way APSO workers restate the initial request in the acknowledgement letter can have huge impacts on the parameters of the search scope.
This is the letter I received:
My request seemed straightforward enough in my initial request. I asked for records in all formats “….that were either sent to or received from anyone at the PEI Potato Board…” My request came back to me in the acknowledgement letter after it “…was received by the Department of Agriculture” as “revised.” Wait a minute…no one asked anyone to revise anything! Nice try!
I immediately sent the following email:
APSO workers don’t have the right to unilaterally change FOIPP requests to restrict the parameters of the search in that way – delete two simple words that can easily be overlooked by an unsuspecting FOIPP applicant, and the result is a lot fewer records. In this instance, the number would have effectively been cut in half.
I received the following email response yesterday (June 4, 2020):
For a government to be transparent and accountable, it needs the freedom to confidently advance the policies and programs that Islanders truly want implemented. How is an incoming Premier to know what those policies are? It’s actually not that difficult.
When Denny King was trying to become Premier King, he knew exactly what to say to jump on board the policies Islanders wanted – at least that was certainly true for policies on “open government” and “land”. King was able to articulate them with great precision and passion in each of the four main Leader debates leading up to April 23, 2019 election, but no where more clearly than in the Leaders Debate sponsored by the PEI Coalition for the Protection of Land.
Dennis King had asked me if I would be willing to provide him with some background information and briefing notes to help him prepare for those Leaders Debates. I took that as a good sign that he was sincerely committed to pursing some very important and progressive policies which I had previously advanced in the Leadership Campaign.
I not only provided King with detailed answers to the lists of questions that had been provided to each of the leaders in advance of each debate, I also spent 2 hrs in a room with Dennis King prepping him just hours before the actual debates took place for the Environment Debate; the Land Debate; and the Agriculture Debate; and 3 1/2 hrs for the final CBC debate.
King is a sponge when it comes to memorizing lines for a show. He soaked up just about everything I had to say on a wide range of land-related issues, including the importance of putting a “name search” on the business registry. I had explained to him how until that happens, there will continue to be a shroud of confusion over all the other issues relating to land limits and the violation of the Lands Protection Act.
As you will see from the video clip from that Land Debate at the end of this article – King totally got it, articulating perfectly the connections between open government, transparency and sharing of information, and the need to put a name search on the business registry as a “great first start”.
It’s now been more than a year and Premier King has put no name search on the registry. Something that costs nothing and would take a day by ITSS…..something that needs no legislation or new regulations, just a decision by Executive Council and an email to ITSS.
What conclusion can we draw from this lack of action on such an important issue? King has apparently not yet embarked on the journey towards open and honest government he promised he’d be taking; there has been no “great first start” (a name search on the registry) that King indicated would signal the beginning of that journey.
If Dennis King was truly sincere when he spoke those words about transparency and getting a name search on the Business Registry, it would appear he underestimated the paralyzing effect of the “french fry fear factor” and froze when he came up against the full intimidating force of that fear after becoming Premier.
I’d Rather eat rotten worms than have Robert Irving find out I talked to you!
It’s amazing how many people have contacted me lately either encouraging me to “keep digging into the $4.7 million” story or to “back the hell off criticizing the Potato Board!” Both camps have different types of “fear” motivating their comments and concerns; both types of comments are inspired by the very same french fry fear factor.
The french fry fear factor keeps people with important information that should be public from making that information public. Yet many do feel compelled to share that information with me – anonymously of course – spilling their guts in a frustrated rant over what they see unfolding behind the scenes, sometimes having direct, negative impacts on either their personal lives, businesses, communities or environment.
After blurting out whatever it is they called me to get off their chests, they then caution me that if I ever mention their name they’ll deny ever talking to me and break both my legs. Ok…I won’t do that…I love my legs!
Here’s what I heard the other day:
“Robert Irving has rolled back all his processing grower contracts by 15% for this year…..yet, Mary Jean Irving has planted an additional 900 acres.”
Is this true? Likely, knowing the source. Can I prove it? Nope. Our Government could find out if it’s true if they wanted to find out, but I’m sure they don’t want to know anything about anything that exposes any Irving shenanigans, all thanks to the french fry fear factor.
It’s Time for Premier King to Show us his “Apparent Sincerity” was real!
Premier King embraced the idea of putting a name search on the PEI Business Registry during the last PC leadership Campaign with great gusto. It was supposed to be the inaugural act that would signal the beginning of his campaign to open the floodgates of information flowing to Islanders to finally give us what we have been longing for and denied too long – if we’d only make King the Premier….he would lead us to the promised land of government transparency and accountability like Moses or the Pied Piper. Well…we did make him Premier, so it’s time to get out your staff or your penny whistle!
Listen to the passion, clarity and apparent sincerity in King’s words. How could anyone doubt the sincerity of his promise to give Islanders true access to information – something he (as a former journalist) understood was absolutely essential to understand the issues, have meaningful input into the development of public policy, and hold government accountable?
The denial of government information to Islanders has been unprecedented under the King Government. Its never been worse with FOIPP requests, as the King Government faces several pending Supreme Court Contempt Orders for illegally withholding records; as we continue to wait for an explanation why it was felt necessary to hide a $4.7 million gift to Robert Irving, and of course, why Premier King won’t put the name search on the Business Registry.
If I had know all my efforts to help King say exactly what he knew Islanders wanted him to say in those debates to get elected would result in him completely ignoring all those transparency policies; that he would totally betray Islanders by supporting the ongoing corruption and cover-up of the egaming scandal – keeping all the same people onboard that were running the show when Ghiz and MacLauchlan were in power – I would never have provided a single minute of my time or any assistance helping him to become Premier.
I personally regard what he has done as a complete betrayal of all Islanders, and I can assure you – no one sees the depths of that betrayal more than I do these days and I will continue to expose more and more of that betrayal in frequent stories until everyone else sees it as well, and the electorate then ensures an appropriate response ensues.
I’m sometimestempted to despair when I see the current approval rating for a government that has so betrayed Islanders on so many CORE policy issues and promises – protecting bees, bringing justice to the egaming scandal & cover-up, implementing a Farmland Bank,…etc., promises that Premier King made to get elected. With regards to finally giving Islanders an open government, he has yet to take what he identified as what he announced would be his “great first step.” That tells us just how far the King Government has so far traveled on the road to transparency!
My feature image for this article is a slide from a PowerPoint Presentation that Innovation PEI prepared and delivered to executives at RBC Dexia. That pitch offered RBC Dexia a “new build” and various tax incentives and employee subsidies totaling $78 million over 10 years if RBC Dexia was to locate a “near-shore” financial services centre in PEI hiring 600 workers to “export financial services to clients and customers around the world.”
Innovation PEI had extended the MOU signed with CMT/FMT on July 6, 2012, containing the same legally-binding provisions forbidding the PEI Government to even mention PEI’s interest in establishing a financial services centre in PEI with any “entity” whatsoever. That agreement to engage in “exclusive discussions” with CMT/FMT represented a commitment to complete a 2-year business relationship with CMT/FMT to establish a financial services centre in PEI as a “near-shore” financial services centre exporting financial services to clients and customers around the world.
The Presentation delivered to RBC Dexia was delivered shortly after the MOU with CMT/FMT was extended for an additional 30 days in early September, 2012 when the legally-binding exclusivity clause was fully in force.
PEI Court of Appeal Judges
SENDING THE CASE TO TRIAL
CMT is alleging a number of different things against a number of different clients in the law suit. Those claims (what lawyers call “torts”) fall under one of three categories: (1) the tort of “spoliation”; (2) the tort of “misfeasance in public office,” and (3) the tort of “breach of contract”.
The “breach of contract” claim is the most important claim and the real “money tort.” The other torts go to the degree of quantum of damages that CMT will likely be able to justify as a result of the extreme bad faith evident in such actions as the destruction of government records(spoliation) or giving false statements (misfeasance) that were intended to the cover-up the main tort, the “breach of the MOU” and by so doing thwart justice.
This article deals only with CMT’s claim that the PEI government “breached” the legally-binding provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), specifically, the RBC Dexia breach.
CMT is now alleging that the PEI Government breached the MOU in at least four (4) separate ways, in four well-organized recruitment campaigns, all of which involved recruitment activity that overlapped times when the MOU was in force. They are as follows:
In communications and meetings that took place between Wes Sheridan, Chris LeClair, et. al. and Keith Laslop (Newco) discussing the possibility of Laslop establishing a financial services company to offer a broad range of financial services as a “near-shore” location to clients around the world. Wes Sheridan provided Laslop with contact information to establish a partnership with the PEI Credit Union during the time the MOU was in effect in August, 2012, then orchestrated the delivery of a “business plan” for that near-shore financial services company (prepared during the final days the initial MOU was in force) set to be formally delivered to Wes Sheridan and Allen Roach immediately after the MOU was thought to expire, September 6, 2012. That business plan was emailed to Wes Sheridan and others at 12pm, September 6, 2012.
When Brad Mix hired a “head hunter” consultant in the U.K. to set up meetings with at least six (6) meetings with SWIFT-companies capable of delivering financial services at a high-level SWIFT conference in Osaka, Japan;
With Brad Mix hiring head-hunter prospecting consultant to make contacts with financial services companies in Boston, in advance of a scheduled recruiting mission attended by Cheryl Paynter and Pat Binns, in October, 2012; and;
With Brad Mix, Wes Sheridan, Cheryl Paynter, Melissa MacEachern et. al. actively, and continuously recruiting RBC Dexia to establish a financial services centre in PEI.
The #1 and #2 Allegations of a Breach of the MOU were given some consideration by Judge Campbell. He had some documentation on Laslop [ironically, obtained by the PC MLAs when in the Official Opposition, the same PC MLAs now denying that any breach occurred].
Back in the those days when the PC MLAs were collaborating with me and my investigation, I would provide copies of my FOIPP documents and they would provide me copies of theirs. When I obtained those Laslop documents I made them public and CMT’s legal counsel then found a way to have them entered into the Court Record.
Campbell addressed the #1 and #2 allegations of a breach of the MOU in his ruling; however, critically-important “new documents” about both the SIBOS and Laslop/Newco MOU breaches were obtained in subsequent FOIPPs that were never seen by Judge Campbell because Coady refused to provide consent to have them entered into the court record.
My next post will focus on that mysterious “Supplementary Affidavit of Documents,” in a piece I’m titling: “Who Ordered the Code Red?” Coady served four new documents to CMT’s legal counsel – two relating to Laslop and two relating to SIBOS – on September 20, 2019, 5 days prior to Judge Campbell’s ruling. John MacDonald sought Consent from Coady to have those documents put before Campbell before he filed his ruling to dismiss the case, but Coady refused to do so, in a blatant breach of the PEI Rules of Civil Procedure. Given all that was at stake, that was a breach too far!
Campbell did not see sufficient evidence of a “breach” with either Laslop or SIBOS documents he did have before him, but he would have seen enough evidence of a breach if Coady had given him those four documents attached to the Supplementary Affidavit. But someone ordered a Code Red!
# 3 and #4 of CMT’s Allegations of a Breach of the MOU were never considered by Judge Campbell at all, because Jonathan Coady never disclosed or produced any records on either of these two occasions when the MOU was breached.
New FOIPP documents on these two separate breaches of the MOU [Boston financial services companies recruiting trip; recruitment efforts with RBC Dexia] are now contained in those roughly 1,000 pages of new evidence before the Appeal Court Judges as “exhibits” attached to three Fresh Evidence Motions filed by CMT’s legal counsel.
Given the very broad definition of financial services centre and other wording in the MOU about sharing information, pursing an agreement in good faith, etc….any one of the four occasions in which the MOU was breached would likely suffice to establish liability on the part of the PEI Government. However, the RBC Dexia is especially strong in that regard, and by itself puts the issue to bed.
So with that as background, I’m focusing the remainder of this article on presenting the facts surrounding RBC Dexia that unequivocally proves a breach of the MOU. The documentary evidence presented to the Appeal Court by CMT was uncontested by Coady. That new evidence completely destroys any remaining credibility in Coady’s and the King Government’s legal Response to CMT’s Appeal.
More than the other MOU breaches, the RBC Dexia also exposes the sheer magnitude of the cover-up of the truth by successive governments, both Liberal and Conservative, with a breath-taking spectrum of deception and lies employed by Stewart McKelvey, and surprisingly endorsed by the King Government, to cover-up the truth and frustrate open and transparent democracy in a deliberate, sustained and well-organized attempt to corrupt our judicial system. What is that truth?
That the PEI Government breached the MOU in bad faith causing damages to CMT/FMT, and is therefore liable for any damages that can be proven in Court to have been the result of that breach of the MOU.
As for the Boston recruitment effort, FOIPP documents are still being withheld by the PEI Government, so details are sparse. It is clear, however, that – just like the SIBOS recruitment trip to Japan – work was underway during the time the MOU was in force prospecting a consultant who in turn was reaching out to identify and then contact financial services companies in Boston, with the help of former Premier Pat Binns, to schedule meetings with PEI Government delegates wanting to discuss the possibility of relocation to PEI to establish a “near-shore” financial services centre.
2. Coady’s Legal Response to RBC Dexia at the Appeal
This article answers the question whether the MOU was breached. Why? Because Jonathan Coady implicitly conceded that the MOU was breached in what he said at the Appeal. I’ll explain.
Unlike with Laslop/Newco and SIBOS claims of a breach of the MOU, Coady was not denying that Innovation had been engaged in a concerted recruitment effort happened with RBC Dexia. The evidence is just too overwhelming.
Coady was unwilling to concede the obvious however, and proceeded to advance a three-fold legal argument in a bid to convince the Appeal Court Judges RBC Dexia recruiting activities were of no real consequence for the MOU, and did not violate the exclusivity clause.
It was up to Coady to explain to the Judges exactly how those activities and events recruiting RBC Dexia didn’t violate the exclusivity provision of the MOU, and he made a stab at it with three incredibly weak arguments summarized as follows.
Ongoing negotiations/discussions with RBC Dexia were just a “carry-over” from a decision/agreement/deal that happened before the MOU, so they were somehow “grandfathered” into the MOU agreement;
RBC was offering a different type of “financial services” than CMT/FMT and the meaning of the term “financial services centre” in the MOU was vague and not specific enough to clearly indicate what type of financial services Innovation PEI had to be careful not to discuss. Being so “different” from CMT, coupled with that vague definition in the MOU, there was no breach of the MOU; and finally;
Innovation PEI was legally compelled to do what they did – notwithstanding the MOU – because of a Statutory obligation to “recruit companies to PEI.” The implication was that such an obligation would supersede the legally-binding provision in the MOU.
Let’s consider each argument separately. But first, let’s see exactly what the King Government said about RBC Dexia in the Response Coady filed with the PEI Court of Appeal:
So let’s start with the weakest of the three weakest legal arguments in the world and count down to his last and best shot at convincing the Appeal Judges that no breach of the MOU happened with RBC Dexia.
Weakest Argument in the World #3
“The Deal with RBC Dexia Happened Before the MOU was Signed”
Coady attempts to sell the idea that any communication with RBC after the MOU was signed on July 6, 2012 was just cleaning up from some kind of deal that had already been struck with Innovation PEI. It’s not spelled out like that in detail, but the implications are very strong, as can be seen in what was written in the Response cited above. Let’s unpack that a bit.
What was that prior “event” reference by Coady? He calls it a “relocation offer.” Communications did indeed take place between Brad Mix and RBC Dexia as early as March, 2012. The “relocation offer” was nothing more than a pitch delivered opening up a conversation about the possibility of RBC Dexia locating in PEI. I’ve read all that back and forth communication and it was ongoing negotiations and clarification about what would be available “if RBC was to….” kinda stuff.
The dedicated negotiations/recruitment effort with RBC Dexia was really only getting underway in earnest in July. That July 6th email from Brad Mix referenced by Coady was a discussion about developments at RBC and the impact they might have on an upcoming meeting in Toronto Wes Sheridan had scheduled with RBC executives, as RBC Dexia continued to show interest in possibly moving to PEI.
RBC was an active, ongoing recruitment effort happening before and during the time the MOU with CMT/FMT was in effect. Once the MOU was signed, any recruitment efforts with other major financial companies to establish a “near-shore” location in PEI to “export financial services” were supposed to stop. They didn’t.
There was no “deal” with RBC Dexia somehow grandfathered: Mix was still eagerly prospecting RBC Dexia three weeks after the MOU was signed, when he referred to the company in an email to Ministers Roach and Sheridan, Deputy Minister MacEachern and his CEO, Cheryl Paynter as: “Our number one prospect…”Fast Forward to September 20, 2012 – just days after a 30-day extension of the MOU with CMT/FMT came into force.
I won’t go into all the details of that September 20th pitch presentation made to RBC Dexia to locate in PEI. Consider just three slides. First of all, in this first one, notice the wording identifying the type of financial services as “exporting financial services from Prince Edward Island”:
What the PEI Government Offered RBC Dexia over a 10-year period
The Office Complex the PEI Government was to build for RBC Dexia
The presentation indicated that this “new build” would be available for occupancy by December 1, 2012! Wow. That’s fast. That’s just just how eager Brad Mix was to ink a deal with his #1 prospect: RBC Dexia.
The RBC Dexia folks were all from off-Island of course, so I suspect Mix put that December 1, 2012 “availability” date into the proposal confident that they’d never discover how long it actually takes the PEI Government to build anything….especially “buildings”.
World’s Weakest Legal Argument #2:
The term “Financial Services Centre” in the Exclusivity Clause in the MOU is vague and doesn’t Encompass the Kind of Services RBC Dexia offer
Jonathan Coady also tried to sell the idea that there really wasn’t a breach of the MOU with the recruitment efforts with RBC because the kind of financial services RBC Dexia were offering were somehow different from those of CMT/FMT.
He didn’t explain why he believed RBC was offering something entirely different from what CMT/FMT was offering in the MOU, he just suggested that the term “financial services centre” was actually quite NARROW and referred only to the kind of financial platform services CMT/FMT were able to offer, then argued that what RBC was offering was completely different, falling outside that narrow definition of “financial platform”. He offered no evidence supporting those statements whatsoever.
Just two things to say about Coady’s claim that the intent of the exclusivity clause was limited to a rare special type of “transaction platform” services and therefore “narrow” in meaning (1) what the Auditor General had to say about that; and (2) what the actual MOU agreement has to say about that.
(1) The Auditor General, Jane McAdam believed the language in the exclusivity clause was very “broad” and drew attention to that as a concern she had, also noting senior staff she interviewed at Innovation PEI were concerned the MOU would impact Innovation PEI’s ability to recruit financial services companies:
(2) The meaning of the phrase “financial services centre” seems pretty clear when considered within the full context of the MOU. The intention behind putting that phrase into the agreement seems clear as well: I’m pretty sure that Innovation PEI traipsing around the world prospecting “alternative” financial service center companies to establish a “near-shore” centre in PEI to export financial services globally while keeping all that recruitment work completely secret wasn’t the intent of the exclusivity clause:
Consider as well the preamble to the agreement where the type of “activity” associated with “financial services centre” is described as “global and domestic financial transaction processing and other related services.” That pretty much encompasses any financial services company operating as a “near-shore” centre. That’s exactly what RBC Dexia offered – “global and domestic financial transaction processing and other related services.”As the “Mover of first advantage” promised to FMT in the recruitment package FMT would have been offering the Global Transaction Platform that RBC Dexia would have needed to connect to if it was to relocate to PEI. Given what was said in the MOU about sharing such information, the PEI Government had a “good faith” obligation to share that “necessary information and contacts it has in order to facilitate the creation of such a facility in the Province,” with CMT/FMT.
Needless to say, Innovation PEI shared nothing about its many recruitment efforts and exploits with CMT/FMT, but diligently avoided any mention of recruitment activity or disclosing any documents about same, including recruitment efforts with their #1 prospect – RBC Dexia.
World’s Weakest Legal Argument #1
Innovation PEI had a Statutory Obligation to Recruit
Let me say from the outset that if it was the case that there was absolutely any possibility that the Statute giving Innovation its Mandate took precedence over the legally-binding provision of the MOU you would think that Billy Dow – who brought that MOU to Cheryl Paynter at Innovation PEI for her signature – would have mentioned to Gary Jessop (CMT’s lawyer) that the exclusivity clause was legally-meaningless and just a ploy? Like I said, world’s weakens legal argument ever.
Jonathan Coady told the Appeal Judges (to paraphrase) “…Innovation PEI had a statutory obligation to recruit companies,” further pressing the point that “financial services” was one of the specifically-targeted sectors with Innovation PEI, thereby giving even more force to his argument that Innovation PEI were compelled to follow that statutory obligation. Consider the “forced” evolution in Coady’s legal response as information that was first kept hidden became available and CMT’s legal counsel attempted to have it considered fairly by the Court. Jonathan Coady went from…
(a) failing to disclose and/or admit any records or materially-relevant facts about the RBC breach of the MOU , never mentioning it at all; to…
(b) refusing to allow CMT’s legal counsel to have documents about RBC’s breach of the MOU put in front of Judge Campbell prior to his September 25, 2019 ruling; to his unsupported claim expressed at the appeal with zero evidence that…
(c) Innovation PEI‘s ongoing recruitment efforts with RBC Dexia didn’t constitute a true “breach” of the MOU because Innovation PEI had a statutory obligation to “recruit” that – by implication – took precedence over the MOU.
Chief Justice David Jenkins didn’t seem impressed with that legal argument. He interjected (to paraphrase): “…yeah but Counsel Coady, you told them that you wouldn’t do that [recruit] and you signed a legally-binding agreement to back up that promise, right?”
I can’t recall what Coady said in response, but it doesn’t really matter.
3. How Coady Kept the RBC Breach From Judge Campbell
How is it that such overwhelming evidence of multiple breaches of the MOU – but especially the RBC Dexia breach – never once came to the attention of Judge Campbell, even after Maines and CMT’s lawyer discovered all those new documents proving the breaches?
If Judge Campbell had seen those RBC Dexia documents 5 years ago at the very outset of CMT’s law suit, I’m sure he would have immediately sent the lawsuit to trial. The past five years have been nothing but a deliberate attempt to frustrate the legal system. It’s been a steady stream of procedures and steps that would all have been unnecessary if not for all the lies and cover-up.
If Jonathan Coady and the PEI Government had told the truth about what really happened rather than advancing a false narrative based on false statements sworn by multiple defendants, the last five years of expensive and frustrating legal procedures and process would never have happened.
The impact on the plaintiff is five wasted years in his bid for justice in the PEI courts, and millions of dollars in wasted legal expenses that were never needing to be incurred, being forked over to lawyers by both CMT and the PEI taxpayer, something the PEI Government apparently determined was acceptable “collateral damage” to effect a successful cover-up and protect the Defendants from the just legal consequences of their actions.
If all that materially-relevant documentary evidence had been disclosed from the outset it would have sent the case to trial at a minimum, and would have more likely resulted in an immediate ruling in favour of CMT on the “liability” and “causation” issue, then prompting direction from the Court to move the litigation process on to a determination of damages for consideration by the Court.
CMT’s civil litigation case needed to establish two things to succeed:
That a breach of the MOU happened, and;
That the breach of the MOU caused damages and financial losses to the Plaintiff. The new evidence proves that the MOU was breached. The only remaining matter at issue is whether a causal connection to damages can be shown, and if so, what the quantum of those damages proven and accepted by the Court will be.
John MacDonald told the three Appeal Court Judges that he had, in fact, formally asked Coady to enter into an agreement to separate the issues of “liability/causation” and “damages/financial losses” – what he referred to as agreeing to “bifurcate the issues” – on the basis of evidence proving a breach of the MOU. At no time did Coady show any interest in conceding anything, especially that his client had breached the MOU.
The Appeal Court Judges now have that PowerPoint Presentation that Innovation PEI delivered to RBC Dexia during the time the MOU in force, and a whole lot more – nearly 1,000 other pages of materially-relevant documents systematically withheld from Campbell by Coady and never disclosed to opposing counsel, as the PEI Rules of Civil Procedure require.
There’s at least three more occasions the MOU was breached that have come to light, and the PC Government is still denying a breach of the MOU occurred.
The egaming scandal was all on Ghiz; and the denial and cover-up of that scandal carried on with Wade MacLauchlan’s four-year term as Premier. However, the most shameless, systematic and serious attempt to cover-up not only the egaming scandal, but the “cover-up” of that scandal as well, and all the corruption it entailed, in a bid to protect all the key players, including Brad Mix and Neil Stewart who continue to serve in powerful senior positions within the King Government – now falls squarely on the lap of the King Government.
When Jonathan Coady filed his Statement of Defense in response to CMT’s Statement of Claim relaunching the law suit with a much-strengthened amended version, Coady told all Canadians through the Globe and Mail that there was zero merit to CMT’s claim:
“The defence is clear, detailed and provable?” I did not see that demonstrated at the Appeal! I wonder what Jonathan Coady would say to that reporter today?
Judge Campbell would never have dismissed CMT’s case if Jonathan Coady had not repeatedly and deliberately breached the Rules of Court on countless occasions by failing to honour the principles of honest and full disclosure. Withholding and keeping information and materially-relevant documents about RBC Dexia from the Court is pretty serious stuff!
Judge Campbell would never have dismissed CMT’s case if Jonathan Coady and the King Government hadn’t alos blocked “fresh evidence” from being entered into the record by refusing to give Consent. That’s not only serious stuff…it’s downright malicious if you ask me.
Jonathan Coady is now left waiting for the proverbial “shoe to drop” with the Appeal Court’s decision. He can’t feel very confident, left to advance weak legal arguments with all the weight of chaff blowing in the wind. Paul Maines found the wheat in a series of FOIPPs, and John MacDonald baked up a tasty loaf of bread – the bread of understanding – which the Appeal Court Judges are currently consuming, likely spread with the jam Coady and the King Government are in!
Trying to convince the Appeal Court Judges that the new 1,000 pages of fresh evidence that he worked so diligently to keep secret is “inadmissible” on the basis of a technical provision in the FOIPP Act intended to protect the confidentiality of interviewees during formal Information Commission reviews shows the level of desperation with Coady’s response to the current situation – suggesting that massive corruption and cover-up, multiple occasions of perjury, etc. should all be passed over and forgotten on the basis of a technicality was probably not the smartest play.
That provision in the FOIPP Act was most certainly never intended to convince the Court that massive corruption on an unprecedented scale undermining the very integrity of judicial system shredding the fabric of an open, accountable, and democratic political system could somehow be “quashed” and brushed aside on such a technicality. That Coady would even advance such a legal argument in the face of overwhelming evidence betrays a legal mind so devoid of any moral sensibility or understanding of the essential supremacy of truth and the intimate connection between justice and truth in the fair adjudication of justice as to make Jonathan Coady unfit to practice law.
It’s too late to ask the Judges to rule all that Fresh Evidence is “inadmissible” at any rate. They’ve seen it and they can’t “unsee” it. Nor should they try to ignore what’s in that fresh evidence. Let’s not forget, Jonathan Coady had an obligation to provide a full and complete disclosure of materially-relevant records from the outset and he deliberately did not do that. Now he’s trying to convince the Judges that – based on some technicality – it’s now too late to consider the truth he hid from the Court? Hard to imagine that’s what he argued.
Jonathan Coady was able to secure a “Civil Litigator of the Year” award last summer. He was also granted “Queens Counsel” status. He was able to keep and embolden that status with a victory last September with Judge Campbell’s decision to dismiss CMT’s case: his reign as the litigator of the year may be in jeopardy after the Appeal Decision.
Coady’s final battery of the world’s three weakest arguments he discharged at the Appeal all bypass and entirely ignore the truth. He never answered when Chief Justice Jenkins asked for his response to some pretty serious claims John MacDonald had made concerning his breach of Court Rules. Nor did he present any evidence or intelligent legal arguments challenging let alone disproving CMT’s most recent claims and legal position, based on powerful new evidence. Arguments based on technicalities will not work for Coady this time around.
Final Comments on the King Government’s Role in this Fiasco
Ethics should matter in our legal system and courts. True justice based on a fair adjudication of matters in light of the law and THE FULL AND COMPLETE RECORD should always be the goal and standard for our justice system. Protecting and upholding the truth should matter most of all! On that, the King Government and Jonathan Coady have failed us miserably.
The PEI Government ultimately has a duty to ensure that honest legal strategies employed by outside legal counsel it retains are ethical at all times. The onus now falls to the King government to offer direction to its legal counsel to address this scandal. For its part, the King government must begin to deliver open, honest government to Islanders. To date, we have been dealt a gargantuan betrayal!
In opposition, Steven Myers, Jamie Fox, Sidney MacEwan, Brad Trivers, Matthew MacKay, James Aylward and Darlene Compton fought long-and-hard to uncover the truth about egaming. They discovered a lot about the illegal deletion of records and about the breach of the MOU. They were convinced then with hardly any evidence – there’s a mountain now and they’re denying there was a breach. Go figure!
There’s no question that King Government has failed to confront that corruption and rid us of that self-serving and secretive Insider Club rotting our political democracy and judicial system at its very core. As for the PC MLAs once so vocal on the subject of demanding transparency and true accountability. Silence.
The collective actions of our PC MLAs and Premier represents one of the most serious moral and political betrayals of the electorate by any incoming government in PEI’s history.
I suspect there will be unpleasant consequences for Jonathan Coady for the “particular legal strategy he chose to adopt” [e.g., totally ignoring and breaching the Rules of Court more times than you can count] as he repeatedly said of John MacDonald’s decision not to file a Motion to Produce and go instead hunting for a truthful record in targeted FOIPP requests.
That would have been a fatal decision for his client if no materially-relevant documents had shown up, but they did, lots of them. Coady wouldn’t produce a truthful record so CMT’s legal counsel and Paul Maines went looking for one, and they found it just in time to set a loaf of bread in the middle of the table for the Appeal Court Judges.
RBC Dexia never did come to PEI. But take another look at that 4-story, 60,000 sq. ft. red brick office complex in the feature image. Look familiar? Kinda like the four-story building in downtown Charlottetown that was a vacant lot back when the PEI Government put together that Slide Show Presentation for RBC Dexia. It isn’t vacant anymore. You know the one – McInnes Cooper’s new law firm offices!
McInnes Cooper law firm, the “egaming project manager” (according to the Auditor General), likely used that $950,000 gift disguised as a loan to lay the foundation for that new build. That money was never accounted for, was hid from Treasury board by Neil Stewart, then completely written off by Premier Wade MacLauchlan, without a glance at McInnes Cooper or the scoundrels who orchestrated that fraudulent money-transfer of tax dollars to McInnes Cooper.
So in a way, the PEI Government did proceed with “the build” originally intended for RBC Dexia, although it just looked like McInnes Cooper was doing well and could afford a new office complex to the rest of us. Crazy eh? There’s always a story within the story with PEI’s Insider Club! I hope the Appeal Court sends a message and puts a end to all these shenanigans.
After commenting publicly on the PEI Government’s decision to give a $4.7 million COVID-19 gift to Robert Irving in a Guardian editorialearlier this week, I was obviously eager to see how this issue would be handled in the Legislative assembly. I knew it would come up, so I was watching. It did last night (Thursday, May 28, 2020).
This particular sitting of the House is dealing mostly with the COVID-19 money being dispersed by the King government. The budget items and program amounts in the COVID-19 Relief document were reviewed line-by-line. Any MLA could speak to any budget line, so I was hoping MLA for Mermaid – Stratford, Michele Beaton (also Agriculture Critic for the Green Party) would address the $4.7 million issue.
She didn’t disappoint.
The precision of her questioning, her clear understanding of the issue and context within which the issue rests, and the calmness with which Ms. Beaton presented her information was impressive. Bloyce? Not so much.
Minister Thompson betrayed a complete lack of understanding of both the real issues at the heart of this matter and the specific questions asked. He didn’t seem to grasp that Ms. Beaton was looking for an explanation for the decision that was made – information about the decision-making process and negotiations that took place – who’s idea was it in the first place? who took that genius idea to whom? How was it approved? Who was involved in that decision-making process?….that kinda stuff. The things all Islanders want to know.
How does the Minister answer? He talked about feelings.
“Farmers were scared.” he said. “Robert Irving was scared.” Something had to be done. With impending doom approaching, thank God cooler heads were prevailing at the Potato Board. Someone [no name mentioned] “stepped up” with an ingenious idea that would satisfy everyone, a miracle cure that would solve all the problems facing Cavendish Farm workers and potato farmers alike…. “mitigate the problem” as Thompson put it. What was it?
“Just pay Robert Irving $4.7 million and he promises not to break his contracts; he won’t lay off all his workers; and he won’t screw the farmers.”
According to Minister Thompson: “It was a great deal.”
Thompson’s real misstep was to suggest that Ms. Beaton may not be looking at the situation through the same compassionate and sympathetic eyes. Her response cut to the heart of the matter.
By contrasting how the King government is treating small Island businesses with how the King government is treating Robert Irving, Ms. Beaton showed the great divide between the preferential treatment being bestowed on a billionaire, with apparently no oversight, nor conditions or decision-making process that has been clearly documented in government records WHILE AT THE SAME TIME small Island business owners are only getting LOANS, and many (estimates up to 30%) apparently won’t survive.
There was not a lot of detail on how the $4.7 million is going to be paid to Robert Irving; however, it will be the Potato Board delivering the cheques. Minister Thompson uses the number “180 potato farmers” but that is misleading and inaccurate. There are only 80 processing growers and I suspect only a dozen or two of those processing growers had potatoes remaining.
The General Manager of the Potato Board will no doubt make sure the full $4.7 million gets disbursed, he’s had something of a “history” with Robert Irving: “He then spent 14+ years in progressively responsible management positions in the agricultural crop input business in Atlantic Canada and Maine with the Cavendish Group” [See: “Greg Donald Appointed to Board of World Potato Congress”].
One question I don’t know the answer to is whether that $4.7 million is coming out of the $16-$17 million provided to the PEI Government by the Federal government. There is apparently complete discretion on the one hand with that money, but ultimately it has to be accounted for and comply with conditions and terms established by the federal government. If those terms are the same as previously announced by the Federal Government for corporate COVID-19 Relief…..well, that may be a problem for the King government. Free money to corporations and billionaires wasn’t part of the equation as far as I know.
With the not-surprising and long-predicted rebound in the french-fry market already happening, the PEI Government seemingly remains bent on making Robert Irving accept that $4.7 million gift. Why? Count how many times Minister Thompson speaks of Irving’s “need”. With such insistence that Irving accept the gift, it was a relief to hear the Minister say that Robert Irving will not be “required” to take all of that $4.7 million. Phew! That’s good. In fact that’s really good. No one – not even billionaires – should ever be FORCED to take free government money EVER. That’s tyranny.
When I think of Minister Thompson in control of the future direction of PEI’s agriculture and land…I shiver.
When I think of Minister Thompson in control of our justice and legal systems….I shudder!
Seriously….it’s time to take a backbench seat Minister Thompson.
Why are Islanders being denied Access to Robert Ghiz’s Records?
Stewart McKelvey Law Firm apparently has a fully-intact copy of all of Robert Ghiz’s electronic files and emails that Islanders can’t access….or perhaps it’s just another lie that hasn’t been fully exposed yet…you be the judge.
Last February, 2019, I decided to see if I could find out if Premier Ghiz’s files were still intact. With the “scorched earth” strategy employed with Premier Ghiz’s senior staff who worked on egaming as the guiding minds, I wondered: “Would Premier MacLauchlan do to Ghiz’s records what Ghiz did to his Chief of Staff’s records?”
I always wondered why Ghiz resigned so abruptly without any apparent warning. This sudden move surprised even his own Cabinet. It later came out that Ghiz’s decision came just days after private investigator Bruce MacDonald filed his investigative report into CMT and egaming – a report that served as the catalyst for Robin Doolittle with the Globe and Mail to visit PEI and undertake her own investigation. That led to a front-page Globe and Mail story exposing the truth about the egaming scandal in February, 2015 with Premier MacLauchlan already Premier (but not yet elected).
I filed a FOIPP with a couple of “sure hits” guaranteed to produce responsive records. No records in response to my request would mean that they were either made too difficult to locate (hidden) or that there were simply no records (deleted).
I asked for all Ghiz’s emails and records for two relatively short periods of time. I then received a letter from APSO Coordinator Kathyrn Dickson requesting that I narrow my search:
SHOCKER #1: APSO Informs Me that All Ghiz’s Electronic Records Had Been Deleted
On March 1, 2019 I sent the following email to Ms. Dickson with information narrowing my request to just one “week”. I figured that would be more than adequate to answer the question whether Ghiz’s records still existed within government.
I responded with “all good!”
I then received the following letter a week later with wording for the new FOIPP as amended:
When I read the part about “subject” it suddenly dawned on me that they had deleted all Ghiz’s electronic files. I had somehow missed seeing that in the February 15, 2019 letter from Ms Dickson.
Premier MacLauchlan apparently saw so little value in Ghiz’s work that he almost immediately warehoused his documents as if they were no longer active files. Mind-boggling. I recalled reading a transcript of an egaming Public Accounts meeting where an ITSS Senior Manager told Committee members there were over 5,000 email accounts of former government employees going back many years still fully intact on government servers.
Premier Wade MacLauchlan had apparently determined that Robert Ghiz’s records weren’t worth saving. He had them deleted from government servers just three weeks after being elected Premier. With former Premiers such as Angus McLean and Alex Campbell, once the wonders of digitization became available, there was a dedicated effort to convert all their paper records (handwritten notes, typed documents, and even correspondence) into electronic records for posterity: they were scanned and organized, and are now available to the public in a special government website page. My, how the times have changed!
I went back and read the paragraph that Ms. Dickson had referenced in her first letter. Sure enough, the information contained in somewhat less than clear terms led to one conclusion: only paper files in boxes were going to be searched for the Ghiz documents I had asked for:
Where Ms. Dickson says “…performing a search of all emails” I later learned that only meant a search of “paper copies” of all emails. I wanted to confirm that there were no electronic files to search so I asked straight up and I got a straight-up answer: they were gone. Ms. Dickson informed me that there were 18 banker boxes of paper records stored in file folders, which she happened to know from a previous request. I would therefore need to give subjects to search for rather than search “terms or words”. Why anyone would turn what should be a few minute search on a computer into a two or three day search in a closet with banker boxes is a mystery to me.”
Something sure didn’t smell right! I gave Ms. Dickson three “subject” titles but I had a sinking feeling I wouldn’t be seeing any Ghiz documents anytime soon.
A little later that same day, I realized that there would no longer be a need to restrict the time period of the FOIPP, since the search was in folders in boxes that would need to be gone through, so I sent the following email requesting that the FOIPP be broadened to make sure that if paper records existed, then I would have a wide-enough net in the search to ensure that I would get some.
I hadn’t heard anything back for a few days so I sent the following email:
I received a prompt response:
I then received a Response letter saying that no records responsive to my request were found. Hmm.
SHOCKER #2: Robert Ghiz Files No Documents In Court
A multi million-dollar law suit against a former Premier with major accusations against both him as Premier and many of his close government and personal friends and he shows up confidently with no documents. Hmm. Can’t say anything else about that other than it’s shocking.
SHOCKER # 3: Judge Campbell’s Response to CMT’s Claim that Ghiz’s Electronic Records had been Deleted
Reading Judge Campbell’s Decision, I was shocked – based on what I had learned from my Ghiz FOIPP request – to read paragraph 626 where Judge Campbell comes down hard on CMT for making the allegation that Robert Ghiz’s electronic records had been deleted. Judge Campbell once again relied entirely on Stewart McKelvey’s word:
“626 Also in Maines’ 2019 affidavit he alleged that the emails and records of Ghiz were deleted on May 29, 2015, which he maintains is evidence of “bad faith” litigation and further confirming evidence of “misfeasance in public office”. In fact, Ghiz’s emails were never deleted. The email account of Ghiz was copied and preserved the day after the initial statement of claim in this matter was filed. That was done notwithstanding i) Ghiz was not a party to the action in 2015 (he was added some 3 years later), and ii) counsel for the plaintiffs did not identify Ghiz as having any relevant documents for the purpose of the litigation.”
How is it that Stewart McKelvey lawyers “inherited” proprietary rights over Premier Ghiz’s records while Islanders are denied access? I was told by an APSO worker that the electronic files had all been deleted. They had to send someone into a room full of banker boxes to search file folder headings.
But it gets worse. A timeline of events helps to shine a light on the truth.
Wade McLauchlin was elected Premier on May 4, 2015. A little over three weeks later, an Employee Removal Form was completed that instructed ITSS to remove all of Robert Ghiz’s electronic files and electronic records from Government servers. ITSS confirms that Robert Ghiz’s Records were deleted on May 29, 2015, exactly as CMT alleged. Judge Campbell seems to have relied entirely on hearsay from Jonathan Coady. There is no reference to any evidence those records in his ruling confirming the Ghiz’s electronic files and emails were retained.
Perhaps they are all at Stewart McKelvey law firm. Who knows? If that’s true, then they should be put back on the government servers and made available for FOIPP searches and use by government employees. This is what the employee removal form confirmed happened – that they were wiped from government’s servers completely:
SHOCKER #4: Paul Maines FOIPPs for Robert Ghiz Records
Court filings show that Maines submitted an Access Request more recently also asking for Robert Ghiz’s records. Maines claims that he was expecting over 1,000 documents with his request Ghiz records that even mentioned his chief of staff Chris LeClair in any record for six months leading up to the provincial election. His final response letter came on February 3, 2020 with the bad news: NO RECORDS FOUND.
What’s especially interesting in the Response Letter he received is that it appears that the Record Information Management (RIM) Coordinator undertaking the work only had access (allegedly) to hard copy records:
This is very disturbing. Why wouldn’t Stewart McKelvey via Paul Ledwell provide access to the electronic records for FOIPP searches? The RIM Coordinator has authority under our legislation to manage records in the Premier’s Office – in fact, ONLY the RIM Coordinator has that power and duty, yet it appears honest government workers are themselves being kept in the dark about what’s what with records. Hmmm.
Under the Archives and Records Act,Treasury Board policy and Record Information Management (RIM) policies in place at the departmental level at the time the RIM Coordinator was supposed to be the only person responsible for managing government records; however it now seems clear that the RIM Coordinator had no access to Ghiz’s electronic records and had to rely on “archived paper files.”
I suspect that it was the same 18 boxes of documents (if they exist at all – no proof of records were provided when there should have been records) mentioned with the Ghiz FOIPP request from Paul Maines. Only “hard copy” files are mentioned in the search used, and it took over 3 1/2 hours, so it seems pretty clear the search was not electronic. Hmm.
The Information Commissioner is currently engaged in a review of Paul Maines’ FOIPP for Ghiz’s records. Maines filed his February 3, 2020 letter from Paul Ledwell [Clerk of Executive Council and Secretary to Cabinet / Deputy Minister Policy and Priorities and Intergovernmental and Public Affairs for Premier King] to the Information Commissioner in response to what Paul Maines had written in his request for review concerning Ghiz’s records.
It was that letter that finally prompted me to write this little story. I like stories with conclusions. This one doesn’t have one. Maybe that’s why I’ve been holding off on writing it. Now I’m so confused I don’t think it’s within my powers to get an end to this story and find out the truth. All I can do is describe the bizarre situation which seems to now lie before us with this conundrum over Robert Ghiz’s records.
Notwithstanding Ledwell’s assurance to the Information Commissioner that Ghiz’s electronic records were kept fully intact, the fact of the matter is that at least two FOIPP applicants (Maines and Me) have had FOIPP requests that absolutely should have produced at least some records for Ghiz and they produced nothing. Yes, paper records were said to exist, but the electronic ones that make searching easy were deleted – both Maines’ and my FOIPPs were processed on the basis that no electronic files remain for Ghiz, and I was told straight-up Robert Ghiz’s electronic files had been deleted. Read the last paragraph carefully.
PEI’s FOIPP Act gives PEI Islanders the legal right to access documents, even Robert Ghiz’s documents. The very idea that FOIPP requests from Paul Maines and one from me, both with broad search criteria designed to determine if records existed, would produce no records is ludicrous. Not a single sheet of paper from Ghiz was produced by the PEI Government through FOIPP; not a single one of his documents were produced by Jonathan Coady in Court. Hmm.
While delivering his closing remarks at the recent CMT Appeal at the end of the second day, John MacDonald again mentioned the deletion of Robert Ghiz’s records and Counsel Jonathan Cody’s refusal to disclose government documents. Judge Mitchell interjected (to paraphrase): “….but they were all backed up and provided to Stewart McKelvey weren’t they?” MacDonald’s Response (to paraphrase): “Well, that’s what they say, but no one’s ever produced one, and the records show they were deleted.” Touché!
Our mission is to inform, to reveal, to contribute to the understanding of issues of public interest and to encourage citizens to participate in our free and democratic society….We are aware of the impact of our work and are honest with our audiences. We do not hesitate to correct any mistake when necessary nor to follow up a story when a situation changes significantly….We seek out the truth in all matters of public interest.
(1) To convince readers to stop wasting their typing and talking time telling me to do more to convince CBC managers to assign reporters to do stories that report the findings of my research to more Islanders; and,
(2) To encourage readers to put pressure on CBC Management to have a “change of heart” – to effect a paradigm shift – a systemic shift bringing about a badly-needed change in the criteria upon which decisions are made regarding the “newsworthiness” of stories where….(a) stories about criminal offences by still-sitting senior PEI government officials which were previously covered-up by even more senior government officials and/or politicians, who are now IGNORING these new facts and revelations, will begin to take precedence with CBC Story Editors and Managers over (b) stories about cat-rescues from trees, or those more in-depth investigative-type CBC stories where reporters interview people for their views on social issues like when they think Starbucks should open their Downtown drive-thru.
Hardly a day passes without someone reaching out to me via phone, email, text, Facebook messenger, or a publicly-shared comment on my website or Facebook, with suggestions like: “Have you contacted or shared this with CBC….they’re always looking for news tips?”
I explain a bit about my long-standing, dedicated (but completely unsuccessful) campaign to convince CBC to report news I uncover with the result that they have yet to report ANYTHING I provide. I used to at least receive a “thank you” acknowledgement response, but not any more.
I’ve provided CBC Managers with more-than-sufficient, clearly articulated, well-documented, factual information originating from authentic and official source material (many documents were both created by and provided by the PEI Government and obtained through FOI Requests). Seems it doesn’t matter to CBC Managers that the documentary evidence proves very serious claims. What was that principle you subscribe to again? Oh yeah….to “…seek out the truth in all matters of public interest.”
CBC-PEI’s failure to report and follow-up on truly meaningful issues and stories is by no means limited to the egaming scandal. I speak often with members of other organizations also experiencing a similar “cold shoulder” response from CBC Management on important issues, similar to what I’m describing – token or no responses with an apparent complete lack of interest to follow up on important news stories.
I’ve done a bit of research and writing recently on the potentially catastrophic situation created by the King Government with Premier’s King’s broken promise made to test 100% of beehives coming into PEI from Ontario for Small Hive Beetle. Things have actually gotten much worse in Ontario since King made that commitment, and quarantine zones have been lifted with the pest now recognized as “endemic” in the province.
The Small Hive Beetle devastates both honeybees and natural pollinators like bumblebees. How many Islanders are aware that Premier King has reneged on this promise and our natural pollinators are now at risk? Peter Bevan-Baker talked about how if those beetles are allowed to come into PEI we could see our own bee species becoming “extinct” and boldly declared in his pre-election response to a question asked about bee importation at the debate, that we absolutely can’t let that happen – he was talking bees then…it’s crickets now.
These hives are currently on the way to PEI. The truck drivers will be tested for Covid-19. The Small Hive Beetles in those hives in the back of the truck have been given a pass by Premier King, and only 10% will be tested for Small Hive Beetles! Peter Bevan-Baker is apparently now thinking “…who’s gonna notice if a few more species of bees go extinct in PEI.”
What a sin! What is CBC doing about this? One would think that with a solid promise by both Premier King and the Leader of the Official Opposition, Peter Bevan-Baker, Islanders could trust that what is about to happen with this infestation would not happen and – more to the point of this article – if it was about to happen, that the CBC would be asking them why King is breaking his promise and why Bevan-Baker has gone mum on this important issue!
Premier King has not said a single word in public about this issue, despite a significant social media campaign to inform other Islanders about this issue over the past few weeks – with excellent letters in the Guardian and Eastern Graphic by Stan Sandler, a very knowledgeable beekeeper trying to do something to stop this totally senseless and easily-preventable tragedy from happening – yet CBC refuses to cover this story. Why?
It is the duty of our public broadcaster to elicit a response from either Premier King or Peter Bevan-Baker on why they have betrayed us on this issue. They’re getting big paychecks to do that job – so how is it they continue to get paid for refusing to do their job? Why is our public broadcaster doing nothing to tell the stories that are of real and lasting significance to PEI?
So here’s the deal. I’m not going to bash the CBC anymore in my writings. I’m only going to praise efforts on their part to do better than what they’ve been doing to date.
The time I have been putting into trying to get CBC Managers to “say something” will now be redirected into building a stronger, more logical, historically-accurate, well-documented case to prove just how inept CBC Managers have been at doing their job. They have lost public trust and that can’t be ignored.
I’m going to continue to compile a file which I will – at the appropriate time – submit to the CBC Ombudsman. In the meantime – since CBC Managers will no longer even acknowledge receipt of my communications – I will only continue to forward material to the three key CBC Managers responsible for deciding what news Islanders get to see, so I can properly document their refusal to report stories. In this way, I will be able to confirmfor the CBC Ombudsman that they had the information from my “news tips” but ignored that information,.
Like that great Christina Aguilera and Great Big World hit song “Say Something,” I’m afraid that’s my relationship with the CBC. One evening with a box of Kleenex and “Say Something” blaring through the speakers with a bottle of wine in hand was the wake-up call I needed. I can see now. It’s over between us.
After publishing the article with evidence confirming Brad Mix committed Perjury, I was once again encouraged (by multiple people) to contact the CBC. This time they wereSURE CBC would be all over this story and would be keen to get it out to more Islanders!
“O.K.” I said to myself. “I’ll try one last time.” (sigh)
With such strong documentary evidence with this particular article – and the new source material from FOIPPs which Judge Campbell had never seen – I set aside my reservations and suppressed all memories from a very disappointing past relationship with CBC, and wrote the following email to CBC’s Managing Editor, Donna Allen (cc’d to the Senor Manager at CBC PEI, Jim Ferguson):
From: Kevin Arsenault <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, May 1, 2020 at 2:48 PM
Subject: Story Suggestion
To: Donna Allen <email@example.com>
Cc: Jim Ferguson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear Ms. Allen,
I just published an article with findings from my ongoing investigation into the egaming affair. New FOIPP documents now reveal that Brad Mix, the Senior Director at the Recruitment Division of Innovation PEI, committed perjury and gave false evidence about the plaintiff, CMT/FMT: New Foipp Documents Reveal Brad Mix Committed Perjury.
I would be happy to share original government documents proving the serious claims in my article, although the most relevant sections of some of those documents are presented as images in the article.
Could you kindly respond to this email to let me know if I can be of any assistance in providing what you might need to share this important information with more Islanders?
Kevin J. Arsenault, Ph.D
I have received no response or even acknowledgement of that email to date. I know these are “working” email addresses for Ms. Allen and Ms. Ferguson, they used them sending me responses when I contacted them a few weeks ago about my intention to file a complaint with the CBC Ombudsman, and Mr. Ferguson bounced me over to the Regional Manager, Nancy Waugh in Halifax.
The next day, CBC Reporter Wayne Thibodeau happened to be working the weekend shift at CBC and tweeted the following “call out” for news tips:
I took him up on his offer and sent him the following email…
On Sat, May 2, 2020 at 11:58 AM Kevin Arsenault <email@example.com> wrote:
First of all, congratulations on your new position at CBC. I saw your note saying you’re working the weekend at CBC asking your followers whether there is anything happening on PEI that CBC should know about. I’m sending you a link to an article I published on my blog proving unequivocally that Brad Mix committed Perjury. This is pretty big news I think. Please read the article Wayne. As I indicated to Ms. Allen and Mr. Ferguson. I am willing to assist in any way, including providing source documentation obtained from FOIPP, to the CBC. This is proof of a major crime by a person still sitting at his desk in government in a senior position drawing a public salary. I’m sure Islanders expect this kind of news from our public broadcaster to be reported, and without question it’s the most important news tip you’re going to get today, withstanding my shared concern tin one of the other suggestions I saw you received about the down-town Starbucks drive-thru being closed.
I hope you take the time to read the article and respond to this email, or give me a call at (902) 626-7254.
Kevin J. Arsenault, Ph.D
I didn’t hear back from Mr. Thibodeau right away, and kept listening and watching to see if CBC would do a story on what I had sent. There was no story.
Around noon on Monday I received the following email from Mr. Thibodeau:
———- Forwarded message ——— From: WAYNE THIBODEAU <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sun, May 3, 2020 at 10:35 AM
Subject: Re: Story Suggestion To: Kevin Arsenault <email@example.com>
Thanks Kevin, I’ll be certain to give your article a read. I believe this story may have been assigned already to somebody else… but I will check with Donna on Monday.
Wayne Thibodeau | Reporter/Editor | Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 430 University Ave. | Charlottetown, PEI |C1A 8B9| 902-629-4865
“That sounds encouraging,” I mused, “things just might be different this time around.” Alas! It was not to be.
A week later – this past Monday – after still hearing nothing back from CBC – nor hearing or seeing any story from what I had sent to CBC (as far as I know), I decided to send one last “we really need to talk” communication to Ms. Allen and Mr. Ferguson.
I figured it prudent to also copy the regional Manager, Ms. Waugh, since she’ll be the person dealing with this matter eventually, when it gets to the Ombudsman stage.
I knew the tone of my writing would not likely be well-received, but their refusal to even acknowledge my previous communications was just plain rude, and very unprofessional and irresponsible for CBC Managers given their stated principles and mandate.
Date: Mon, 11 May 2020 12:15:35 -0300 Subject: Story Suggestion From: Kevin Arsenault <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: Donna Allen <email@example.com> Cc: Jim Ferguson <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com
Dear Ms. Allen,
I sent you an email (below) cc’d to Mr. Ferguson on May 1, 2020, with a link to an article I had recently published containing background information and links to source material obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. That documentation was in support of claims made in the article, which I was bringing to your attention with hopes you would do a story.
I receive countless emails and private Facebook messages (or Facebook comments) saying “Send this to CBC…..(or) Have you contacted CBC?….CBC would be all over this….etc,” so I continue to send you this material, and continue to tell people that I am doing so. They keep watching for those stories from CBC that never come.
Last weekend, I forwarded what I had previously sent to you and Mr. Ferguson to Mr. Thibodeau. He was working the weekend and had issued a “call out” on Twitter for news stories that CBC PEI should know about and pass on to other Islanders. He responded to me (see below) saying that he believed a story had already been assigned – so I figured he knew about the material – and added that he would be speaking with you that Monday about it. I haven’t heard from anyone at CBC since.
I have been engaged in a dedicated 2-year investigation into the egaming and CMT lawsuit issues, and I have now published over 1,000 pages of detailed information. Many of my previous posts dealt with quite targeted issues within the “big story”. Those articles contain hundreds of links to source documents, either filed in Court Proceedings or obtained through FOI Requests.
I am now in the process of compiling the most important conclusions in a series of articles that shed a significant amount of new light on these issues and do finally tell much more about the ‘big story’. Especially the well-documented, orchestrated cover-up which is proven. It has taken a huge effort and very long time to finally identify and obtain this evidence, confirming as “fact” what were previously only strong suspicions. And the stakes are incredibly high!
Another significant and more recent part of the ongoing cover-up of the scandal relates to the three PEI Supreme Court-enforced Orders filed in the PEI Supreme Court by Paul Maines, President of Capital Markets Technologies (CMT). The PEI requested those Orders from Paul Maines to to bring itself back into compliance with its own FOIPP Act, then failed to comply with those Orders. You can’t tell me that’s not newsworthy? This is an unprecedented event in the history of Canadian jurisprudence which has never even been mentioned, as far as I’m aware, by CBC PEI.
Paul Maines has retained a Bay-street law firm to represent him on those Motions, and the Deputy Minister, Erin McGrath-Gaudet, will be cross-examined about what she swore in several Affidavits. Judge Gregory Cann will be presiding. He had scheduled two full days to hear these three Motions, then Covid-19 happened and it was postponed indefinitely. Once “non-essential Motions” return to the Supreme Court Docket and those three Motions are rescheduled, I’d be happy to provide you with background documents for a news story if you’re interested. Just let me know.
I’ll be publishing more articles with additional findings on this issues in coming days. I’l continue to forward them to all three of you well.
I can’t honestly say that I’m very hopeful CBC PEI will do anything with the information I’m sending – you never have before – in fact, Ms. Allen, you will no doubt recall how you quite forcefully prevented me from even mentioning facts about Robert Ghiz ordering the deletion of his Chief-of-Staff’s emails when I did my PC Leadership Candidate interview with Louise Martin last year. That fact was in confirmed by the Auditor General and officially recorded in the Public Accounts transcript of her words, which which I showed you at the time.
To refuse a political candidate in a PC leadership campaign the freedom to report an important fact confirmed on record – then proven confirmed to the CBC – is to my mind not only a very serious matter that will be part of my CBC Ombudsman complaint when complete, but indicative of what I am unfortunately likely to expect on a go-forward basis from you and your supervisors.
I’m continuing to build a file for the CBC Ombudsman with my concerns about the failure of CBC to report important stories; however, I plan to only do so after the Appeal Court renders a decision on CMT’s Appeal, and the Information Commissioner issues several Orders she is currently finalizing, especially an Order from my review I initiated over a year ago resulting in the discovery that the PEI Government kept secret and failed to disclose to the Court that two years of Brad Mix’s records had mysteriously gone missing.
I’d love to see a change of heart at CBC PEI on the egaming/CMT lawsuit issue. So far you have been aiding a cover-up of this massive scandal with your silence and failure to report the truly important details of this story. It is most likely to become a national news story before too much longer….how is CBC PEI going to explain the fact that it received information, but decided it wasn’t important enough to share with Islanders? Don’t you really think it’s time to share some of this shocking information with the general public?
CBC has an important political, social and moral mandate (and duty) to share this important information and news with Islanders. Yet, I send you this source material demonstrating strong evidence of perjury (for which our Attorney General should immediately be taking action) and no CBC reporter is sent out to ask him about it? Whether he plans to take action? Or what his response to the new evidence is going to be?
The PC screamed for information about Bill Dow’s “appearance” of a conflict of interest with Premier MacLauchlan and now are claiming “privilege”? That generates lots of questions for Government that I’m sure would be of great interest to Islanders.
That’s what my blog followers and I want to see; and yet, now you don’t even respond to my emails. I’ll keep sending them anyway, hoping you do what Islanders expect you to do, and what we all deserve: report really important news and then keep reporting with follow stories that help Islanders makes sense out of and understand what’s really going on with these important news stories.
One last thing. Have you not noticed that more and more Islanders are expressing disappointment with how CBC PEI is being managed lately? People are expressing frustration over decisions being made by CBC news editors and managers about what is “newsworthy” or deemed “important news”?
Islanders have a true fondness for Louise Martin, Jay Scotland, the reporters, technicians, etc. – in fact, we know many of them personally, and we know they are dedicated, sincere, hardworking CBC employees just trying to raise families and do a good job. Islanders know that it is not those people making the decisions – it’s the decisions you managers are making that are upsetting Islanders.
It’s time to tell Islanders about more than the mundane details of upcoming court events or the “outcomes” of those events. Islanders deserve to hear about the new findings in my articles, especially new evidence confirming non-disclosure of materially-relevant documents (hundreds) by the PEI Government and legal counsel Stewart-McKelvey (Jonathan Coady). This is a major news story happening right now that will have far-reaching and long-lasting implications.
I will continue to send material (links to articles) that I believe contains material that is newsworthy. Since the last article I sent to you, I have published two more articles, both containing a number of news-worthy claims, with supporting documentation.
I’m sure Islanders would love to hear whether the Premier believes revelations from Government Documents previously kept secret should prompt action from his Attorney General’s office to determine whether criminal offences occurred – that’s what I’m alleging (that crimes occurred). I’m made public declarations which have gone unchallenged by Government. They have also gone unreported by CBC.
Could each of you (Ms. Allen; Mr. Ferguson; Ms. Waugh) kindly confirm receipt of this email?
Kevin J. Arsenault, Ph.D
CC: Jim Ferguson, Senior Manager, CBC PEI
Nancy Waugh, Managing Editor,CBC Atlantic
I will continue to forward material to the CBC as I indicated in that last communication, hoping that they will indeed have a change of heart and realize the importance of reporting stories like the egaming scandal and cover-up. And there are many other stories not receiving the attention they deserve.
After publishing my blog article with information about being able to request and potentially gain access to view the CMT Hearing from home, I sent another brief “news tip” to the Compass desk using their own news tip form simply asking that they let Islanders know about this since “open court” access isn’t much good if people don’t know about it. I then forwarded that to Ms. Allen, Mr. Ferguson and Ms. Waugh. Once again, no response or acknowledgement from any of them.
CBC would send a crew out to do a cutesy story about a 9 yr old girl who trained her pet rabbit to dance in a pink tutu in a minute (ok, I’ll admit it, I want to see that story too, but AFTER not INSTEAD of the really important stories), yet will say nothing at all about documents proving a long-time senior bureaucrat in our provincial government committed a criminal offence. That’s very wrong, dangerous for democracy, and it has to change.
It’s a senseless crying shame that all we now get by way of CBC suppertime news for the second-half – Power and Politics – is totally irrelevant, mundane health directive changes and updates from Saskatchewan or Alberta. I suppose that’s another issue.
No, if CBC is ever to “see the light” and start truly honouring it’s moral and social mandate as Canada’s public broadcaster, other Islanders will have to make that happen. I’ve become a “non-person” to CBC. I’ve unfortunately, failed miserably in my efforts with CBC, so if change is to come, I’m afraid the ball is now in your court fellow Islanders!
P.S. Please don’t try to convince me to make one last effort to “get CBC on board” with reporting the results of my research….as you can hopefully now see:they won’t “say something” so I’m giving up on them.
I have been wondering for some time now how the PEI Court of Appeal would accommodate the principle of “open access to the courts” with the CMT Appeal, given the Covid-19 Health restrictions currently in place.
With such a strong opening statement in support of the “open court principle,” I was hopeful I’d see – and finally did read – that members of the general public could request “online access” to watch the CMT Appeal from the comfort of their own homes.
MOVE ASIDE TIGER KING!
THERE’S A NEW “KING” SCANDAL ABOUT TO PREMIERE!
It’s not certain that everyone who requests access will be granted access. The language in the guidance document from Chief Justice Jenkins qualifies that online access will be granted on a “first-come first-serve” basis, adding that “Attendance of non-parties in electronic hearings may be limited by practical and logistical considerations” such as bandwidth.
Paragraph 6 of the above-linked document provides considerations that may limit access:
The last page of this three-page document – which you should read in it’s entirety if you’re planning on requesting access – is the one-page form. Here is a link to a PDF of that you can download, complete (I would print, “sign”, and then scan) then email the completed form to Sheila Gallant at the Appeal Court at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is what the form looks like. The Appeal no. is 1433. Just put “CMT v. PEI Government” in the other line. Good luck!
PLEASE CONSIDER SHARING THIS SO ISLANDERS WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN VIEWING THESE COURT PROCEEDINGS WILL BE AWARE THEY CAN REQUEST ACCESS…THANKS!
“I have the honour of presenting my report entitled “Special Assignment: Government Involvement with E-gaming Initiative and Financial Services Platform.”
The PC Official Opposition tried extremely hard to convince Premier MacLauchlan to make the AG’s Management Letter public: they accused the Liberal Government of shamelessly covering up and protecting Billy Dow by refusing to do so.
Premier MacLauchlan acknowledged that his Government had indeed received a Management Letter from the AG – but never actually indicated that it was addressed to him. He also confirmed that he had not contacted the PEI Law Society about the matter, promising to bring Government’s response to the Auditor General back to the Legislative Assembly when it was prepared and sent to her. That never happened.
No Government response to the AG’s Management Letter was ever presented to the Legislative Assembly nor made public, nor was the Letter itself ever tabled in the House or made public.
(a) My FOIPP Request for the Management Letter
My efforts to get that Management Letter began in earnest after I realized that the Auditor General knew what I had discovered in the course of my investigation into how the E-gaming money was acquired and distributed into McInnes Cooper’s bank account by Billy Dow. After all, the information came from a document her staff had produced from an interview her office conducted.
I discovered that Billy Dow had violated the terms and conditions of the $950,000 e-gaming loan by RELEASING those funds to McInnes Cooper AFTER the Government had already pulled the plug on the secret E-gaming Working Group initiative driven by Wes Sheridan to “regulate” online gaming, shifting its focus to establishing the financial transaction platform with FMT, and attracting gaming companies and financial service companies to locate in PEI because of that platform.
The document was a transcript of an interview undertaken between McInnes Cooper lawyer Kevin Kiley and staff in the AG’s office. Kiley confirmed in his answers that Billy Dow’s law firm had been retained to work on the e-gaming file in February, 2010, and also that Dow attended secret E-Gaming Working Group meetings.
When I submitted that FOIPP request to the Premier’s Office, Premier King’s Deputy, Paul Ledwell – who was also MacLauchlan’s Deputy – was unable to locate the Management Letter despite an “extensive” search in three Government Departments: the Premier’s Office, Attorney General’s Office, and the Department of Justice.
The Information Commissioner is currently reviewing a complaint I submitted concerning Ledwell’s response to my request for those government records, which is ongoing, but that’s pretty much irrelevant now.
Another FOIPP application was submitted to Hon. Matthew MacKay’s Department of Economic Growth – once it was learned that the Management Letter was never addressed to the Premier, but the “fixer” – Neil Stewart – who Ghiz had promoted from CEO of Innovation PEI (where all the dirty deeds were executed, most with Neil Stewart’s knowledge and/or participation, especially relating to money) to Deputy Minister of the same Department, with the authority and the responsibility to effectively “investigate” his own actions and respond how he deemed appropriate. No oversight. No reports. Just his final decisions on the matter.
The “fixer” – that powerful individual upon whom both “protections” and “promotions” have been bestowed by successive Governments, both Liberal and Conservative, in exchange for the following services: (1) secretly “effecting the core money-related issues” at the heart of the scandal, then, after being awarded with a “promotion,” and being protected from having to do things like, say, testifying at Public Accounts Committees when Opposition Members put forward Motions to have the person appear, so to be then left free to “clean” things up, best as possible by (2) covering up what happened, protecting others who were involved, keeping secrets, destroying Government records, and generally doing what cleaners do to fix messy situations mob-type private clubs, secret societies, or organized crime outfits create when they employ their nefarious tactics to rob innocent taxpayers with their insider knowledge, access to political power, and corrupt, self-serving, but always lucrative schemes.
I will be providing substantial documentary evidence in a subsequent article showing that this same pattern existed with all the three major money scandals happening in PEI over the past 20 years – and in each instance (Polar Foods; PNP and E-Gaming) the “cleaner” – the person elevated to a higher government position to clean up (and cover-up) the mess that same person helped to create at an operational level of the scandal, in an earlier phase of its execution, in service to a secretly-operating “insider club” – was Neil Stewart.
Take the time to watch the following exchange between PC MLA Steven Myers and Premier MacLauchlan. Look for the following in particular:
MacLauchlan confirmed that Government had received a Management Letter from the AG and was preparing a response which would be shared with the House. No Response was ever provided to the Legislative Assembly.
MacLauchlan confirmed that he had not reported what the AG provided to Government to the PEI Law Society – despite the AG’s serious concerns and MacLauchlan being (a) a lawyer, (b) the Attorney General, and (c) Premier.
Myers – and the entire PC Caucus – were adamant that the MacLauchlan Government were engaged in a cover up and demanded that Government release all the information about the AG’s finding on Billy Dow to the Public.
I’ll get to what was in the Management Letter the Auditor General sent to Neil Stewart in a minute. To fully appreciate the significance of that Letter it’s first necessary to restate a few facts to “retell” the story with new evidence and fresh eyes to see things more clearly in the proper context.
1. A Recap of this “Auditor General’s Management Letter” Story
I have already published several articles reporting on my efforts to get a copy of the Management Letter and accompanying documents. The key insights from that previous research can be boiled down to what’s in this article. In particular, as much as possible, I want to provide a synopsis of those different findings, but strung together in a new way that sheds more light, and brings this aspect of my investigation to a conclusion.
(a) It’s Not the AG’s Responsibility to Declare Criminality or Contact Police
As a former RCMP Officer, Liberal MLA Allen Roach, the Minister of Finance at the time who was the person usually responding to questions about the Auditor General’s Report in the House, surely must have understood the nature of “Management Letters”. He repeatedly claimed that the AG found “nothing of a criminal nature.” The Auditor General did nothing of the sort!
When pressed by PC Opposition members on the Public Accounts Committee the AG was clear about her very serious concerns about Billy Dow’s conflict of interest situation. She was adamant that she had indeed presented those concerns to Government in accordance with her formal duties as Auditor. At the November 10, 2016 Meeting, she clarified exactly what her role was and what she did on the Billy Dow issue:
Jane MacAdam: Right. We don’t conclude on the performance or the practices of third parties, but it’s up to government to determineif it needs to do anything further. We were advised by government that they did not meet to discuss the impact on government or whether any further action should be taken. We did send government a management letter and we indicated to government that through the course of our work we observed that the lawyer for Innovation PEI was an investor. That’s an issue for government to deal with.
We saw definitely that it was an important issue and we took action and communicated with government.
What exactly is an Auditor’s Management Letter?
A Management Letter is a very formal and official “final” step in the Audit process. It’s a way for auditors to protect themselves from liability for not reporting potentially “illegal” or serious administrative problems and flaws (which are not, for confidentiality reasons, usually noted or spelled out in detail in the audit statements).
Auditors provide Management Letters as part of their contractual obligation to clients, yes, but especially to protect themselves. As one Insurance company providing liability insurance to Chartered Accountants and Auditors put it in their sales pitch:
“An accountant’s liability describes the legal liability assumed while an accountant performs their professional duties. They become liable for a client’s accounting misstatements and mistakes, putting the accountant in a bad spot legally and professionally. This risk can bring claims of negligence and fraud forward. An accountant who is negligible in their examination of a company can end up facing legal charges.”
(b) DOW’s False Defense and the PEI Law Society’s Cover-up
When the MacLauchlan Government refused to report back to the Legislative Assembly on Billy Dow’s conflict of interest identified by the Auditor General, or report to the PEI Law Society, the former Leader of the PEI New Democratic Party, Michael Redmond, stepped up and filed a complaint with the PEI Law Society.
The only defense that Billy Dow could possibly provide was to claim that he had no knowledge that FMT was a 100%-owned subsidiary of CMT in July, 2012 when he was first involved with the MOU that Innovation PEI signed with FMT, and that’s exactly what he claimed.
The PEI Law Society accepted Dow’s claim that he did not know about FMT’s connection with CMT. In its ruling, the Law Society did note, however, that it would have been a conflict of interest for him to have been involved in the MOU if he had known:
“In the circumstances of the situation, if Dow had agreed to represent Innovation PEI when he knewit was negotiating an MOU with a company in whom Dow had invested, then he would clearly be in a conflict of interest. This is because his loyalty to his client – Innovation PEI – would be compromised due to his investment in CMT.”
Unfortunately, without any documents or other evidence to challenge Dow’s false claim about not knowing about Trinity Bay/FMT’s corporate connection to CMT, and no willingness by the MacLauchlan Government to bring the issue up again, well, the whole issue went dormant.
(c) Dow was Representing the PEI Government BEFORE the MOU
When I came across the transcript of the interview the AG’s office had with McInnes Cooper lawyer Kevin Kiley, it became clear to me that the AG knew that Billy Dow had been representing the PEI Government on the egaming file since February, 2010. Given that fact, it is simply not possible that he would not have known all about CMT.
I figured that is likely the information in the Management Letter and/or supporting documentation provided with the Management Letter… that Billy Dow knew about FMT’s connection to CMT long before he said he did. If there was nothing to hide in the Management Letter, why is the King Government keeping it secret?
I believed the AG knew more about Billy Dow’s conflict of interest story than we learned about in her report, and she provided that additional information to government – to Neil Stewart – and he did what fixers and cleaners do….he cleaned the file, deleted records, and made the problem go away…for a while.
If not for CMT’s lawsuit, this would never have come into the light of day or ever even been mentioned again. To be clear – I don’t know what the Ag provided Neil Stewart as a follow-up to his response for more information – the King Government won’t let Islanders see it.
Until these documents are produced, we’re only guessing at what’s in them. What we don’t need to guess about any longer however, is whether the Premier is truly engaged in a continued cover-up with this refusal to release this information – he is.
We expected better, we were promised more, and we have every right to be extremely disappointed in what we are now getting – the blatant support of crimes and corruption by our newly-elected PC Government….now that we’re locked down with COVID-19 we can’t even gather at the Legislative Assembly to protest; and we’re not hearing a peep from the Leader of the Official Opposition. Truly scandalous.
(d) Dow’s Intimate Knowledge of FMT and CMT
New FOIPP documents provide additional evidence that Bill Dow had intimate knowledge of pretty much everything related to FMT’s entire relationship with the PEI Government since the late summer and fall of 2010.
Dow was the lawyer for the PEI Government at all material times with egaming. Wes Sheridan’s plan announced to Neil Stewart in the Spring of 2011 to “marry” egaming with FMT’s “financial transaction platform” project is something Dow would have been well briefed on, given his close working relationship with both individuals (Sheridan and Stewart) and participation on the secret E-gaming Working Group.
And thanks to recent FOIPP documents that Jonathan Coady hid from CMT’s legal Counsel and Judge Campbell, we also now know about the mass cover-up of knowledge about the “Virgin Gaming” and “FMT” projects at Innovation PEI by mulitiple Defendants and individuals. Both of those projects were operating under Brad Mix in early 2011 with “project team” members Paul Jenkins, Brad Mix and Chris LeClair, Premier Ghiz’s Chief-of-Staff. It’s simply not reasonable to believe that Bill Dow was ignorant about CMT’s relationship with FMT.
Billy Dow attended the Crow Bush event – opening the Government-owned golf course a day early and booking the entire course and clubhouse to entertain FMT and Simplex folks from the UK and invoices showed over $8,000 in dinners and wine. How could this not be a red flag for Dow? Dow’s name is on documentation to attend numerous secret E-gaming Working Group meetings with Wes Sheridan, Kevin Kiley, Gary Scales, Mike O’Brien and Don MacKenzie.
Dow’s Cross-examination confirms that he golfed with Shane MacEachern at this event – the broker and good friend of the only Director of FMT at the time, Paul Jenkins, who was also on the FMT Project team.
In fact, Dow invested in CMT at this same time (June, 2010) when the topic of conversation had already long-since shifted from CMT (the parent company) to “FMT” the local 100%-owned subsidiary. No one was talking about “CMT” at Crowbush – the project on file with Brad Mix (Senior Recruiter at Innovation PEI at the time), also the company named in the Feasibility Study and Recruitment Package, as well as the company mentioned in the briefing prepared for Premier Ghiz during the time of the Crowbush Gala was Financial Markets Technologies (FMT). The very notion that BIll Dow didn’t know about CMT’s connection to FMT/Trinity Bay is absolutely ludicrous.
Assume for a moment that Billy Dow was on a two-year sojourn in another country and arrived back in PEI completely ignorant about CMT and FMT…even then, the most basic “conflict of interest” check (which all lawyers are required to undertake before making investments in companies) would have immediately revealed that FMT was 100%-owned by CMT.
But Dow was not sojourning in another country for two years…he was at Crowbush and likely consulting with Chris LeClair and Paul Jenkins about what should be in the Financial Transaction Platform briefing documents being prepared for Premier Ghiz regarding FMT’s delivery of Simplex’s Global Transaction Platform in PEI.
(e) No Answers at the Law Society – Just More Cover-up!
An entire section of my cover letter was an attempt to ensure that there was no possible way my complaint could have been mistaken as the same complaint from Redmond. Here are two quotes – one from my Complaint Letter to the PEI Law Society Against Billy Dow asking that my complaint not be confused with Redmond’s previous complaint; and (2) one from Susan Robinson at the PEI Law Society confusing my complaint with Redmond’s complaint.
“Previous Complaint Against Billy Dow
I am aware that a previous complaint alleging that Mr. Dow had a conflict of interest with his involvement in the e-gaming file was previously filed with the PEI Law Society by the former Leader of the PEI New Democratic Party (Michael Redmond), and resulted in a disciplinary committee ruling that Mr. Dow was not in a conflict of interest.
Redmond’s complaint related specifically to Mr. Dow’s involvement in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in the late summer/fall of 2012 between the PEI government and Trinity Bay Technologies (TBT) [a wholly-owned subsidiary of Capital Markets Technologies (CMT)]. This issue was not the basis of my complaint.
New documents have recently come to light, as a result of filings with the PEI Supreme Court, revealing that Mr. Dow’s involvement in the e-gaming file did not begin with his involvement with the MOU in 2012, but that he was retained by the PEI government to act as outside counsel on the entire e-gaming project much earlier, in February, 2010. Mr. Dow continued to act in that capacity up to and beyond the date the PEI government ended the e-gaming project on February 24, 2012.”
Robinson’s Decision Letter dismissing my two-fold complaint summed up the outcome of her review as follows:Negligence claim? Not likely! For action to be taken on that, I think, Billy Dow’s employer would have to take action against his negligent behaviour resulting in his willfully giving away (unnecessarily) nearly $1 million of taxpayer’s money to McInnes Cooper law firm IN CONTRAVENTION OF THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS IN THE LOAN AGREEMENT while at the same time as being paid on retainer by the PEI Government to represent the legal and public interest of PEI taxpayers – totally scandalous!
(f) In Search of the Management Letter
With the PEI Law Society now also fully engaged in the cover-up of Billy Dow’s insider trading and professional misconduct as a lawyer – refusing to even reference the new evidence I provided in the decision letter, I knew that the only possible way to get to the bottom of how Billy Dow was protected through a cover-up would be to get the Management Letter, and whatever other back-and-forth documents might exist. What was the evidence that the PEI Law Society totally ignored?
According to Kevin Kiley, as relayed to staff at the Auditor General’s office in the course of an interview held May 18, 2017, Billy Dow was retained and was acting for the government on the e-gaming file from the very first meeting establishing McInnes Cooper as the e-gaming project manager back in February, 2010, as is clearly indicated in paragraph 5 in the AG’s Interview Transcript:
“Mr. Kiley indicated that he was advised government lawyer was Bill Dow as well as Barb Stevenson until about Fall of 2010. They met with the working group from time to time.”
There seems to be an error in the transcription because it was February, 2010 when Carr, Stevenson were FIRST RETAINED on the e-gaming file, which continued throughout, with Dow never ending his legal relationship with the PEI Government on the egaming project.
Kiley confirms this in his “final comments” section of that same Transcription document, namely, that Dow had been specifically enlisted by the province to provide the PEI government with legal counsel on the e-gaming project:
“Government subsequently confirmed with us, on or about March 10, 2010, that they had retained the law firm of Carr, Stevenson and MacKay to represent it in the [e-gaming] initiative.”
This fact was further confirmed in Gary Scale’s Statement of Defence filed with the PEI Supreme Court where it states:
“Scales was advised by PEI on or about March 2010 that PEI had retained its own external counsel, Carr, Stevenson & McKay (“CSM”), to represent PEI in dealings with respect to the e-gaming initiative. CSM attended and prepared legal documents for PEI.” (p.1)
So now that you see how my attempt to expose Dow’s false claim about not knowing there was a connection between CMT and FMT was covered up by the PEI Law Society, is it possible – now that the Auditor General’s E-gaming Management Letter has been released – to conclude that the AG’s efforts to have this dealt with were also frustrated and covered-up? Not exactly.
There are no words to explain what the Auditor General put in her Management Letter – literally – as you’ll see, because Premier King has chosen to make that information “privileged” as he continues to throw his lot in with the Insider Club, Stewart McKelvey law firm, and all the scoundrels like Billy Dow which Capital Markets Technology has been trying to convince the Court should be held to account.
Given the sheer magnitude of the cover-up that has already been exposed since Judge Campbell’s rushed decision last October, it’s hard to believe that there can be any other outcome at the Appeal coming up in about a week (May 19th & 20th) then for the Appeal Court Judges to allow this case to go to trial. How Jonathan Coady is going to explain himself at that Appeal Hearing is beyond me!
2. The Auditor General’s E-gaming Management Letter
Neil Stewart received the following “Management Letter” from the Auditor General:
Short and sweet…as Management Letters tend to be. But highly precise, and incredibly significant nonetheless.
Read carefully her “conclusion” from her work on Government’s involvement on the E-gaming Initiative and Financial Services Platform. She says “.. we noted that Innovation PEI’s legal counsel, Bill Dow, provided legal advice to Innovation PEI on entering into an MOU with 7645686 Canada Inc. (Trinity Bay Technologies.) At the time, he had an investment in Capital Markets Technologies, the parent company of Trinity Bay Technologies.
We are bringing this information to your attention. It is important for management to consider the facts in this situation and the implications for the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism.
What exactly were the “facts in this situation”?
What did the Auditor General believe would be “the implications for the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism”?
We don’t know.
What I do know is that Neil Stewart already had intimate knowledge of Bill Dow’s involvement as legal counsel for the PEI Government in the e-gaming affair since February 2010, but was staying mum about that. Stewart had worked closely with Dow on the money side of the entire file, especially the $950,000 e-gaming loan.
Stewart easily knew more about Dow’s knowledge of the file and FMT than the Auditor General was likely ever discover from documents she was provided or interviews. It seems to me that Stewart – as the cleaner – was anxious to know exactly how much the Auditor General knew about those “facts” and “implications” ….whatever they might be.
Steven Myers had indicated in the preamble to one of his questions to Premier MacLauchlan that the Auditor General had taken the unprecedented action of contacting Government about Billy Dow during the course of her investigation, obviously believing it was too serious to wait for her management letter. I don’t know who the Auditor General went to at that time, but I’m thinking it wasn’t Neil Stewart, or he would have already known what she knew and didn’t know concerning details. It seems from the letter Stewart subsequently wrote to the AG asking her to provide those details, that whomever she spoke to previously, it wasn’t Neil Stewart:
Despite all the public denials by Billy Dow himself, including in the Globe and Mail, [which Neil Stewart curiously cites in his letter to the AG], the AG nonetheless still believed it necessary to highlight the importance of Government responding to this situation. And she did exactly that in that Management Letter.
And that’s unfortunately where my investigation ends.
Because Premier King’s Government has apparently decided Islanders “can’t handle the truth,” he’s decided to withhold entirely the remaining 8 pages of responsive records to this FOIPP Request!