Rick Dykstra holds his government to account

Tease the day: The feds’ decision to sole-source a chopper contract has come under fire

by Nick Taylor-Vaisey

Adrian Wyld/CP

Rick Dykstra has decided to hold the federal government to account. Dykstra was born in Grimsby, Ont., which lies just east of Hamilton. He attended Brock University and York University, where he studied political science and project management, respectively. He ran the family landscaping business for a number of years, served a couple of terms on city council in St. Catharines, Ont., ran unsuccessfully for mayor of the same city in 1997, and later served a stint on the Niagara Parks Commission. By now, if you know your geography, you can tell that Dykstra has spent most of his life on the Niagara Peninsula.

And now, Dykstra’s holding Stephen Harper and his gang of federal Conservatives to account. What makes this remarkable, of course, is that Dykstra is a Member of Parliament. In fact, he sits on the government backbenches, representing St. Catharines. And recently, he’s been irked by the government’s decision to sole-source a helicopter contract—a $200-million deal to provide 21 new choppers to the Coast Guard. The contract’s been granted to Bell Helicopters, based in Mirabel, Que., after the government granted a weight exemption to the firm. The National Post quotes aviation industry officials as calling that move “a thinly veiled attempt at giving the Quebec-made [choppers] a competitive edge.”

Two other companies decided to withdraw their bids, once that exemption was granted. Among them was Eurocopter Canada, which operates a manufacturing plant in Fort Erie, Ont. Dykstra cried foul, writing in a letter to Transport Minister Denis Lebel that the sole-sourced contract could “risk damaging the integrity of Transport Canada, due to the perception of collusion with a Canadian company in the absence of any clear public interest.” Strong words.

Check a map, and you’ll see that Fort Erie isn’t far from St. Catharines. So here we have a backbencher who, far from barking about abortion or some other lightning rod of an issue, is standing up for a company in his neck of the woods. If the House of Commons hadn’t adjourned this week, Dykstra might have considered asking Lebel about the fishy contract during Question Period.

Maybe he’ll have more luck behind the scenes. As summer beckons, and backbenchers return to their ridings for barbecues and festivals, and they hear from disgruntled constituents, and they admit those constituents have reason to be upset, it’s worth considering how many of them will quietly take the government to task for this or that decision. That’s a whole different kind of quiet revolution.


What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with the U.S. economy’s continued recovery, and suggestions that the Federal Reserve may adjust its monetary policy (news that sent Asian markets tumbling). The National Post fronts a backbench Conservative MP’s concern that a helicopter contract was rigged to favour a Quebec firm. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with expert opinions that Toronto police chief Bill Blair can divulge certain information about any investigations surrounding Mayor Rob Ford. The Ottawa Citizen leads with the Royal Canadian Navy’s directive that veterans can only wear their uniforms with permission. iPolitics fronts Bob Rae’s retirement from politics, and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s rise to the spotlight. CBC.ca leads with con man Peter Sabourin, who swindled clients out of $32 million. CTV News leads with actor James Gandolfini’s death after an apparent heart attack. National Newswatch showcases a CTV story revealing that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and a group of friends stayed, free of charge, at the residence of Canada’s High Commissioner to Great Britain.


Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Firewall. A Canadian internet company is setting up extensive filters in Pakistan that will censor “blasphemous and anti-Islamic” content, a move that has human rights groups concerned. 2. Refinery. Imperial Oil is closing its Dartmouth, N.S.–based oil refinery after a lengthy search for a buyer. The company suffers from overcapacity and expensive foreign crude.
3. Corruption. Even the small town of Hudson, Que., west of Montreal, is caught up in a provincial battle against corruption. Police are investigating fraud involving municipal workers. 4. Birds. Modern agriculture is one of several factors that have contributed to the decline of bird populations around the world, a trend that scientists are now beginning to understand.
5. Somalia. Al Shabab militants attacked a UN compound in Mogadishu, killing at least 13 people, including three foreigners. The terrorist group labelled the UN “a merchant of death.” 6. Cuba. Sarkis Yacoubian, a Canadian businessman on trial in Cuba on corruption-related charges, was sentenced to nine years in prison. He hopes to serve his sentence in Canada.




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Rick Dykstra holds his government to account

  1. I don’t know what Dykstra’s thinking. Sole-sourcing military contracts never backfires.

  2. As long as the helo chosen isn’t the 412 then maybe the choice will be OK.

  3. This seems like an awful lot of money and effort just so Peter MacKay doesn’t have to call a cab. (That IS what SAR helicopters are used for nowadays, right?)

  4. Dykstra takes a stand against his own gov. The day after HoC stopped sitting for three months. So he’s got some balls, I guess, but they’re tiny?

    • if you read the National Post story you’ll see the letter was written months ago and only released now after the NP got a hold of it.

  5. The decision by Mr. Lebel, who is also the Economic Development Minister for Quebec, means any additional jobs from the up to $200-million contract will be in Mirabel, not Fort Erie, near Mr. Dykstra’s St. Catharines riding in Ontario, where Eurocopter has a plant. The price tag could reach $1-billion over 20 years when maintenance is factored in.

    Mike Winterburn, director of communications for Mr. Lebel, said the Transport Minister is not in a conflict situation because he “has no personal interest in this company and Transport Canada made the decision based solely on safety.” – National Post

    Mr. Lebel is the Economic Development Minister for Quebec, one of a very few CPC MPs from Quebec, in a party that is sliding in the polls and that is in particularly bad shape in Quebec. His “personal interest” is in bolstering his own image in the hopes of maintaining his seat come 2015.
    A little more subtle, perhaps, than Gazebo Tony, but definitely using the same playbook…

    • Not to mention the same pocketbook.

  6. Plenty of time left to make this an open and fair competition devoid of political machinations.

    After all, we can always cancel the contract after we sign it. ;-)

    • And then wait 20 years…

  7. An MP looking out for the interests of his constituents, and this is news? Seems to me it’s just a Conservative MP doing what every MP does.

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