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Senate should consider grilling Irving Gerstein over role in spending scandal, Marc Garneau says
By Jordan Press, Postmedia News
Senator Mike Duffy walks past media as he arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday. May 23, 2013. Photograph by: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld, Postmedia News
OTTAWA — The Senate should consider launching an investigation of Sen. Irving Gerstein over his role in the spending scandal, but only after the RCMP completes its criminal investigation of Mike Duffy, Liberal MP Marc Garneau said Wednesday.
There is no timeline for when the RCMP will wrap up its investigation, which could take months to complete.
Garneau suggested that whenever the investigation ends, the Liberals in the Senate should consider questioning Gerstein to see if he ran afoul of ethics rules over his alleged knowledge of a deal to have the prime minister’s one-time chief of staff help pay back Duffy’s improper housing expenses.
“It definitely should be considered, but let’s wait until we get the final report,” Garneau told reporters at a press conference in Ottawa as the party tried to keep the simmering scandal alive.
“We’re definitely waiting to see what the RCMP comes up with,” Garneau said. “When we do have the facts from this investigation, we’ll consider what our next action is.”
Liberals in the Senate wouldn’t speculate on future tactics. An official in Liberal Senate leader James Cowan’s office said decisions such as whether to ask for a Senate investigation would likely be determined after the RCMP investigation is over.
This week, the government confirmed that the RCMP has officially contacted the Prime Minister’s Office as part of its investigation.
On Monday, a senior government official told Postmedia News that the RCMP had officially requested information about the deal between the PM’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright and Duffy. The official said the PMO has told past and present staff to co-operate with investigators.
According to a court document filed last month, Gerstein was allegedly told of a plan by Wright to give Duffy $90,000 out of his own pocket to cover the senator’s housing bill. Gerstein’s name is also mentioned in the document in regards to a plan to use Conservative party funds to pay Duffy’s improper expense tab.
Gerstein is chairman of the Conservative fund of Canada.
The court document doesn’t say whether Gerstein knew of the plan to use party funds, or if he was the person who balked at the deal when the price was revealed to be $90,000 rather than the $32,000 originally believed.
A message left for Gerstein at his Senate office was not returned Wednesday.
The court document alleged that along with Gerstein, three senior PMO staffers were made aware of Wright’s plan: Benjamin Perrin, a former legal counsel to Harper, Chris Woodcock, former head of issues management, and David van Hemmen, executive assistant to the chief of staff.
The court document said Prime Minister Stephen Harper was not aware of the “arrangement.”
“This file was handled by Nigel Wright and he has taken sole responsibility,” said Julie Vaux, a spokeswoman for Harper. “We will assist with ongoing investigations into this matter.”
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News
Look, it’s a Senator/party bagman!
Is it possible the Conservative Party didn’t think this through?
Enlisting a Conservative senator caught up in the current Senate scandal to stand on stage at the close of convention to deliver a report about party fundraising?
The Senate scandal dogging the Conservative government has blown wide open one of the upper chamber’s dirty little secrets: it houses plenty of party organisers and fundraisers who wear two hats while collecting a pay cheque from the public.
That brings us to Senator Irving Gerstein. He was appointed to the Senate by Stephen Harper back on December 22, 2008, alongside Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau.
Gerstein also just happens to be a longtime fundraiser for the Conservative Party and chair of the Conservative Fund. That’s what brought him to the stage near the end of the convention – to give an update to delegates about the party’s fundraising fortunes.
But back to the party’s troubles.
Court documents released in July say that as head of the Conservative Fund, Gerstein knew Nigel Wright, Harper’s former chief of staff, cut a cheque to Duffy to repay disputed expense claims. The documents also allege the party had initially planned to repay Duffy’s expenses from its taxpayer-subsidized war chest, headed by Gerstein. (In his speech on Saturday, Gerstein said he told Wright that no party dollars were to go to pay Duffy’s disputed claims – and that none ever were.)
This isn’t the first time Gerstein has been dragged into party problems. Remember the “in and out scandal” – when the RCMP raided the Conservative Party offices in 2008?
In the end, the Conservative Party was fined $52,000 for breaking election rules. The party and the Conservative Fund pleaded guilty to Elections Act charges for exceeding the maximum allowable spending and filing incomplete election records.
The deal meant charges against four senior officials – hello again, Senator Gerstein! – were dropped. The presiding judge said the offences were “of a regulatory nature but significant to the democratic process.”
With Gerstein on stage near the close the Conservative Party convention, who said irony is dead?
Management | Directors
Irving Gerstein, C.M., O.Ont:
Irving Gerstein – Board Chairman
Senator Irving R. Gerstein has been our Chairman of the Boardand a director of the Company since October 2004. He is a retired executive and is currently a director of Medical Facilities Corporation and Student Transportation of America Ltd. He previously served as a director of other public companies, including Economic Investment Trust Limited, CTV Inc., Traders Group Limited, Guaranty Trust Company of Canada, Confederation Life Insurance Company and Scott’s Hospitality Inc., and as an officer and director of Peoples Jewellers Limited. Senator Gerstein is a Member of the Order of Canada, a Member of the Order of Ontario and was appointed to the Senate of Canada in December 2008. He is an honorary officer of Mount Sinai Hospital (Toronto), having previously served as Chairman of the Board, Chairman Emeritus and a director over a period of twenty-five years, and is currently a member of its Research Committee. Senator Gerstein received his BSc in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton School of Finance and Commerce).
Elections Canada explains charges against senators Doug Finley and Irving Gerstein
by Charlie Smith on Feb 25, 2011 at 9:16 am
Four senior Conservative campaign officials face maximum fines of $2,000 and one year in prison if they’re found guilty of violating the Canada Elections Act.
In a statement issued today (February 25), Elections Canada announced that Conservative Senator Doug Finlay, Conservative Senator Irving Gerstein, Michael Donison, and Susan J. Kehoe have each been charged with wilfully exceeding the federal party spending limit of $18,278,278.64 in the 2006 federal election.
Finlay was the party’s campaign manager and Gerstein was a major fundraiser. Donison and Kehoe worked as party staffers during the 2006 campaign. Elections Canada alleges that the Conservatives overspent their limit by $1.3 million by transferring advertising costs to local campaigns.
In addition, Gerstein has been charged with filing a “materially false or misleading statement”.
The Conservative Fund of Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada have also been charged wilfully exceeding the federal party spending limit, and face maximum fines of $25,000 if convicted.
The Conservative Fund of Canada faces an additional charge of filing a false statement.
Their first court appearance is scheduled on March 18 in Ottawa.
Tory convention reveals divisions over senate reform
CALGARY Prime Minister Stephen Harper returns to Ottawa Monday after a convention that saw delegates head home with a renewed sense of purpose, but hardly a feeling of jubilation.
The two-day policy convention showed there are divisions within Harper’s own ranks over how to tackle Senate reform, and it hinted at the emergence of possible political ambitions.
Days after cabinet minister Maxime Bernier publicly urged Harper to hold a referendum in the spring to test public opinion on abolishing the Senate — and Harper identified a new obstacle to Senate reform in “the courts” — one of his top ministers sounded a clear cautionary warning.
Jason Kenney, the high-profile Calgary minister responsible for economic and skills development, came out flatly Sunday against both a referendum and the abolition of the Senate.
Kenney told CTV’s news program Question Period that “there’s a reason why every democratic federation in the world has an upper chamber. (In) Canada — a very diverse country geographically — I think there’s a strong argument for that kind of regional representation in the upper house. But frankly, abolition (is) very difficult to achieve because with the requirement to get unanimity for the constitutional amendment to abolish the Senate you need all 10 provinces signing on, and that’s a very, very long shot.”
Kenney said a referendum would shift the government’s focus off the economy and job creation in the lead-up to the next election. “It would be a distraction.”
Abolition is one of the options Harper has put before the Supreme Court of Canada in a reference case to be heard Nov. 12-14.
However, Kenney also said in interviews on political shows Sunday there is no leadership challenge afoot.
“I think you’ll see here huge and enthusiastic support for Stephen Harper’s leadership,” he told Global News.
Earlier, Kenney himself made waves by publicly declaring he believed Nigel Wright, Harper’s former chief of staff, to be a highly principled public servant who had an “uncharacteristic lapse of judgment” when he agreed to pay $90,000 to Senator Mike Duffy to cover allegedly inappropriately claimed housing and travel expenses.
Kenney was joined by Justice Minister Peter MacKay — another potential leadership aspirant — who also expressed faith in Wright: “I’ve known Nigel a long time. He’s a very principled individual, he’s somebody who is honest. He’s worked hard for our party in the past.”
Their remarks were surprising departures from Harper’s all-out castigation of Wright in the Commons last week.
However, the prime minister was never publicly challenged at the Calgary convention, a political gathering meant mainly to reassure the grassroots the government was still on track.
Delegates enthusiastically applauded the prime minister’s speech Friday in which he said he shared their anger over the Senate expense scandal.
Yet the very next day, those same delegates voted to require more transparency from the party’s executive on its handling of party funds, signalling unease with the reported roles of the PMO and the party in discussions to defray Duffy’s expenses.
That and other constitutional resolutions were signals to the party “not to forget the grassroots and to remember the cabling between the party operation and the grassroots,” said Alberta delegate Daniel Hein. “We don’t want more power in headquarters.”
In the final hour of the convention, thousands of delegates cheered when Senator Irving Gerstein, chair of the Conservative Fund of Canada, finally spoke publicly and said he opposed paying Duffy’s “disputed” expenses, but agreed to pay his $13,560 legal bill.
However, Gerstein’s remark raised more questions than it answered, including if Gerstein had been involved in the discussions, why did he not inform the Prime Minister of the efforts of the PMO and the party to sort out payments to Duffy for what Harper says he made clear to all in caucus were the senator’s “inappropriate” expenses.
The biennial policy convention was one of the most tightly controlled ever witnessed by many delegates. Media access was restricted, and some of the most fractious debates were kept behind closed doors. The perennial argument about giving more say to stronger (and largely western) ridings on how to pick the party’s leader was killed without the usual spillover into the main hall for the cameras to capture.
Nevertheless, the party’s rank and file sent a strong message to the government to shift to a harder right through dozens of policy resolutions that condemned gender-selective abortion, assisted suicide, and aimed at undermining unions’ political heft.
Ted Menzies, a former cabinet minister and soon-to-retire Alberta MP, said it was all “a reminder” to the government.
He said the message was: “Don’t forget the principles this party is founded on. I don’t think it’s suggesting that you need to go in a different direction. It’s just reaffirming what the prime minister talked about in his speech: the fundamentals of a Conservative government and Conservative philosophy as personal responsibility — financial personal responsibility, moral personal responsibility. That’s why you hear some frustration with what’s happened in the senate.”
Menzies said nevertheless the dominant mood of delegates remained positive: “We split a lot of votes and that’s a good thing. It shows we’re not just of one mind here.”
London, Ont.-area MP Ed Holder said he found a “strong sense of unity and agreement” and that the convention was really mostly a way to say thank you to party workers, while allowing delegates to express strong views.
“The party is a big tent that allows a divergence of opinion, and as a government you’re allowed to legislate as you see fit.”
In the end the convention reinforced the impression of a party retrenching for the long hard slog ahead into the 2015 election campaign.
Torstar News Service
Tory Senator Irving Gerstein is the chair of the Senate banking committee and he also sits on the finance committee.
Photograph by: Jean Levac, The Ottawa Citizen
UPDATE: See correction at bottom
On Friday, when Stephen Harper appointed five new Senators, my Liberal frenemy, Jason Cherniak, wrote the strangest thing:waiting for expressions of disappointment that Harper is not appointing Senators active in the Jewish community
Cherniak, readers will recall, is one of the last 100 Jews in the Liberal Party.
Well, it’s true that in those five Senatorial appointments, none were active in the Jewish community – or at least none were Jewish. But Harper has already appointed three Jews to the Senate, all of whom are very active in the Jewish community and philanthropy: Linda Frum, Judith Seidman and Irving Gerstein. Add to that Harper’s appointment of a Jew to the Supreme Court, and you’d think the man was trying to start a synagogue on Parliament Hill. And, to the chagrin of anti-Semites like the Toronto Star’s Haroon Siddiqui, Harper has appointed a Jew as the chairman of the GONGO Rights and Democracy, and a Jew-loving Gentile as its new president. (That’s really what all the opposition hullabaloo is about: R&D is no longer going to be allowed to send cheques to Palestinian terrorists.)
I pointed out some of this to Cherniak, who responded by listing a number of great Jews in the Liberal Party, most of whom are now in their 70s and 80s, and some of whom have actually been dead for quite some time.
In other words, the golden age of Jews in the Liberal Party – if it ever existed – is long past.
(I dispute that it ever existed; it was the Liberal government during the Second World War that turned back ships of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust, with the motto “none is too many.” Liberals have mythologized and sanitized their party’s anti-Semitic past, the same way modern U.S. Democrats have willfully forgotten that theirs is the party of the KKK (including the lovely Senator Robert Byrd) and that the Republicans are the party of Abe Lincoln.)
But that’s the past. What’s the future? In my own travels, I find that on most Canadian campuses, the Hillel or Jewish students clubs are overwhelmingly Conservative. That’s the future.
Cherniak asked me: who is “the Jewish Senator” in the Conservatives, and I actually replied. But that’s a mistake. Even accepting the concept of “the Jewish Senator” is to agree to the ghettoization of Jews and to relegate being pro-Israel to the level of an ethnopolitical hand-out, not a function of a principled foreign policy. More than that, it accepts that a Jew’s only place must be on “Jewish issues”.
The Liberals have so conditioned Cherniak into thinking that being pro-Israel is a ghetto issue, that he believes it: he thinks his place is to have one token in Parliament. Maybe he thinks it’ll be him, if he really serves the party loyally.
This also makes the false assumption that any one Jew can speak for the community – a fallacy proved every day by the “Official Jews” who run the Liberal-sympathetic Canadian Jewish Congress.
I’d rather have a government run by principled Gentiles like Jason Kenney, Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper, to name just three, who are pro-Israel for reasons of conservative principle, than a government stacked with either the “Jews of Silence” as Izzy Asper called the Official Jews, or worse. And by worse, I mean that according to Cherniak’s litmus test, a party dominated by Naomi Klein, Judy Rebick and Noam Chomsky (the NDP, I guess) would be the bee’s knees, but a party run by Israel-loving Christians wouldn’t.
There are plenty of Jews active in the Conservative Party. Much more importantly, there are people in the Tories, Jewish and non-Jewish, who for reasons of principle, not ethnicity, support democracy and liberty, be it in Israel or Taiwan or Iran.
But let me close with a little bit of research that I did, on a whim.
Cherniak is upset that Harper has only appointed three Jewish senators. Jews, of course, make up about 1% of Canada’s population, but Harper has made them 9% of his 33 appointees.
How about Jean Chretien? How did he do?
In ten years as prime minister, unless I’m missing someone, he didn’t appoint a single one.
And Paul Martin? Unless I’m missing someone, the only Jew he could find to appoint was a Conservative named Hugh Segal, Brian Mulroney’s former chief of staff.
I say again, simply counting Jews isn’t the right way to measure a party’s commitment to Jews or Jewish issues. But even on that basis, Chreniak’s desperate apology for his increasingly Jew-free party
UPDATE: A correspondent points out that the Senate website to which I have linked to do my count only lists Senators who are currently sitting, so it excludes Jewish Senators who were appointed but have since retired. So, for example, a seventy-year-old named Yoine Goldstein was appointed for a short term by Paul Martin — a little token for a little token.
Here’s the full list of all Senators appointed by Paul Martin — it’s just Segal and Goldstein.
And here’s the full list of all Senators appointed by Jean Chretien. It includes a three-year stint for Sheila Finestone, and that’s it.
Seriously in ten years as prime minister, with 75 appointments, he chose one Jew for three years. That’s Jason Cherniak’s Jew-loving party for you.
I’m also advised of the hilarity that ensued when “Goldstein’s seat” — or as Liberals would say, “the Jewish seat” — came open. The Official Jews around the country all busied themselves campaigning for “their” Official Jew — they’re power broker, their choice for “the seat”.
Imagine the gnashing of the teeth when Harper ignored their official choices and picked his own. I can’t tell you how happy I am that none of Harper’s Jewish picks have the CJC hechsher.
Harper appoints 18 senators
Irving Gerstein is among the list of new Senators appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday, Dec. 22, 2008.
Photograph by: Canwest News Service
, Canwest News Service
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper filled all 18 vacant Senate seats on Monday, a move he was expected to make some time before Christmas.
CTV broadcaster Mike Duffy, former journalist Pamela Wallin, defeated Conservative MP Fabian Manning, former Olympian Nancy Greene Raine and aboriginal leader Patrick Brazeau are among some of the familiar names who now have a job in the Red Chamber and who will collect an annual $130,000 salary.
Several Conservative party stalwarts got the nod, including Michael MacDonald, the vice-president of the Conservative Party of Canada, and Irving Gerstein, a Toronto businessman who is known as a top Tory fundraiser.
In making the lengthy list of appointments, Harper has deviated from his long-held belief that senators should be elected, not appointed.
Monday’s 18 appointments were announced in a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Our government will continue to push for a more democratic, accountable and effective Senate,” said Harper. “If Senate vacancies are to be filled, however, they should be filled by the government that Canadians elected rather than by a coalition that no one voted for.”
By filling the open Senate slots, Harper has put them out of reach of the Liberal-NDP coalition that could attempt to defeat the government in the confidence vote that will follow the Jan. 27 budget.
Harper said in the news release that the vacancies had to be filled “in order for the Senate to transact legitimate government business.”
Even with the new appointments, though, the Liberals continue to hold the majority in the 105-seat upper chamber. They have 58 seats while the Conservatives, with Monday’s additions, have 38.
The new senators also help balance some of the regional inequities that Harper was facing in his caucus.
Four of the new senators fill vacancies from Quebec, three seats each in British Columbia and Nova Scotia are now occupied, two each from Ontario and New Brunswick and one each from Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and Yukon.
Manning fills the spot for Newfoundland and Labrador while Brazeau is one of four new senators from Quebec. Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis, Leo Housakos and Michel Rivard are the others.
Harper lost his representative for Montreal, Michael Fortier, in the fall election. Harper appointed Fortier to the Senate, and his cabinet, in 2006 and Fortier vowed to run in the next election. He resigned his Senate seat to run, but lost his bid for a seat in the House of Commons when Canadians went to the polls in October.
In addition to Fortier, Harper had made one other Senate appointment – Bert Brown from Alberta – before Monday’s round. Brown won a “senator-in-waiting” election in Alberta in 2004.
The Alberta government of Ralph Klein ran that election partly in an effort to goad then-prime minister Paul Martin to take Senate reform seriously. Saskatchewan has also passed legislation that would allow for elections in that province for senator.
Harper wants to reform the Senate and has made efforts to that effect by introducing legislation that would put eight-year term limits on senators. The legislation, however, died with the past Parliament.
Harper said last week that neither Parliament nor the provinces have been willing to move forward on Senate reform.
All of the 18 new senators have agreed to support eight-year term limits, Harper said on Monday in the press release from his office, and other Senate reform legislation.
Monday’s appointments provoked quick criticism from the opposition parties. The NDP issued a press release calling the appointments “hypocritical and undemocratic.”
“Stephen Harper keeps telling Canadians to tighten their belts,” said the NDP’s democratic reform critic, David Christopherson. “But these 18 unelected Senators will cost the taxpayer over $6 million a year. When will the Conservatives start practicing what they preach?”
NDP Leader Jack Layton sent a letter last week to Harper urging him not to stack the Senate with Conservatives and copied it to Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean, who must approve Harper’s nominations. Layton also suggested it would be unconstitutional for Harper to name people to the Senate when Parliament is prorogued and the opposition claims he does not have the confidence of the House of Commons.
Harper, however, had a message for the opposition parties in his Senate announcement: “If the opposition parties do not approve of these Senate appointments they should stop obstructing our attempts to introduce meaningful Senate reform. For our part, we will continue working with the provinces and reform-minded parliamentarians to build a more accountable and democratic Senate.”
Newfoundland and Labrador: Fabian Manning
Nova Scotia: Fred Dickson, Stephen Greene and Michael L. MacDonald
P.E.I.: Michael Duffy
New Brunswick: Percy Mockler and John D. Wallace
Quebec: Patrick Brazeau, Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis, Leo Housakos and Michel Rivard
Ontario: Nicole Eaton and Irving Gerstein
Saskatchewan: Pamela Wallin
British Columbia: Nancy Greene Raine, Yonah Martin and Richard Neufeld
Yukon: Hector Daniel Lang
MEDICAL insider: Irving Gerstein
DR Canada Toronto
MEDICAL FACILITIES CORP
Benchmark S&P 500
Currency: CAD – Canadian Dollar
Traded on Toronto Stock Exchange
MEDICAL FACILITIES CORP has less than 43.4 (%) percent chance of experiencing financial distress in the next 2 years of operations. More Info
The Honourable Senator Irving R. Gerstein, C.M., O.Ont., is an Independent Director of Medical Facilities Corporationrationration. He is a retired executive. Mr. Gerstein is chair of the board of directors of Atlantic Power Corporationrationration and lead director of Student Transportation Inc. . He previously served as a director of other public issuers, including CTV Inc., Traders Group Limited, Guaranty Trust Company of Canada, Confederation Life Insurance Company, Scott?s Hospitality Inc. and Economic Investment Trust Limited, and as an officer and director of Peoples Jewellers Limited. Mr. Gerstein is a Member of the Order of Canada and a Member of the Order of Ontario and was appointed to the Senate of Canada in December 2008. He is an honorary director of Mount Sinai Hospital, having previously served as Chairman of the Board, Chairman Emeritus and a director over a period of 25 years, and is currently a member of its Research Committee
Age: 71 Director Since 2004
Atlantic Power Corporation AT United States NYSE
Chairman since 2004
Student Transportation Inc STB Canada Toronto
Student Transportation Inc STB United States Nasdaq
Atlantic Power Corporation ATP Canada Toronto
Chairman since 2004
Medical Facilities Corp MFCSF United States OTC
Director since 2004
DR DR United States AMEX
Director since 2004
Medical Facilities Corp MFCSF United States OTC
Director since 2004
Irving Gerstein Education
Gerstein received his BSc. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania .
Gerstein surveys reversal of fortune.(Irving Gerstein on Zale Corp.’s takeover bid for Peoples Jewellers)
Article from: National Post | March 20, 1999 | | Copyright
The architect of Peoples Jewellers’ ill-fated 1986 takeover of Zale is philosophical about Zale’s offer for Peoples
Irving Gerstein, the man who led Peoples Jewellers into a U.S. expansion that left it bankrupt, says he isn’t bitter that Zale Corp., the company behind the bankruptcy, has pulled off the ultimate turnaround and is now buying Peoples.
“I express every wish for both companies to see their continued success,” Mr. Gerstein, whose grandfather started Peoples in 1919, said this week from his Toronto office.
In fact, he says, the marriage might work.
A strange reconciliation became public this week when Zale, a company acquired by Peoples in a leveraged buyout 13 years ago, said it would pay $115-million (US) cash for Peoples.
“I think, quite frankly, they were the logical buyers – the bigger company usually buys the smaller one. We turned that around for a while.”
Did he ever.
In 1986, Mr. Gerstein’s Peoples teamed up with Switzerland’s Swarovski International AG to swing the junk-bond financed $650-million (US) purchase of Zale, a firm more than five times its size.
Three years later, they …
Insider Activity Individual
Irving Russell Gerstein
Mr. Irving R. Gerstein is a Member at The Senate of Canada, a Manager at Atlantic Holdings Ltd., Chairman at Atlantic Power Corp., Lead Independent Director at Student Transportation, Inc., Independent Director at Medical Facilities Corp., a Member at Order of Canada, a Member-Research Committee at Mount Sinai Hospital (Canada), and a Member at Order of Ontario. He is on the Board of Directors at Student Transportation, Inc., Medical Facilities Corp., Medical Facilities USA, and Student Transportation of America ULC.
Mr. Gerstein was previously employed as Independent Director by Economic Investment Trust Ltd. He also served on the board at Confederation Life Insurance Co., CTV, Inc., Guaranty Trust Co., Peoples Jewellers Corp., Scotts Hospitality, Inc., and Traders Group Ltd.
He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
Date Shares Transaction Value
03/18/2013 9,400 Acquisition at $5.16 per share. 48,504
Copyright 2013 FactSet Research Systems Inc. All rights reserved. Source FactSet Fundamentals.
Officers and Executives
Mr. Irving Russell Gerstein
Mr. Barry Edward Welch
President, Chief Executive Officer & Director
Mr. Edward C. Hall
Chief Operating Officer & Executive Vice President
Mr. Terrence Ronan
Chief Financial Officer, Secretary & EVP
Mr. Charles W. Poppe
Chief Information Officer
Mr. Paul Howard Rapisarda
Executive Vice President-Commercial Development
Mr. William B. Daniels
Vice President-East Operations
Mr. John Matovich
Senior Vice President-Commercial
Mr. Richard Foster Duncan
Ms. Holli C. Nichols
Mr. John Alexander McNeil
Mr. Kenneth Michael Hartwick
Mr. John J. Hulburt
Ms. Amanda Wagemaker
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Are lax federal election fundraising rules letting corporations call the shots with governments?
By: Bruce Livesey
Originally published by eye Weekly in Toronto (www.eye.net)
Ben Hutzel is not a household name, but if Jean Chrétien’s Liberals sweep back into power on Nov. 27, the prime minister can thank Hutzel more than anyone else. The fast-talking Toronto lawyer is the party’s chief fundraiser, the man who ensures that corporate Canada gives the Liberals millions of dollars to spend at election time.
Asked whether those donations come with strings attached, Hutzel says, “No one ties their contribution, as far as I am aware, to specific requests that things be done a certain way.” Nevertheless, the role of political fundraisers is controversial – fundraising scandals have plagued both the Chrétien and Mulroney governments – and in the lexicon of politics, Hutzel is a bagman, with all that the label infers.
“Old schoolmates” pay millions to cronies to curry favour with parties in power
Because running for office is exorbitantly expensive, fundraisers are critical to the political process. In this election alone, the parties will raise – and spend – more than $40 million. Finding that sort of cash means getting to know a lot of rich people, and fundraisers are usually lawyers, lobbyists or businesspeople whose value lies in the breadth of their Rolodexes and connections to the establishment. “Quite often you know these people because you’re dealing with them on business transactions,” explains Hutzel, a mergers and acquisitions lawyer with the Bay Street law firm Bennett Jones. “Socially, in a variety of ways, they are old schoolmates.”
Other parties have fundraisers with similar ties – the Canadian Alliance’s is Peter White, an executive with Conrad Black’s Hollinger Inc., for instance, while the Conservatives’ is Irving Gerstein, former chair of Peoples Jewellers and a director of Canada Post. The NDP and Bloc Québécois, by contrast, don’t move in such rarefied circles.
But is all this money-raising a truly transparent and benign endeavour? Critics point to enormous loopholes in Canada’s election laws that allow money to be donated to parties secretly. Foreign-owned Canadian-based companies can also make contributions – raising fears that they are garnering political leverage. And many feel corporate donors are only generous because they want tax breaks, subsidies, government contracts and friendly policies. Meanwhile, fundraising scandals and the perception of improprieties persist.
How do the federal parties raise money? Direct-mail solicitation is one way; another is asking powerful friends to write cheques. Jeff Lyons, a prominent Tory fundraiser, once said he hits up people like Hal Jackman (Ontario’s former lieutenant-governor), Doug Bassett (CEO of Baton Broadcasting) and Ted Rogers (CEO of Rogers Communications) for cash.
But the biggest source of money, according to Hutzel, is the fundraising dinners, held throughout the year in cities with robust business communities. Parties sell seats at these shindigs for steep prices. For example, next month’s annual Prime Minister’s Confederation Dinner at the Westin Harbour Castle costs $600 a plate. “The prime minister is a very important fundraising attraction,” notes Hutzel.
Corporate donations through riding campaigns amounts to a multimillion-dollar loophole
The amount of cash raised at these dinners is impressive. Last month, the Alliance held a jam-packed fundraising dinner at the Metro Convention Centre with Stockwell Day. Tables were priced as high as $25,000, and a total of $1.7 million was raised. Many of Bay Street’s elite were in attendance, including executives from the tobacco industry.
During an election, the parties can spend up to $12.2 million apiece. In the 1997 federal election, 1,672 candidates received 121,160 donations totalling $38.6 million, of which 37 per cent came from individuals, 23 per cent from business, 19 per cent from party coffers and the rest from riding associations. But the parties must raise cash year-round. The Liberals raised a total of $14.6 million last year, compared to $6.4 million by the NDP, $6.2 million by the Canadian Alliance/Reform Party, $5.1 million by the Tories and $1.3 million by the Bloc.
These totals are misleading, however, because of loopholes in the Elections Act. For one thing, money given to riding associations or individual MPs between elections doesn’t have to be reported to Elections Canada. Aaron Freeman, a Straight Goods columnist and board member of Democracy Watch, an Ottawa-based non-partisan citizens’ advocacy group, says this means enormous sums of cash are likely unaccounted for. “We are talking about a multimillion-dollar loophole,” he claims.
Furthermore, there’s no limit on the amount each donor can give, and parties can raise as much as they want during and between elections – which appalls York University political scientist Robert MacDermid. “No limit on contributions is an invitation for the rich to influence government,” he says. “Politically, everyone is equal, but if you have a society that is economically unequal and people who are wealthy can purchase political power, democracy is a dream that’s not going to happen. The fact that there’s no limit is disgraceful.”
The drawbacks of the loophole that allows foreign-owned, Canadian-based companies to make political donations were recently exposed by the “Sidewinder” controversy. In the early ’90s, Brian McAdam, a Canadian foreign service official posted in Hong Kong, became alarmed at the number of organized crime syndicate “triad” members immigrating to Canada. At the same time, prominent Hong Kong-based tycoons – some thought to have ties to the triads – were investing heavily in Canada, as well as forging bonds with China’s Communist government. McAdam concluded that the triads were establishing roots in Canada, while the Chinese government was hoping to use the tycoons to gather economic and technological intelligence.
McAdam convinced the RCMP and CSIS to investigate, and in 1997 they produced a secret 29-page report entitled “Sidewinder,” a copy of which eye has obtained. The report says the Chinese government and triads are trying to maximize their presence in Canada by buying into or setting up Canadian companies. “It is estimated that 200 Canadian companies have passed into Chinese influence or ownership since the early 1980s through the triads, tycoons or China national companies,” it states.
These companies include high-tech, real estate and hotel firms, as well as parts of one chartered bank and three large Bay Street brokerage houses (one of which Jean Chrétien worked for before he became Liberal leader in 1990). The report says the Chinese government may have used its relationships with the Hong Kong tycoons to gather important economic information about Canada, as well as wield political influence here.
“These ‘corporate’ figures have become an influential presence on the political and economic landscapes of Toronto and Vancouver and at the provincial and federal levels,” says the report. “The triads, the tycoons and the ChS [Chinese Intelligence Service] have learned that a quick way to gain influence is to provide finance to the main political parties.”
These Chinese-owned Canadian companies donate tens of thousands of dollars to the Liberals and Tories every year, and the Sidewinder report worries that the Chinese government is developing the potential to influence Canada’s political scene. “China remains one of the greatest threats to Canada’s national security,” it concludes.
Sidewinder was considered so sensitive, however, that it’s believed to have been shelved. CSIS even went to the extent of destroying much of the material it was based on. “I think it was aborted because of political pressure from the PM’s office,” says McAdam, now retired and living in Ottawa.
But a copy of the original report was leaked to the press earlier this year. Since then, CSIS and the Liberals have dismissed its contents as unsubstantiated or paranoid conspiracies. Still, at least two American experts on the triads say its conclusions support their findings.
McAdam admits there’s little evidence linking Chinese-owned companies with intelligence-gathering or triad activity. But he feels the whole matter requires more investigation, adding, “Anyone who looks at the problem has to be concerned about what’s going on.”
SHIFTING TO THE RIGHT?
Who does give money to political parties, and what influence does it ultimately have? Overall, individuals give the most, but two-thirds of the money the Liberals raised last year – $8.6 million – came from the corporate sector. Among the party’s top contributors were the Bank of Nova Scotia ($119,619), CanWest Global Communications ($87,173), Bombardier ($63,481), the Royal Bank of Canada ($61,565) and RBC Dominion Securities ($54,033). In fact, the financial industry is the biggest donor to all parties, with the Big Five banks and their brokerage houses donating $1.2 million to the Liberals alone in 1997.
The Conservative party has always been successful in raising money from corporations, but now the Canadian Alliance is going to Bay Street seeking big cheques. Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning chided the business community at an Empire Club dinner in Toronto last year for not giving his party enough money in light of its pro-business policies. Since then, corporate donations to the Alliance have shot up.
What impact on policy does this money have? “Corporate funding shifts the whole political spectrum to the right,” maintains MacDermid. “[The business community] will fund parties favourable to it, and right now we have three of those.”
Freeman argues that the impact of corporate donations is to obtain access and goodwill to politicians. “Whether you’re talking about the banks, pharmaceutical companies or defence companies, the major donors have the greatest stake in government decisions,” he says. Earlier this year, Tory MP Jean Dube released a list of 70 companies in Liberal ridings that had donated a total of $150,000 to the party in 1997 and ’98 – and received $27 million in federal job-creation grants.
Hutzel disagrees, saying the money simply assists the political process and doesn’t buy access or influence. Moreover, he says it’s “absolute nonsense” that corporate donors skew the party’s principles toward the business sector. “It’s very unusual to think there’s any impact to making contributions,” he asserts, pointing out that many corporations and banks contribute to all parties. And the Liberals point to the Chrétien government’s refusal to allow the big banks to merge two years ago as evidence of their incorruptibility.
Still, enough fundraising scandals crop up to suggest that it’s not all clean as soap. For instance, Liberal fundraiser Pierre Corbeil was charged in 1997 with influence peddling. Corbeil raised money in the region where Jean Chrétien’s riding lies. Using a highly placed source in the federal government, he would find out which Quebec companies were in line for federal job-creation grants and contact them on behalf of the Liberal Party, suggesting they’d better donate or else. Corbeil was eventually fined $34,500 and sentenced to community service.
Other fundraising scandals have plagued the Liberals as well. Last year, questions arose about the Transitional Job Fund, a $300-million job-creation program. Companies in Chrétien’s riding donated $74,317 to the Liberals and received millions of dollars, as did a number of companies in the Montreal riding of Liberal MP Yvon Charbonneau, which had given more than $40,000 to the party in 1997 and ’98. These scandals are still being investigated, but were raised by opposition leaders in one of last week’s televised leadership debates.
Of course, given the size of the federal government – and the fact that so many companies donate – it’s difficult to determine the exact connection between donations and grants.
Often it’s just the perception of impropriety. Take what happened earlier this year, when Democracy Watch revealed that former Liberal MP Barry Campbell had arranged a fundraiser for Jim Peterson, secretary of state (international financial institutions) with the finance department. Campbell has lobbied the finance department on behalf of many clients, including the Royal Bank of Canada. He’s also one of Peterson’s closest friends.
The dinner – held last year, with invitations going out on Campbell’s letterhead – raised $70,000. “This type of fundraising event highlights the loopholes that corrupt Canada’s political finance system,” insisted Freeman last April.
Peterson says there was no impropriety involved, however, and that they specifically did not solicit funds from any banks or financial institutions – or Campbell’s clients. Any money inadvertently received from the banks was returned. Peterson says he asked Campbell as a friend to help out when his campaign chair couldn’t attend the night of the dinner, and believes the donation system is transparent enough to ensure abuses don’t occur. “It’s pretty tough to imagine dealing with anyone who has no dealings with the federal government at all,” he says.
In the end, however, all we are relying on is the honesty of our politicians. “I’ve had people offer a me a great deal of money,” relates Peterson, “and refused it because I didn’t know them or was concerned they were trying to purchase political influence.”
Whether all politicians resist such temptations, though, is another question.
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