Rights and Democracy: Meet the new boss

The problem at R&D is not, or not primarily, its new president; it is the shady new board majority

A few notes before the Foreign Affairs committee meets today to hear from Gérard Latulippe, the new president of Rights and Democracy appointed by the Braun/Gauthier faction of the board and rubber-stamped by the hapless salaryman who sits in the office normally reserved for foreign ministers, Lawrence Cannon.

The first is that it would be well if opposition members on the committee do not turn these two useful hours into a festival of scorn aimed at Latulippe. I thought his appointment was cause for serious concern because he made haste to sell out the Canadian federation in 1994 for the sake of a few more years in cushy Quebec diplomatic postings; because he left the Bourassa government quickly and under unflattering circumstances; and because his work at NDI was only a partial preparation for work at what was founded to be, and should be, a very different organization. But anyone has a right to a career of ups and downs, and everything I’ve heard suggests he was a valued asset to NDI, an organization that has done a lot of good in the world. (Here he is, from just before the R&D appointment, discussing his experiences as NDI’s country director for Haiti during the earthquake there.)

So committee members, eyes on the prize: embarrassing Latulippe is not an ambitious or particularly useful goal to set. The problem at R&D is not, or not primarily, its new president; it is the shady new board majority led by Aurel Braun and Jacques Gauthier, who continue to win themselves no friends as they try, fitfully, to explain their handiwork. On that score, this morning we note an evolution in the Globe and Mail‘s editorial stance. A January editorial there concluded reasonable things: the government can appoint who it likes and the board can run an organization as it likes. That’s no longer tenable, because the government has appointed fools who are looking for somebody else to blame for their foolishness. So today the Globe throws up its hands and say, What a mess. “The government should undertake an immediate and thorough review of its operations and the role of its board and staff. If the organization cannot be righted, its existence will be in question.”

Well, not quite. “The government,” in the radiantly obtuse person of Lawrence Cannon, has already undertaken an immediate and thorough review of R&D’s operations and decided that the joint is tickety-boo, thank you very much, and that Aurel Braun may continue to pursue with impunity whichever demons haunt his dreams. “The government” will not fail to back its latest board appointments. And declaring R&D a mess that must be shut down merely conforms to the second-best preference of Braun and company. If they cannot run the sandbox their way, they don’t want a sandbox. Offering them no-fault insurance to execute such an option avoids the obligation to assign blame. Who made that place a mess?

To answer that question there is only one tool remaining. Fortunately it was designed by Braun and Gauthier and comes pre-endorsed by Cannon. That’s the forensic audit the Braun Clown Posse ordered in February to “guarantee full transparency in the proper spending of Canadian taxpayers’ dollars.” In case anybody misunderstood, the headline on the news release hammered the point home: “Rights and Democracy acts to ensure financial transparency.”

Of course Braun and Gauthier have no such goal. They want to continue casting aspersions on the management practices of a dead man, Rémy Beauregard, even though they had to admit as they launched this witch hunt that they had no “direct evidence of any individual impropriety.” And even though the organization’s staff had serious misgivings about Deloitte’s mandate — especially the way it was contrived to investigate financial dealings before Jacques Gauthier became interim president, but none since he did. That’s not very transparent.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the witch-dunking. Deloitte turns out to be a serious organization. One that, it may safely be assumed, would not enjoy being conscripted into somebody else’s show trial. The audit is taking far longer than expected: Gauthier and Co. expected Deloitte to report within three weeks, but Deloitte is not quite done its work six weeks later. Serious work is being done. Which explains why the only people now demanding the audit’s release are the staff, and fired former staff, who were supposed to be its target.

“Results will be made public as soon as possible after the report is accepted by the board of directors,” the February news release said. In the news release that went out under his name, Cannon expressed  “the Government of Canada’s support for the decision made by the Board of Directors to engage a private firm to conduct a forensic audit of the organization’s financial transactions.”

Very well then. This audit was Braun and Gauthier’s idea. They promised to release it. The Government has formally endorsed the audit. The Foreign Affairs Committee should require its complete release, as soon as Deloitte submits it, along with formal certification by Deloitte that the version released to the public is the entire audit. I cannot imagine such a motion would fail to receive the unanimous endorsement of MPs from every party.

Time to end this charade.

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