Rights and Democracy: So everyone agrees! And there’s no problem! Right?


Over at the CBC, our their Kady O’Malley points out that Parliamentary privilege being what it is — powerful — “none” of the exemptions claimed by the industrious board of Rights and Democracy “are remotely relevant” to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s request for the Deloitte forensic audit.

You know what’s kind of cool? What’s kind of cool is that, nearly a year into my coverage of the mess at R&D, there are thousands of people in this country who actually understand what I’m talking about in the first paragraph above. For those who need a refresher, start with my next-most-recent post and then start at the beginning by clicking the “Rights and Democracy” tag at the bottom of this post.

Anyway. What this means is (a) the committee has asked for the audit; (b) the R&D board has made an elaborate show of voting to release the audit to the committee — subject to a comically elaborate list of conditions — contractual confidentiality, solicitor-client privilege, privacy concerns, the Official Secrets Act — which are (c) perfectly irrelevant to any serious consideration of whether the audit can be released, for reasons Kady explains. Well, one item on the list would be relevant if it were germane: “Confidences of the Privy Council.” The problem is that the Deloitte audit is an investigation into the ordinary financial transactions of a quasi-NGO during a period, the years 2005 to 2009, when it was not the subject of any public controversy. There can be no Privy Council confidences in such transactions.

So the confidentiality emperor is, to mix up a metaphor, buck naked. Rights and Democracy must release the audit.

Now here’s the interesting thing. Nobody on earth claims to want to keep the audit from being released.

This includes the R&D board, whose interim president Jacques Gauthier said in February, “Results will be made public as soon as possible after the report is accepted by the board of directors.” The board voted to release the report on Oct. 25. So there’s no problem: the board wants the audit released.

So does the government. Three days after Gauthier said he was ordering the audit so he could release the audit, Lawrence Cannon allowed as how this was an excellent idea. He did not put his own weight behind the plan — get an audit, release the audit. He put all of his colleagues’ weight behind it. “I would also like to express 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, as announced last Friday,” he wrote on Feb. 22. “As announced last Friday” has no meaning unless it includes the announced plan to make the audit public. And indeed, Minister Cannon still believed that having an audit meant releasing the audit as late as Oct. 28, three weeks ago, when he said in the House, “My understanding is that the board of directors has come to a decision and is ready to make it public.”

And finally, Stéphane Bourgon, the two-time former Conservative candidate who now acts as Rights and Democracy’s communications guy, told Le Devoir a month ago, “As soon as the Foreign Affairs committee asks for [the audit], we will send it to them.”

The committee has asked. It asked in April. It is still asking. Aurel Braun and Jacques Gauthier and Marco Navarro-Génie and Stéphane Bourgon and the rest have had a truly excellent time playing silly bugger for yet another month while they burn through taxpayer money at a rate Rights and Democracy has never seen in its history.

It is time, at last, for this pathetic gong show to come to an end.

I need to believe Lawrence Cannon is not just another liar. If he has a good name, he has hitched it, at the beginning of the year and again at the end, to a promise to release a report whose contractors claim to want to release it.

It is now time to deliver.


SERENDIPITY HAS A SCHEDULING ASSISTANT UPDATE: And who is scheduled to testify about women’s rights in Afghanistan today, between 5 and 6 p.m., to the Senate committee on human rights, in room 257 East Block? Why, that would be Gérard Latulippe, President of Rights and Democracy. Gee, do you suppose he’ll scrum?


Rights and Democracy: So everyone agrees! And there’s no problem! Right?

  1. I have to commend you on this Paul. I was one of those who felt you were huffed over a sad story where there was not necessarily any bad actions intended. I was wrong, you were right. It is a tribute to your own skills and established credibility that you've brought so many readers around. I'll never go hungry again!

  2. I also congratulate you on your determination and perseverance on this story. Hope you continue to see it through to the end.

    All this story needs now is a talented yet troubled hacker to send you access to the R&D hard drives…

  3. Today?

    Hmmm. I'm thinking midnight Christmas Eve might be more likely.

    Or in the midst of some other distracting event…

  4. It's not like it's real money that's being spent…

  5. Hey, is that a Russian airplane? *points in any direction, really*

  6. As I mentioned in your earlier blog, I support the need for the audit to be released.

    However, since neither you nor your reliable tag team partner O'Malley have seen the terms of engagement of the audit, it would be wrong for her to definitively state:

    specifically, the status of that much-delayed independent audit that was supposed to prove, once and for all, that the agency's former director, the late Remy Beauregard was, to use Wells' words, "running a secretive and wasteful operation in defiance of the most elementary rules of, if I may abuse these poor words one more time, transparency and accountability," you really, really should.

    Just trying to be factual.

    Thx. Now get the negative thumbs out people.

  7. Now, try reading a bit between the lines as to the nature of the audit from this press release concerning the recent board meetings:

    Montréal, Thursday, October 28, 2010 – Meeting in Beloeil, Québec, on October 25 and 26, members of the Board of Directors of Rights & Democracy supported the multi-stage action plan proposed by the President in order to resolve the internal problems that led to last winter's crisis, and also to put the organization back on track…

    The action plan developed over the past six months is the concrete result of a process of analyzing studies commissioned by the Board on various aspects of management of the programs implemented by the organization during the last fiscal year. While the reports prepared by the external consultants who conducted these studies have greatly increased our overhead, albeit distributed over two fiscal years, there is no doubt that these studies were needed to address certain longstanding governance problems. The launch of seven new approved projects, in conjunction with the implementation of remedial measures contained in the action plan which was endorsed by the Board, will enable us to turn the page on the recent past and look to the future with optimism. The Board's decisions send a signal of confidence to all those working within the organization, and offer an assurance of future success,” noted Rights & Democracy President Gérard Latulippe…

    The action plan, which has several components, will be implemented gradually over the coming months. In this context, management intends to give priority to human resources management by mobilizing the staff around Rights & Democracy's concrete achievements, valuing experience gained in the field, and setting clear goals in terms of results for each of its programs. Strict rules will be laid out in the areas of financial resources and project management in order to maximize the impact and results of our field programs. ..

    “Rights & Democracy is at a turning point in its history. The events of recent months have enabled us to learn from the past. We must now turn to the future in a world that is more than ever in need of democratic benchmarks. The Board of Directors and the new management team have equipped themselves to re-orient the organization in all facets of its functioning, restore a calm working atmosphere that is conducive to accomplishing our mission, and implement measures to gauge the effectiveness of our initiatives and weigh their results.

    Looks to me like the audit will be found to have recommended putting better controls in place to measure the effectiveness of grants. I seem to recall reading elsewhere that the President's discretionary fund (where the three $10k grants originated from) has since been eliminated – simply because it was impossible to cost effectively measure if the money had its desired use and outcome.

  8. However, since neither you nor your reliable tag team partner O'Malley have seen the terms of engagement of the audit, it would be wrong for her to definitively state:

    Perhaps I've led a sheltered life? Since when does a contract for an audit include terms of engagement?

  9. OK, call it scope of work then.

  10. Latulippe Shmatulippe. This is now a bigger issue than the continuing destruction of Rights and Democracy by petty ideologues.

    Now it's about whether parliament can enforce its demands for information and truthful testimony. Reporters should be calling the members of the committee to ask why this insult is allowed to continue.

  11. From the National Post story Wells linked to above :

    "The centre's newly tabled annual report shows that professional fees jumped to $960,397 in the year ending last March 31, up from $311,884 the year before. Expenses incurred by the board of directors also nearly tripled, rising to $321,227 from $114,455 a year earlier. Overall, administration expenses accounted for 18% of the $12-million annual budget, an increase from 10% in 2008-09."

    Choo-choo !!! chuga-chuga-chuga-chuga …

    (p.s. I thought Conservatives were supposed to be against gravy trains ?!)

  12. Here the letter of engagement is discussed for bean counters:

    Engagement Letters for Accountants

    Engagement Letters provide you with essential protective wording for your practice. In addition, they allow you the opportunity to market additional services and ultimately create a stronger relationship with your clients.

    Engagement letters should be utilized for all services and include:
    Outline scope of services
    Clarify all timelines
    Disclose all fees
    Include services not provided
    Include mediation language
    <a href="http://www.naplia.com/resources/engagement.shtml
    ” target=”_blank”>http://www.naplia.com/resources/engagement.shtml

  13. Why didn't they just can the Presidents discreditionary fund – if cost effectiveness of these particular funds was at issue?

  14. maybe, but gravy boats? smooth sailing!

  15. Okay, I'll bite. I've been thinking that what our CF-18s need to do the next time there's a Russian bomber "near our airspace" is to offer to escort it to Toronto to deliver whatever payload seems apropos. I am quite sure our pilots would find no takers. And then we could spend our fighter budget on concert halls and high-speed trains.

  16. Don't know. Maybe the audit went beyond simply the discretionary funds, and included some regular program spending in differing geographic regions. These things can have a dynamic of their own, depending upon what the auditors discover/don't discover as they get further into the process.

    Your guess is as good as mine at this stage.

  17. I've been thinking that what our CF-18s need to do the next time there's a Russian bomber "near our airspace" is to offer to escort it to Toronto to deliver whatever payload seems apropos.

    I told you not to give your account password to Baird.

  18. That's it ! I always thought that 'gravy train' metaphor was a bit off …

  19. Goodness! I thought as I read the headline that "yes, September 11th each year is a good day to bury stories you don't want noticed." But then I noticed it was actually 2001. The idea of burying stuff that actual day is, well, bold.

  20. What if just one Russian pilot takes them up on the offer and they nuke Toronto? Then the high speed rail would go express from Montreal to Windsor, right?

    While it might be speedier, I'm not sure of about the viability…oh right, it would be a tourist train to visit the Toronto Crater. Got it.

    A sure money-maker.

  21. Exactly, hence the need to release the audit.

  22. It's a 'gravy lake', like at the G20.

  23. Yes, but don't expect it to answer the question that O'Malley made up above.

  24. I still like that the board resolution referenced the 'official secrets act' – a piece of legislation that was renamed something else 9 years ago.

    It shows me that the board and the various persons serving it have not taken the time to determine which (if any) laws, rules or regulations might legitimately prevent the release of this report or any part of it (despite, as Mr. Wells points out, the fact that they've had ample time in which to do so). Rather, they're throwing whatever they can think of out there in the hopes that something works.

  25. Have they put up a Canada Action Plan sign on their building yet?

  26. It wouldn't be a completely terrible tactic, at this point, for the NDP and Liberals to frame this as a fiscal mismanagement issue. They've hired a lot of pals to jobs they aren't really qualified for, resulting in the brutal mismanagement of funds, and now the government refuses to release a completed audit.

  27. I'll wait to see the audit itself. Just because the board is accepting some bad advice on delaying its release doesn't mean what Wells has been claiming since the start is correct. Frankly, given the treatment by certain members of the PPG in the past, not surprising.

  28. Sure. Semantics are important.

    However, accounting is about numbers not bull$hit.

    Apparently bull – you know what cannot escape the Macleans censor. B-]

  29. Value for money auditing or operational auditing (if that is what they did) is not just accounting.

  30. good ole bucket defence, nothing beats that!

  31. Whatever they were going after, they now have to justify spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to chase it down. Any evidence of prudent management has not surfaced yet.

  32. <ii>Value for money auditing or operational auditing (if that is what they did) is not just accounting

    You are Gérard Latulippe and I claim my five pounds.

  33. I'll decline further exchanges. I find you always simply become argumentative.

  34. I'm definitely arguing with you. I'm curious to know what you think you're doing.

  35. why don't you and Kady ask your friends at cbc for some transparency into how they spend our money? Den

  36. Why do you hate the ideologues at the PMO who sent the petty ideologues to R&D?

  37. I always find that signing off your one-sentence comment with your nickname adds an extra air of authority. Mag

  38. It'd be nice to at least see the right name on the bucket.

  39. '… That the Board instruct the President to comply with the request from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs of October 22, 2010 subject to…

    "To which I can say: Good news, R&D board members! Turns out there's no need to break out the black markers, because with the possible exception of #5 — "confidences of the Privy Council" — not one of these exemptions are remotely relevant the request in question, since parliamentary committees have the power to order the production of all documents required to conduct an inquiry, including material that would otherwise be protected by statute" '

    So which is it? Contempt for Parliament or brutal incompetence? Either the're a bunch of amateur wankers or the just don't give a damn. But we've seen this movie before sot thank goodness we don't need another speaker's ruling – we know Mr H understands that by now, right? All that remains is for opposition parties to get up off their collective asses.

  40. That last thing you are trying to be is factual.

    You are trying to obstruct attention away from the crap these clowns pulled at R&D.

    Which is all you have ever been trying to do.

  41. Look at the Bright side. At least R&D isn't funding any studies which might dare criticize you-know-what-country.

    This is how Stephen Harper stands up against anti-Semitism.

  42. Ha!! HA!!

    Busted silly Dennis.

    How come conservatives only care about good governance sometimes?

  43. Bingo. If this gong show is allowed to continue at R&D's leisure, what other arms-length agencies are going to tell the Commons to F-off the next time info is demanded of them?

  44. Say wsam, even though I think you're a bit of a loon, perhaps you are capable of an ounce of critical thought.

    What fundamentally is the difference between a discretionary fund run without proper documentation, follow-up and accountability; and a "slush fund"?

  45. Surely, given how easy it was for me to uncover how CBC spends our money, Dennis had already scrutinized that report and had found it wanting? That's why he wanted Kady O'Malley and Paul Wells to turn their attention to it?

  46. Enemy of my enemy is my friend? Detente between Moscow and Calgary? A new era of Russian-Canadian relations, unfettered by Palin-esque aggression or Ignatieffian appeasement?

  47. Shhhhhh, don't give me them any ideas or next thing you know they will be hiring a bunch of lawyers to "take the time to determine which (if any) laws, rules or regulations might legitimately prevent the release of this report or any part of it …"

  48. Its hard to decide which is the more depressing; the breathtaking arrogance and incompetence of the R&D Board; the complicity and cynicism of the Harper government; or the spinelessness of the Foreign Affairs Committee in its failure to defend its authority?
    Is this the form of "rights and democracy" we hope the rest of the world will emulate? God help us all!

  49. Gee, that was Well's said :), but seriously, not that all israel does is kosher. However there really is a kind of dark vs light aspect to all this. I'm failry sure westernized Israelis are no more likely to want to go back to the fuedal world of the British protectorate or the Ottoman occupation than the rational among us want to go back to buffalo and roots and berries. If you follow the work of the Israel bashers on many blogs and elsewhere you would think pre-Israel palestine was some blessed land of love and harmony. If Indian Reserves in Canada were to start fireing rockets randomly into Regina, or Winnipeg, or Vancouver I wonder how we'd react? Israel is not 100% evil and the only state with a spotty record in the region. It is however the only one whose neighbors have ganged up on it and tried to wipe it out three times in the past 60 years. I'm proud our government is supporting them obliquely by reining in R&D's promotion of their foes with our money.

  50. If i was in ottawa today, i would do whatever i could to be at that hearing to watch Pul attempt to scrum Latullipe! let him have it Paul. also stay on the committee members please! if want the audit bad enough they can convene a meeting to do what is required (order the issue of a subpoena) to get it there. if they are not interested in exercising privilege, its up to us to make them interested. I wrote to them last night.

  51. PW's groupies are so funny sometimes. Twitter Chronology of the "BIG SCRUM":
    Rights and Democracy president Gérard Latulippe is testifying TODAY AT 1:30 P.M. to a Commons committee, 257 East bloc. Let's scrum him.
    about 7 hours ago via TweetDeck
    Retweeted by 1 person

    Paul Wells
    And here we are at the Senate human rights committee! We being @InklessPW and myself. So far, we're the only media here. #r&d
    about 3 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

    kady o'malley
    And that's it for #R&D president Gerard Latulippe's appearance before the Senate human rights cttee.
    about 2 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

    kady o'malley
    I'm fleeing the Hill for the day. Will update ticker with any major happenings/minor musings. #hw
    about 2 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

    kady o'malley


  52. The really high priced bad advice the Board has been given is for both the Sirco and Deloitte reports which were requested in an official letter in October. As you might remember, Jacques Gauthier, the interim president from January to March, mandated Sirco(corporate private eyes) to lead an internal investigation on the employees. They copied two years worth of emails of every employee from the organisation's hard drive and produced a recently released short report with 3000 pages of emails annexed to it. This is the reason for the list of conditions put forth by the lawyers probably.
    How much longer will this Board be permitted to spend unlimited amounts of funds on lawyers, trying to keep from following through with what the Standing Committee has repeatedly asked them to do? Why is this not being noticed, stopped? Does Braun have that much clout?

  53. . "I'm proud our government is supporting them obliquely by reining in R&D's promotion of their foes with our money"

    Then your pride is wasted then. [ or you have'n't been following] Beauregard already wound up the offending grants [ it still hasn't been conclusively proven those grants were a gift to Israel's enemies] in order to placate Braun/Gauthier. I'm not aware of anyother explicit allegations of anti-Israeli actions undertaken by R&D – and i doubt you are either – but then requiring empirical evidence doesn't seem to be a prerequisite of CpoC supporters these days.

  54. Not that it is actually "anti-Israel" to help Palestinians our of poverty; unless you think they all should be starved or shot to death.

  55. I'm all for that. If the Conservatives' strong suit is their economic and fiscal management, that's the thing that has to change before voters are ready for a change of government.

  56. Good for Wells for keeping the heat on, which is absolutely necessary. It must be immensely frustrating. I do hope he gets to buttonhole Latulippe in person. And maybe get it on video as well.

  57. We need to set up a fantasy pool, and take bets on how this is going to play out.
    My money is on the audit not finding anything worth justifying the expenses, which will result in Harper shutting down R&D with the argument that it is too much of a mess that wastes too much $$. His fans will praise him, but will not consider what role his government played in destroying the organization from within.

  58. The sooner such Liberal money-wasting pet causes are shut down, the better. Lives there a taxpayer who hasn't heard the tales of monstrous waste by various governments? Who hasn't wished he/she could swing a huge axe in Ottawa until the bloated beast was cut down to size?
    Don't get me started. You're lucky I'm not in charge.

  59. So, you're sort of… decrying small-l liberal wastefulness in government while defending the federal Tories for allowing an agency to bloat consultant's fees at the same time? As long as it casts aspersions on the previously-Lib appointed executive? What was Coyne saying about politics right down to the core the other day?

  60. Wells put it right in a post a while back (forgive me for not linking to it) : by all accounts a good man died and then a bunch of men (to recall: no women involved in this cluster-f) spent what likely now amounts to over a million dollars (again, sorry for the lack of links) to prove that – ultimately – they were in the the right and that their actions could have had nothing to do with the aforementioned good man's death.

    Over a million bucks? That's our money, people.

    A good man dying because other men are clearly on an expensive, dangerous, and pointless power trip?

    Pathetic, thy name is the Board of Rights & Democracy.

    This is not about politics, simply bad people.

  61. I think he was pretty much saying – "Hulk Smash puny Liberals"!!!
    At least – that's what it sounded like.

  62. The President's discretionary fund was indeed eliminated by the Board that you hold in such high regard. Of course, this move was undermined by Board's subsequent removal of the statute that forced the President to submit all contracts over $10,000 to tender. This board decision was shamelessly intended to cover Jacques Gauthier's spending spree upon his arrival as interim president (Sirco, Deloitte, Prima Communications, the guy who wrote this frankly terrible press release, …). It remains to be seen whether the $1-million+ resulting from this spending spree has "had it's desired use and outcome," as you say.
    Nice try, Dot.

  63. So the fact the president of R&D no longer has to submit contracts over $10,000 (a by-law passed by the Aurel Braun-led board in March to cover Interim President Jacques Gauthier's appalling spending spree) is not a "slush fund"? Dot, your selective approach to the facts and to the morality of R&D's corrupt board never fails to surprise me. Keep up the sad work.

  64. I hear you, Dot! Thank God no other journalists turned up to grill Latulippe. Wouldn't want him to face any uncomfortable questions and maybe have to say something honest for a change!

  65. I do think the fear of present R&D management is that this is exactly what will happen. A quick shut down based on the governance and management issues that a forensic audit is bound to find in any case. Latulippe and co will have been Government pawns for a few months to their dismay. What if they are the ones putting the brakes on the audit? Suits them as much as the Board.

  66. Yes, irresponsible tabloid style journalism can result in some perverse one time reactions that we, the taxpayers, all end up paying for. Manufacture a crisis, and then complain when the targets are forced to hire consultants to attempt to get the situation under control.

    Kenneth Whyte wrote a book on this style. Perhaps this years Christmas bonus should include one's very own "Rosebud".

  67. Single sourcing a contract in an emergency situation is nothing at all the same as handing out money to groups possibly without proper documentation and follow-up. Now you're starting to understand what corporate governance means in practice.

  68. I'm personally in favour of more work for lawyers.

  69. Nothing like trying to get in front of a parade when there's no parade.

  70. You do know that R&D was founded by Brian Mulroney, right?

  71. Relayer: I suggest that you examine the Act of Parliament which established the Centre. It was introduced into Parliament in 1985 and given assent on September 30, 1988. I also suggest you look back and find out who was Prime Minister of Canada for a year before the act was introduced and for five years after it came into effect. Hint: You may want to revise your comment to "Progressive Conservative money-wasting pet causes".

  72. Rob, Rob, Rob…you don't need to rant anymore. You're mayor of Toronto now, aren't you?

  73. More like Naomi Klein's book Shock Doctrine; create chaos, then pretend you've come in to fix things.

  74. True, on this issue, Wells is like Klein, in many ways.

  75. How tragic that you're "bored".

  76. So, we're the follow-up? I'd like to hear about the big scrum, the big showdown, the intrepid, dogged reporter who follows Latulippe out of the committee room, down the hall, outside Parliament, to the waiting black Lincoln.

    Or, did anything happen outside of Twitter?

  77. Poor reading comprehension there, Dot.

  78. Something about a tulip-flavoured cookie.

  79. I was joking. But, I agree with you on this – the crisis that was created (I would argue by those pursuing a scorched earth strategy – enabled by Wells) did allow R&D Senior Management to clean house. Rightly or wrongly.

    "Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before."

    -White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel

  80. What emergency? Other than the original offending grants there has been no specific allegations of impropriety – just vague statements such as…' there is no doubt that these studies were needed to address certain longstanding governance problems'. No specifics with these guys, there never is.

  81. That's funny. Are you saying if the media had left this one alone there would have been no crisis, no reason to spend taxpayers money? You can't have it all ways Dot. It can't be both a manufactured crisis which forced the board to spend on consultants and just a case of a new board coming in to fix a broken system, which neccessitated large outlays on consultants and such. Either the new board believed the needed to fix a broken system, or they didn't.

  82. I'm not going to get into a big discussion on this point. Suffice it to say, at a simple level there are two approaches to change management – proactive change, and reactive. The uprising amongst all staff of R&D against the Board (reflected in extensive negative media coverage – facilitated here) created a management crisis and moved the approach clearly into the reactive style – with the pricey consultants.

  83. See my reply to your same point below.

  84. Funny, I don't recall Wells enabling Braun et al.

  85. Posting of the grievance letter from the employees demanding "answers" or else withholding cooperation on the audit etc is just one example of many.

  86. The uprising was in reaction to the treatment of Remy Beauregard, that is a fact. All of this would likely have occurred with or without the media attention – the difference being a whole lot of people would have likely been quietly shuttled out the door without public scrutiny. You have absolutely no peg to hang that hat on – the media manufactured this crisis; you're simply engaging in the old game of shoot the messenger.

  87. PW crossed over from reporter to advocate ages ago. You don't see or believe this distinction – hence perhaps our differing opinions. I think our backgrounds are significantly different enough to explain the discrepancy. Live and learn. All from me – this is an oldish post.

  88. Time will tell…and hopefully truth will out.