Thursday, February 09, 2006

Hoo Boy...

Okay, this one is complicated.

Fact: Former Liberal Industry Minister David Emerson crosses the metaphorical floor after his reelection (as a Liberal) to become the Conservative government's Minister of International Trade (and a few other things).

Media, including the Globe & Mail, report that he says the resolution of the softwood lumber dispute is a "top priority".

Two stories appear today, which muddy this up, considerably:

First, the Toronto Star reports that Emerson, in his former capacity as Industry Minister, discouraged a settlement last November, just before the Martin government fell.

Was the proposed settlement a good one? Depends whom you ask.

Was Emerson's objection politically-motivated? Again, we don't know. (We can speculate, but we don't actually know.)

The story in the Star explores the implications in greater detail, but there's more going on:

According to the website Politics Watch, Emerson officially recused himself from any participation in matters directly involving his former employer, Canfor, a forestry company specifically named in the softwood lumber dispute.

Muddier still, the recusal letter specifies that it only pertains to "direct dealings" with Canfor, not to "participating in discussions and carrying out my official duties and responsibilities with respect to issues of general application or relating to any industry sector in which Canfor Corporation, its subsidiaries and affiliates may operate."

This letter is registered with the office of the Ethics Commissioner. There's that pesky word again, ethics.

So even if the negotiations are not direct dealings with the company itself, with which Mr. Emerson has "an entitlement to an unregistered pension plan," (another pesky word in there!) the possibility and appearance of conflict of interest are clear.

Way clear.

Interesting timeline here, too: Mr. Emerson became Minister of Industry in July, 2004 (after the last election) but only signed that recusal letter the following November.

Implication? I don't have a clue, but according to Industry Canada's mandate, it looks like the softwood lumber issue falls squarely in there.

One thing is for sure: David Emerson is quickly achieving his goal, stated on election night, of becoming "Stephen Harper's worst nightmare".

Mr. Harper, you need this... why?

Get him outta there.

H/T to the Infozone for digging up the congruency of these issues!

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

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