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 incidents within 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 event is 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 Department Head (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 head of 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 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 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.
A Guardian article titled ‘Potential conflict of interest’ on P.E.I. campground internet deal: Minister” reported the following from the Minister concerning the Bell tender:
“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.