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: