Wednesday, May 11, 2005

"I got lots of hugs from the Prime Minister"

According to the media, Judy Sgro has been cleared of wrong-doing - in particular, Harjit Singh has retracted his accusation that Sgro promised him asylum in exchange for free pizza and campaign help. You figure the $750,000 defamation lawsuit had something to do with Harjit Singh's retraction?

However, even if Singh was lying, it's not so clear that Sgro is off the hook yet:
In the case of Ms. Balaican, Mr. Shapiro found that Ms. Sgro did not know the 25-year-old exotic dancer volunteered on her 2004 re-election campaign when she granted her a permit. But her staff did, he said, and placed her in a conflict by not telling her.

Mr. Shapiro didn't name the aides, but was referring to former staffers Ihor Wons and Katherine Abbott. Mr. Wons, a long-time aide to Ms. Sgro, went on stress leave in early December, and Ms. Abbott a former policy adviser to Ms. Sgro, was apparently relieved of her duties as an adviser to Labour Minister Joe Fontana last Friday. She was alleged to have leaked details of the Balaican file to the press.

[. . ] Mr. Shapiro has yet to release findings from his probe into other alleged irregularities in Ms. Sgro's office, prompted by a complaint from Ms. Ablonczy. Legal questions have stalled the release of his report.

"It's premature to sound a note of exoneration," Ms. Ablonczy said yesterday. "There are real problems with the immigration system that came out under Ms. Sgro's watch."
As Kate points out, most of the media is working with reports originating from Sgro's staff. Kate also directs us to Democracy Watch, where we learn (surprise, surprise) that the inquiry is far from impartial:
To conduct the investigation into Sgro's and others' actions, the Ethics Commissioner hired (without a contract bidding competition) law firm Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG). BLG donated $165,000 to the federal Liberals between 2000 and 2003 (2004 donation figures are not yet publicly available); donated more than $25,000 to Paul Martin's campaign for the Liberal Party leadership; has three partners representing Liberals before the Gomery Commission inquiry (David W. Scott and Peter K. Doody representing Jean Chrétien, and Guy J. Pratte representing Jean Pelletier), and; in February 2005 hired Gar Knutson, former Cabinet colleague of Sgro.

[. .] Adding to the fiasco of the Sgro investigation, the Ethics Commissioner made public today that he has delivered a "confidential advice" letter to Judy Sgro, and the media is reporting that Sgro's staff claim the letter clears the minister of any wrongdoing. The Ethics Commissioner has not stated when his official ruling on the Sgro situation will be released to the public. The Ethics Commissioner has cleared other Cabinet ministers of wrongdoing using his right to give secret advice, and has refused in those cases to make public his reasons for concluding that the ministers have not broken any ethics rules.
Welcome to Canada, where the visiting Queen can expect to be trailed by PETA.