BIRDS OF A FEATHER: Political and Wireless Connections in the Maritimes

(From Left to Right: Former PEI Premier, Robert Ghiz; Former N.B. Premiers Shawn Graham and Bernard Lord; Present PEI Premier, Wade MacLauchlan)

Premier MacLauchlan missed a golden opportunity to honour his promise to be transparent when he refused to release the Robert Ghiz contract with Bell Aliant. It should not have taken an order from the Privacy Commissioner for Islanders to learn the deal cost 23.3 million, not 8.2 million as initially disclosed.

The Premier could reclaim some integrity by initiating a full-scale investigation into the e-gaming fiasco, and he definitely should, now that we know Robert Ghiz ordered the destruction of protected records. But that’s not likely to happen given his close association with Ghiz.

The interlocking connections between high-profile Maritime politicians is enough to make your head spin. As David Weale recently posted on Vision PEI’s Facebook page: “Disgraced Premier Ghiz is now CEO of Wireless Canada, a position previously held by former PC Premier of New Brunswick, Bernard Lord. Lord is now the President of Medavie Blue Cross, and guess who was recently appointed to the Board. That’s correct, Mr. Ghiz. And further, can you perhaps guess who was also a director before Ghiz’s appointment? Wade MacLauchlan.”

Just to be clear, “Wireless Canada” is the Canadian Wireless Telecommunication Association (CWTA) representing the interests of Internet Corporations like Bell Aliant.

There’s more. Shawn Graham replaced Bernard Lord as Liberal Premier of New Brunswick in 2006, after Lord became President and CEO of the CWTA. Graham gave $13 million to wireless giant Xplornet around the same time as Ghiz secretly amended his contract with Bell. Xplornet is wholly-owned by Barrett Corporation, and, surprisingly, co-owner Ed Barrett is also a director of Medavie Blue Cross with Ghiz.

However, like Ghiz, it wasn’t his rural internet deal with Xplornet that got Shawn Graham into trouble. That happened when he gave $50 million in loans to Atcon (a Miramichi-based company) against the advice of his own staff. Alan Graham, Shawn’s father and former N.B. Liberal Cabinet Minister, was a director of Vänerply, a subsidiary of Atcon. Atcon went bankrupt, and very little of the $50 million was recovered. Graham was found guilty of violating conflict-of-interest guidelines; was issued a slap-on-the-wrist fine of $3,500; and stepped down as Premier.

It’s certainly curious that two Maritime Liberal Premiers – Graham and Ghiz – both signed exclusive multi-million dollar deals with large wireless corporations and then resigned before finishing their terms, after wasting millions in scandalous corporate dealings reeking of cronyism and riddled with conflicts-of-interest. But are there any direct connections between these two brash young ex-Premiers?

There are three individuals from N.B. on the Board of Directors of Ducks Unlimited Canada, one being Shawn Graham. There’s just one director from P.E.I., so what would be the chances of…uh….yep, you guessed it, that person is Robert Ghiz.

Can we draw any insightful conclusions from this bizarre coincidence? Or is it merely a canard (french pun intended)?

What comes to mind is the age-old adage: “Birds of a feather flock together.” Might this fowl instinct explain why ex-Maritime Liberal Premiers are so attracted to Ducks Unlimited and each other?  I’m sure they share fascinating stories over drinks following national Board meetings. And Senior N.B. Bell Mobility Account Executive Mike Jackson is likely buying…he’s currently the fund-raising Coordinator for Ducks Unlimited Canada.

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