Rights and Democracy: Loyalty and Competence

This one takes some twists and turns. Follow along!

Lawrence Cannon names Gérard Latulippe as president of Rights and Democracy. “An exceptionally qualified candidate,” says he. (Cannon also “expresses the Government of Canada’s support” for a forensic audit at an agency whose books are edited every year by the auditor general, an agency that was evaluated by Cannon’s own department in 2008 and found to have no irregularities in its books. A man of few words, or at least few coherent words, Cannon gives no explanation for his change of heart.)

Latulippe is the National Democratic Institute country director for Haiti. He has also worked for NDI in “countries such as Jordan, Libya, Iraq, Georgia, Mauritania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Egypt.” This blog is an unabashed fan of NDI, which admits a “loose affiliation” with the U.S. Democratic Party (its loose-affiliation counterpart is the International Republican Institute, and here at Inkless, we like them too.) NDI is a world leader in educating political parties about their own countries’ political systems and ensuring that elections are fought vigorously and fairly. But, as that notorious opponent of transparency and accountability Ed Broadbent likes to point out, Rights and Democracy has a broader mandate than NDI and IRI. That’s the “Rights” bit, which consists in advocating for the basic human rights of speech, association and so on, down to something as basic as the right to food in Malawi. Latulippe may be able to learn new tricks, but he will have to, because Rights and Democracy isn’t NDI, nor is it the “Canadian Centre for Advancing Democracy” advocated by Stephen Fletcher based on a report by Tom Axworthy and… and…

…Éric Duhaime?

Oh now that’s interesting. This corner is also fond of Duhaime (we like everyone today!), a wisecracking, whip-smart political staffer from Quebec City who served as an advisor to Mario Dumont right up until Dumont left his ADQ party in a flaming wreck. But before that, Duhaime ran the Quebec desk at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition back when the Leader of the Opposition was the then-beleaguered Stockwell Day. (Before that he was an advisor to Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe, forcing this other Éric Duhaime to note that he is “not the Éric Duhaime who changes political parties the way he changes shirts.”)

But I digress. Except I don’t, really, because when Duhaime, who now wants a Canadian equivalent of NDI, was working in Stock’s shop, the Canadian Alliance’s Quebec political lieutenant was… Gérard Latulippe. “Stockwell Day is our leader, he is the only one who can win in every region of Canada,” reads a letter by Quebec Stockaholics that Latulippe signed when things got a bit dicey.

So. An interest in democracy promotion. Bonds forged in the crucible of the Canadian Alliance. What else do Latulippe and Duhaime share?

That’s right. They’re both separatists!

You see, in 1994 Latulippe was delegate-general for Quebec to Brussels when the Parti Québécois was elected under Jacques Parizeau. Parizeau and his minister of international relations, Bernard Landry, couldn’t bear the thought that Quebec’s vast network of foreign bureaux be staffed by people who actually liked Canada. So they checked. And anyone who, having been asked, didn’t swear their loyalty to the notion of a sovereign Quebec, was fired. That’s how Gilles Houde lost his nice foreign post, and Reed Scowen. But Gérard Latulippe had no problem! He “gave more than the client demanded,” Le Devoir reported at the time, noting in a Brussels press conference at Bernie Landry’s side that he had secretly been a supporter of sovereignty for two years before anyone thought to ask. “The only desirable path for Quebec lies in a change of its political status by supporting, in the referendum, the accession of Quebec to sovereignty.” (The same Le Devoir article, from Oct. 12 1994 — I have no link but as a paying subscriber I have access to the paper’s archives — points out that Latulippe’s tenure in Robert Bourassa’s cabinet lasted only 18 months before he resigned as an MNA for “apparent conflict of interest.”)

Latulippe’s record on Rights-and-Democracy-ish issues includes a letter he wrote in 2001 after Elinor Caplan, a minister in the Chrétien government, said the Alliance was full of “racists, bigots and Holocaust deniers.” He called Caplan’s comments “odious and unacceptable” and compared them to remarks Yves Michaud, a longtime Péquiste gadfly, made about Jews a year earlier. Within three weeks in 2006 he wrote two long pieces about the Danish Muhammad caricatures, arguing against any appeasement of the Islamist backlash.

I don’t have a problem with those positions. I do have a problem with a guy who, in the year Quebecers had to make a decision about their future inside Canada or out, decided he preferred to be out. I would have thought the Harper government, which likes to warn Canadians against separatists when they aren’t on the Conservative payroll, would have a problem with Latulippe too.

In 1994 a former Quebec delegate-general to Mexico wrote in Le Devoir: “Loyalty has taken precedence over competence since the arrival of the Parti Québécois. The episode around the confirmation in his functions of the Quebec delegate-general to Brussels, Gérard Latulippe, illustrates this trend very nicely.” That former delegate-general was Mario Laguë, who quit his job rather than preach the gospel of Parizeau and Landry. Today Laguë is the communications director for Michael Ignatieff.

What to conclude from all this? I take it as a sign of progress. That last time the Conservatives sicced a notorious separatist with a shaky ethical past on a politically-motivated witch hunt, they had the separatist do the witch hunting. Now they are farming the witch hunt and the separatist-hiring out to different branches. Diversity is good!



Latulippe’s office broke government rules on $73,000 contract

The Gazette (Montreal)
Fri Jul 3 1987
Page: A1/ FRONT
Section: News
Byline: By JENNIFER ROBINSON of The Gazette

The office of former solicitor general Gerard Latulippe broke government rules last year by not reporting a contract worth about $73,000 awarded to a Montreal consulting firm owned by friends of Latulippe and lawyers linked to his former law firm.

The contract, which went to Premar Inc. in June 1986, was not reported to the Treasury Board and National Assembly.

Under National Assembly rules, all department contracts and spending commitments over $25,000 must be reported within about three months to the standing committee on institutions. Lesser commitments are reported yearly. Standing committees serve as watchdogs of government spending.

Under Treasury Board rules, all departments must report spending commitments, contracts and subsidies over $5,000 to it. Although it is not spelled out in the rules, such reports must be filed within about three weeks.

Government officials could not explain to The Gazette why Latulippe’s office had failed to report the Premar contract.

“It was an error,” said Anne Le Bel, press aide for Latulippe, who quit his cabinet post Monday amid allegations of conflict of interest and favoritism involving his girlfriend, his former law firm and Premar.

“It must have slipped through,” Le Bel said. She could not say why the year-old error had not been corrected, but promised that it would be.

The omission of the contract sparked renewed calls from the Parti Quebecois opposition yesterday for a full-scale investigation into the events leading up to Latulippe’s resignation.

The solicitor general doesn’t just forget to report $73,000 worth of contracts given to friends, PQ whip Jacques Brassard said in an interview.

“The excuse that it slipped through doesn’t convince me,” Brassard said. “It certainly raises questions about how many other contracts the government has forgotten to disclose.”

Le Bel said the Premar contract – it was originally set at $65,000 but ultimately cost $73,000 – was the only such error or omission, as far as she knew.

However, government officials also could not explain why an earlier contract for $5,000 to Premar was also excluded from lists of government spending.

Le Bel said the $5,000 contract, awarded to Premar on Feb. 6, 1986, should have been listed under the Justice Department’s spending commitments. At the time, the Justice and Solicitor General’s departments were operating as one.

But the contract, awarded to Premar on Latulippe’s orders, could not be found yesterday in Justice Department records which have been submitted to the National Assembly’s standing committee on institutions.

In the week before Latulippe quit, The Gazette investigated his department and confirmed that:

* Latulippe awarded a contract last year to the Montreal law firm Denis et Comtois, which in turn farmed out part of the contract to Latulippe’s girlfriend, Diane Fortier. Fortier, a Montreal lawyer, worked for Latulippe’s former law firm, McDougall Caron, until she was fired last week.

* Latulippe’s office awarded three contracts worth a total of about $83,000 to Premar, which was then the management-consultant arm of McDougall Caron. Two of the contracts were awarded directly by the minister while the third was awarded after Latulippe told his aides to invite Premar to submit a bid. Only one of those, worth $4,950, was ever recorded in spending commitments.

* Before entering politics, Latulippe signed a severance agreement with McDougall Caron under which he was to receive a percentage of the fees paid by his former clients in return for helping the firm retain the clients. Latulippe said that so far he has received $85,000 under the agreement.

McDougall Caron last month requested the agreement be renegotiated. Latulippe said a dispute over this led him to resign so that he could bargain with the firm and settle the matter.