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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Shadows over Wilson

Still nothing in the mainstream press about all the questions surrounding new B.C. Liberal MP Blair Wilson's c.v. and past business dealings, but the North Shore News, a free-distribution community paper serving North and West Vancouver, has now followed up our story, published in the March 13 issue, with an investigative piece of its own. Writer Trevor Lautens extends the story by raising questions about a junket Wilson took to visit Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

I haven't found a link to Lautens' story yet, so I'm reprinting it in its entirety here:

How to fight a clean election - and lose

Trevor Lautens
Contributing Writer


Here's a twist.

New Liberal MP Blair Wilson had a staunch ally in his election campaign:
the gentlemanliness and civility of his Conservative opponent, John Weston.

For Weston knew about litigation and gaps in Wilson's entrepreneurial
record that Wilson didn't mention in his campaign. Nor did the media, if
aware, report them. I learned about them only through recent e-mails
including court documents and Terry O'Neill's excellent reportage in The
Western Standard magazine (March 13 issue).

Why didn't Weston reveal Wilson's record to the voters in West
Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country during the campaign?
Because, he told O'Neill, he chose to "focus on a positive vision for
the community."

Can you believe? Here's a politician - a Harvard and Osgoode Hall
graduate - too decent to do anything that might be construed as
mud-slinging during an election campaign.

Weston, O'Neill reports, believed Wilson himself had "a positive
obligation to make full disclosure and to account to people of our
riding and to Canadians about these things."

"These things" included a civil suit against Blair Wilson after he
served as president and chief financial officer of Vancouver high-tech
firm Multimedia Accelerator Corp. in 1998. The allegations - and I
emphasize they were never contested or proven in open court - were that
Wilson had filed "duplicate expense charges" and taken "unauthorized
cash advances" from the company.

Wilson denied this and counter-sued the company. The dispute was settled
out of court.

Someone got on to this matter and Wilson was questioned days before the
election. He declined an interview but in a written statement said:
"This was settled seven years ago and there are no outstanding issues.
Every once in a while in business you have differences. Fortunately, we
were able to come together and resolve the matter out of court."

As did the principals in a second dispute. This involved Pan Smak Pizza
Inc., for which Wilson was chief financial officer, treasurer and a
director. He helped develop a pizza chain in Poland. Again, the suits
and counter-suits were settled out of court.

Because neither case ever went to trial and the settlement terms aren't
on the public record, no wrongdoing, incompetence, breach of trust etc.
by either party in each case should be inferred, nor are they implied
here. The certain thing is that both disputes were serious enough to
lead to protracted litigation and concerned serious issues of trust and
reputation.

O'Neill noted the curious fact that Wilson publicly said during the
campaign that he'd worked in the business for five years - as reported
in the North Shore News - but court documents say only 1994-96. The
stated number of restaurants opened by Pan Smak is also puzzling,
variously 40 or 21.

Quite apart from O'Neill's story in The Western Standard - the
Calgary-based magazine that drew much attention recently for publishing
the Danish cartoons that inflamed some Muslims -- the Toronto Star
published an intriguing story by Bruce Campion-Smith on Nov. 30, 2004,
under the heading Soldiers Made to Play Tour Guide . . . Troops Shuttle
Visitors Around Kabul.

The Star reported "all-expenses paid trips (were) offered to community
leaders and . . . a defeated Liberal candidate." That defeated candidate
was none other than our Wilson, who, a few months earlier, narrowly lost
to then-MP John Reynolds in the federal general election.

An all-in trip to Afghanistan may seem a dubious benefit - call it what
it is, a junket - but it does look impressive on a curriculum vitae.

Correct me if I err, but in my interview with Wilson, and during the
campaign, I discovered no tiny hint of his interest or experience in
military issues.

I've received a couple of photos. One shows Wilson, broad smile as
always, seated behind a machine gun on an armoured vehicle, with a
soldier beside him. The second shows him, again with the smile, walking
shoulder-to-shoulder with three soldiers. Considering the gun's purpose,
the propinquity of death, the solemnity of Canada's Afghanistan
commitment, Wilson's cheerfulness seems jarringly inappropriate.

But such junkets - surely not some kind of payoff distributed by the
Liberal government that brought you the multi-million-dollar sponsorship
scandal! - didn't amuse some of Canada's soldiers there.

Complaints were made to the office of the ombudsman of the Department of
National Defence and the Canadian Forces. In the office's 2004 report,
under "military tourism," the ombudsman states that "at least 30
visitors passed through the (unnamed camp where they stayed) each week."
Some such "outreach visitors" stayed as long as two weeks.

In theory, the report continues, this was an excellent idea, but "the
high number of visits was a source of morale problems and frustration
for the troops. . . . The high number of visitors and the work involved,
especially given the existing personnel shortage, was taking its toll."

This looks like the sort of bureaucratic language that conceals more
than it reveals. Flatly, some soldiers were ticked off providing safe
passage, accommodation and meals for the junketing civilian throng when
they had extremely serious and dangerous business to attend to.

The following dispels any doubt about the essential frivolity of these
taxpayer-supported trips for the favoured: The ombudsman drily stated
that some of the visitors "were unclear or unable to articulate exactly
why they were there."

Wilson's side of the stories? He didn't return calls. At this writing,
13 of them, including one he inadvertently answered Sunday while resting
from public business with his family at Whistler. He agreed to a phone
interview Monday at 9 a.m. He didn't show. Then or later.

Not that he should worry. Blair Wilson, MP, West Vancouver-Sunshine
Coast-Sea to Sky Country, got the 155-grand-a-year job in Ottawa that he
tirelessly sought for 18 months - with his sincere salesman's smile and
guileless baby-blue eyes. (Meanwhile opponent Weston was merely involved
in his legal practice, including representing Chief Mountain in his
challenge to the Nisga'a Treaty, a case the B.C. establishment heartily
wishes would go away.) As Wilson's attitude to his entrepreneurial
disputes shows, he must optimistically know that these revelations will
blow over too.

And if the above had been widely known in the constituency before Jan.
23, would voters still have given Wilson his 1,000-vote margin over
Weston? Would you bet?

Posted by Terry O'Neill on March 28, 2006 in Canadian Politics | Permalink

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Comments

Another Liberano caught with his sticky fingers in the piggy bank. The culture of 'entitlement' that the Liberano gang lavished on 'their people' is a shamefull thing for all Canadians. Why did it go on and on and on for SO LONG? To all the voters who voted Liberano I say hang your sorry excuse for a head in shame.

Posted by: jema54j | 2006-03-28 6:50:49 PM



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