New allegations arose this past week over the depth of former Industry Minister Tony Clement’s involvement in selecting infrastructure projects in his Parry Sound-Muskoka riding that received G8 Legacy Funding. The NDP allege that Mr. Clement was more directly involved in selecting sites that received federal funding than he is letting on.
The NDP obtained what they believe to be damning evidence of Mr. Clement’s impact on the process. And while the ‘evidence’ is not as cut and dried as the New Democrats maintain, it does point to a greater knowledge of, and involvement in, the selection process.
Here is part of a January 13, 2010 email from Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor) official Tom Dodds:
“It is my understanding that MINO [Tony Clement's then-Ministry Office] advised Infrastructure Canada which projects should be supported under the G8 Infrastructure & Legacy Fund and their staff prepared the contribution agreements for them accordingly.”
This isn’t Watergate, by any means, and in their haste to find cracks in the Conservative armour, the NDP must remember that making a mountain out of a molehill can make them look foolish.
“I expect and I am calling on the Conservatives not to treat the Canadian public like fools. Canadians are patient people, but they’re not idiots,” NDP MP Charlie Angus said. “They have seen what this man has done with money that he shouldn’t have had his hands on. They’ve seen the cover-ups, they’ve seen the bogus tales, they’ve seen the fact that they have gone all the way to committee and misrepresented facts before a parliamentary committee.”
And they’re not wrong, which makes the Conservatives cursory dismissal so typical — and intriguing. “I know there is this mythology…that I was at a bar somewhere in Muskoka with two other guys making the decisions,” Clement told the public accounts committee on November 2 last year, but “that’s just a myth. It never happened that way. We were not involved in selecting the projects.”
The Toronto Star notes that at the time, Clement was willing to concede that the paperwork he filed on the G8 Legacy Funds was imperfect, but would admit no wrong-doing.
I have written here and here about how Toronto was left to fend for itself after G20 violence escalated over the weekend in June 2010. I cannot be alone in feeling that left-leaning Toronto was left penniless in the aftermath of the global conference while Conservative Muskoka received just shy of $50M for infrastructure! Regardless of the damages caused by rioting in Toronto, this was $45.7M by way of a thank-you for letting the government host its Summit there. And the money went not towards replacing damaged infrastructure caused by rioting protesters in Parry Sound, but rather to sidewalks and road improvements, and building gazebo’s.
All of these projects were identified in the NDP-obtained documents as for the purposes of “maximizing the tourism benefits of hosting the G8.”
This is akin to Rahm Emanuel’s infamous quip that “you never want a crisis to go to waste.” Think it if you must, but the CPC should no better than put pen to paper in stating the questionable and oft-protested G8 Summit is a tremendous opportunity to boost Muskoka tourism. It’s tactless and insulting the people who genuinely believe globalization to have negative effects on their lives.
And lest anyone consider the amount of money trivial, remember the Sponsorship Scandal which helped bring down the Liberal Party machine involved only $4.75M, compared with $45.7M in question here. The Conservatives can claim all they want the NDP is digging up a dead story, but the Liberals told the Conservatives the same. And look what they dug up.
Exaggerate they might, but the NDP are right to keep digging. That’s what we pay them to do.