There are three main “types” of claims in the CMT lawsuit that Judge Gordon Campbell dismissed: (1) Spoliation (2) Misfeasance and (3) Breach of Contract.
This series contrasts:
(1) The positions the King Government has taken in its Response to CMT’s Appeal
(2) The positions PC MLAs took on the same issues as the Official Opposition.
Each episode connects a THEN and NOW PC Party position on a particular issue related to one of the 3 types of claims being made against one or more of the Government Defendants. The purpose of this series is not to prove the issues, but rather to show the “flip-flop” on the issue by the PC Party.
There isn’t really anything further that needs to be said about the facts concerning how Ghiz and Stewart engaged in a “scorched earth” policy to destroy sensitive government records. More can, however, be said about what the PC Opposition MLAs had to say about keeping people who destroy government records in their jobs with no consequences for their actions.
This episode deals with the issue of “penalties” for destroying government records in the PEI Government. PC MLA Sidney MacEwan was particularly vocal about this during 2nd reading debate on the Liberal Government’s proposed amendments to the Archives and Records Act. I have a clip of one particular exchange between MacEwan and then Minister of Education, Hon. Doug Currie.
I also want to address an issue in this episode that appears to have been overlooked by the PCs at the time. The PCs were upset that the new $10,000 (maximum) fine in the amended Archives and Records Act wasn’t high enough and also that it wasn’t “retroactive.” The PCs were adamant that there should be consequences for Ghiz and Stewart deleting records. In the previous episode, you saw a clip of Jamie Fox demanding a criminal investigation take place; however, that clip was a full year after the clip in this episode. Keep that in mind.
At that time, when the idea of “criminal” charges wasn’t really on the table, the PCs seemed a bit defeated and willing to “concede” that Ghiz and Stewart had escaped any penalties or consequences because of a “penalty” clause was missing in the Archives Act. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Penalties were possible then, and as far as I know, they still are, especially for Neil Stewart who Premier King recently appointed to one of the most powerful positions in Government!
And that’s the last thing I want to accomplish in this episode – to tee up an exposé that I’ll be publishing as my next blog article that will provide a comprehensive, biographical and chronological “anatomy of career corruption” for Neil Stewart. More than just documenting a long list of serious violations and illegal activities, my research will also reveal a “repeating pattern” with each scandalous phase of that career fueled by a dynamic, sickening, mutually-parasitic relationship between Neil the “fixer” and the nepotistic network of noxious narcissists he serves.
1. Amend the Archives Act so We Can Impose Penalties in the Future!
[Does that mean we can’t impose them now?” NO!]
Whenever I rewatch videos from the Legislative Assembly with MLAs discussing the problem of senior employees destroying government records, I can’t help but see the PCs being hoodwinked by the Liberal line that because the Archives and Records Act didn’t have a “penalty” clause, unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to impose consequences on Ghiz and Stewart for destroying government records. That was total hogwash!
It was just part of the three-fold strategy Wade MacLauchlan embarked upon immediately after becoming Premier:
Delete all of Robert Ghiz’s electronic files and records with records backed up in hardcopy and stored in filing boxes. A FOIPP request asking for records between Chris LeClair (Ghiz’s Chief of Staff) and Ghiz for the last 6 months LeClair was Chief of Staff recently returned a “no records found” response. That FOIPP by Paul Maines is currently under review with the Information Commissioner. The AG confirmed that she had emails and documents from Premier Ghiz….where did they go?
Appoint the Auditor General to do an Audit: Knowing that the entire e-gaming/financial transaction platform project with CMT/FMT was “secret” and that it was set up, as the Auditor General put it, “outside the normal control framework of government,” MacLauclan would have also known that McInnis Cooper wouldn’t provide the AG with documents, and they didn’t. The AG protested that McInnes Cooper acted as Project Manager for Government and solicitor-client privilege didn’t apply, but she didn’t get the documents.
In addition, scads of records requested by the AG from Government were not provided, and a scorched-earth policy had completely wiped out the records of three of the main senior people involved in the project. It was literally days after MacLauchlan became Premier by “appointment” (February 2015) that Brad Mix apparently discovered that all his e-gaming records for that same 2-year period mysteriously went missing in two separate archives.
I say “mysterious” because although one archive was gone completely, the Groupwise email account with the missing 2-year “gap” somehow miraculously retained all the emails both before and after that 2-year period. All those missing records hadn’t been discovered – or at least mentioned – by the Auditor General so it was kept secret by Government. Nor had they been disclosed in Court by the Government’s lawyer as required by the Rules of Court, and never told to me when I asked for some of those records in October 2018.
It was only discovered last July in the course of an Information Commissioner review I initiated after not receiving any Brad Mix records from that FOIP request that should have been in the possession of Government. That review has been ongoing for over a year and the Information Commissioner will issue an order in April or May 2020.
Deflect, Defend, Defer and Defeat: The Third prong in MacLauchlan’s scandal-management and coverup strategy is the favorite of word-smithing intellectuals who like to portray a persona of personal power. Use the wit and worldly-wisdom of words to deflect attention away from the question asked, defend the actions being taken by the government, defer answers until the AG finished her report, and defeat every motion at Public Accounts to bring witnesses who actually knew what happened with the e-gaming scandal.
When the Opposition screamed “there are no consequences for crimes and illegal activities,” the Premier argued there were indeed consequences [deflect], then pointed to all the improvements that were being made [defend], how all the AG’s recommendations would be implemented or things settled in Court [defer], and, of course, [defeat] supplant what the PCs want Government to do with something else entirely that pretends to do something meaningful, but really has the goal of establishing the agenda using up all the time in a controlled and “framed” discussion of the issues.
All the pomp and ceremony about amending the Archives and Records Act so that it would be “fixed” to prevent such wanton destruction of PEI government records from ever happening again…..and if it ever did, a fine can be imposed. Problem identified and fixed!
At times, listening to the PC and Green Opposition members speaking to the amended provisions of the Archives Act being read aloud made me think the PCs had bought into the idea that amendments, new policies, and procedures were all “positive” and we needed these steps to prevent such a scandal from happening in the future. This MacLauchlan strategy was all clearly designed to shift focus from the rear-view mirror to the road ahead, with a heavy foot on the gas. In that sense, it filled time, and successfully distracted attention away from the real issues.
Adequate policies and procedures were already in place that should have prevented the destruction of LeClair’s and MacEachern’s records – there was just no willingness within the Ghiz government to follow those laws, policies, and procedures. That’s what MacLauchlan was able to create a deflection from the real issues at the heart of the scandal with the minor amendments to the Archives Act.
It was easy for all sides of the House to agree that penalties for record destruction by Ghiz and Stewart were warranted; however, there was no penalty provision in the Archives Act when the records were destroyed. That was seen as problematic. The clause adding such a penalty to the Act would not be retroactive. The Liberal spin was that at least on a go-forward basis the problem would be fixed. Total rubbish!
If you listen to the entire debate you’ll repeatedly hear the PC MLAs express lament the fact that the Government’s hands were “tied” and unable to impose consequences. PC MLAs clearly had “Neil Stewart” in mind when discussing “penalties and consequences” for deleting government records.
Ghiz was long-gone from Government by that time, but Neil Stewart was still Deputy Minister of Innovation and Advanced Learning, and a few months after this debate in the evening session of the House, Premier MacLauchlan promoted Stewart to Deputy Minister of Finance. So much for the Liberal’s feigning sympathy for the PCs lament about Government not being able to punish Stewart!
There are two major problems with the entire notion that direct, personal consequences for illegal activities were somehow “not possible” when it came to Ghiz and Stewart:
(1) Destruction of government records by government employees and/or MLAs who do not have the authority to destroy records – whenever such destruction is confirmed – should always warrant an investigation to determine whether a “crime” occurred. Notwithstanding the claim by Premier MacLauchlan that such an investigation was undertaken by the RCMP, a true investigation did not happen; and,
(2) Employees who destroyed Government records – Ghiz and Stewart – could have been held to account and prosecuted under the prohibition/penalty clauses in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPP) at the time, which carries a maximum fine of $10,000, the very same penalty clause that was added to the Archives and Records Act.
Under section 75 of the FOIPP Act, it lists a range of offenses for which a fine of up to $10,000 could result. In particular, Section 75(1)(e) would provide the statutory basis to have found Robert Ghiz and Neil Stewart guilty of having violated a provincial statute in force at the time with the legislative intent to protect government records. and punish those who wilfully destroy them.
(1) A person shall not wilfully
(e) destroy any records subject to this Act, or direct another person to do so, with the intent to evade a request for access to the records;
All government records destroyed by Robert Ghiz and Neil Stewart were subject to the FOIPP Act. That is the ‘status’ of all records within government until such time as they undergo a proper “record disposition” process. That starts in the Department with the Record Management Liasion Officer (RMLO) receiving records, completing forms and schedules, and arranging for transfer of records to the provincial archive sand records office.
Records destruction decisions can only legally be made by the Provincial Archives and Records Office. That process wherein authorized personnel decide which records are retainable for the provincial archives – or of no value and can be destroyed = had not happened at the time both Ghiz and Stewart ordered the records of LeClair and MacEachern destroyed, so all those records were government records subject to the FOIPP Act.
2. Why Appoint Neil Stewart to a Powerful New Senior Position?
Nothing says, “I’m not really running government” more than appointing Neil Stewart to one of the most powerful senior positions in government. And somewhat sneakily – he was replaced as deputy minister of finance after the King Government came into power with no mention of a new job; then we hear of him working on the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation (CADC) but under Hon. James Aylward, the Health Minister.
Then with no public announcement, Stewart’s name suddenly shows up in the PEI Government Employee Database as the Senior Director responsible for the CADC under Hon. Matthew Mackay’s Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture, Neil’s old stomping grounds.
Neil Stewart was the name repeatedly mentioned in the Legislative Assembly by the PCs as someone who should not be allowed to – as MacEwen stated in the above video clip – “show up for work the next day.”
I’m a firm believer that we all make mistakes, and we all should be given the benefit of the doubt, and whenever possible, given a second chance. That’s not what’s going on here, so stop thinking anyone made any “mistakes”.
Neil Stewart has been the “fixer” controlling the money levers within the PEI Government for many years. He keeps doing exactly the same things he’s been doing for a very long time, and despite countless – and I do mean COUNTLESS incidents of illegal actions, unauthorized decision-making, and constant maneuvering to avoid the scrutiny of his supervisors, certain political authorities, the public, etc. – there has always been a powerful, supportive, but relatively small network of businesspeople, PEI Government bureaucrats, lawyers, accountants, long-time PC and Liberal Party core members, and politicians who have all benefitted massively from Neil Stewart’s “mistakes”.
That’s why with every new scandalous slew of secret, unauthorized actions by Neil Stewart behind shady and illegal deals he has succeeded in making happen without consequence there are beneficiaries – one of whom is Neil Stewart.
My next article will also examine some of the “protections” Stewart has received to coverup his instrumental involvement in those shady deals, as much as possible, all to protect those privileged beneficiaries and avoid scrutiny in the ensuing public scandals.
Both the Conservative (Binns) and Liberal (Ghiz, MacLauchlan) Governments protected Stewart by: (1) refusing to allow Stewart to appear before public accounts for questioning about his actions by defeating PC Motions calling him as a witness; and (2) affirming his credibility and rewarding Stewart with career promotions, giving even more access and power to him to manage even larger pools of taxpayer funds.
No, we are not talking about a few “mistakes”. We looking at the entrails of a very corrupt strategy that has borne nothing but benefits for both Neil Stewart and his network of behind-the-scenes “bosses”: there have been no ill consequences for Neil Stewart whatsoever that I’m aware of at least.
With no deterrent for Stewart to stop doing what he’s been doing quite successfully for 20 years – especially now that Premier King has acquiesced to the “network” and has given Stewart back a position with power, access to funds, and the ability to orchestrate and direct more “big deals” – it’s just more of the same for him and the network, picking up on the files from the MacLauchlan days. I expect it’s only a matter of time before the next big PEI scandal happens with Stewart’s fingerprints all over the launch button.
Stewart’s long, consistent history of continuous, illegal and very serious violations are documentable, will be outlined in my next article, and all betray the same illicit purposes:
(1) to keep secret what should not be kept secret;
(2) to make major decisions that circumvent legal requirements in various provincial laws, regulations, directions, and policies, including the Financial Administration Act, and
(3) to make major decisions without first obtaining the required “authorization” to do so, decisions likely to cost taxpayers, but bring windfalls to a select few to whom Neil Stewart – who had the duty to protect the public interest as a public servant, and the obligation to act ethically as a Chartered Professional Accountant – should never have loaned our money.
With the recent appointment of Neil Stewart to the CADC, you can be sure the deals are continuing to be brewed up by the same movers and shakers wringing hands and filing legal documents, incorporating new numbered companies (but through a lawyer federally, so the shareholders can still be hidden) all secretly behind closed doors while at one and the same time planting new business scheme seeds in Stewart’s brain directing him on what he should do when he gets to work the next day.
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